West Coast habitat of endangered Southern Resident orcas gets new federal protection – KIRO 7 News Seattle

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SEATTLE – The federal government passed a new rule on Friday that extends habitat protection along the west coast for endangered southern killer whales, the Center for Biological Diversity said.

Currently, the population of the orcas residing in the south is 74.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has designated 15,910 square miles of new habitat. Current protection in the Salish Sea has been extended south to Point Sur along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California.

The new rule comes after an April 2019 agreement was ordered when the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration in 2018 for failing to enact habitat protection required by the Endangered Species Act.

The center says the expanded habitat includes important foraging areas, estuaries, and hiking trails along the Pacific coast from the Canadian border to Big Sur, California.

Combined with the current habitat protection in Washington’s inland waters, the entire reserve now covers more than 18,000 square miles.

“These critically endangered orcas are finally getting the federal habitat protection they desperately need,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, an attorney at the center. “This long overdue habitat rule will help protect these extraordinary animals and their prey from pollution, noise, nuisance and habitat destruction. But more must be done to help this endangered population recover, including restoring the native salmon stocks they need to survive. “

The center said the endangered orcas travel extensively along the west coast in winter and early spring, spending much of the summer in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.