Orcas: 2005 listing under the Endangered Species ActBy lgordon | March 12th, 2009 | Category: Blog, Science |
By Sound News reporter Lyndsay Gordon
As of November 2005 the local Puget Sound orcas also known as the Southern Resident Community (SRC) are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. NOAA was originally petitioned in 2001, but they declared the SRC insufficient to comprise a species, subspecies, or evolutionary significant unit. As a result they were sued in 2002 and ordered by a federal court to review their decision in 2004.
The SRC of orcas was quickly labeled endangered. Lawsuits are helpful to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), as they help them to determine what species are important to the public. Despite their original listing as unwarranted NMFS played a large role in designing the recovery plan and did a large amount of the legwork on the project.
The listing acknowledges three primary threats to the SRC, which are decline of their main food source, toxics, and noise pollution within the water. Therefore listing the orcas under the ESA helps salmon restoration, because to restore Chinook salmon, which equals approximately ¾ of their diet is to restore the local orcas.
The listing reflects the huge shift in human views on orcas. Brian Gorman of NMFS talked about how orcas have become an ecological fad, as twenty five or thirty years ago no orca research was even in progress. He also mentioned that the local orcas would have a heightened aesthetic appeal than oceanic orcas due to their salmon only diet. Oceanic orcas eat much larger prey and will separate a Sperm whale calf from its mother.
Commenting on the recent influx in local orca interest he commented, “They are not any less moral, because it’s the way biology works. Human responses to [that] biology change from generation to generation. Sometimes we approve of their behavior and sometimes we don’t.”
Comments contact Lyndsay Gordon at email@example.com
Endangered Species Program (US Fish and Wildlife)
Listing of orcas (EPA)
Orca Recovery Plan (NOAA)
ESA lawsuit filed to protect Puget Sound Orca Whales (Georgia Strait Alliance)