FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACCEPTS PETITION FOR ORCA ESA UPLISTING, August 7, 2001

The following update comes from the Center for Biological Diversity, which prepared the petition for SeaWolf and other co-signing groups

On 8-7-01, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a positive initial finding on a petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and ten other conservation groups to list the Puget Sound/Georgia Strait population of killer whales as an endangered species. The agency will now conduct a full status review, issue a draft listing decision (if warranted) by 5-1-02 and a final listing decision (if warranted) by 5-1-03.

Formally called "southern residents," the orcas of Puget Sound and Georgia Strait have declined by 20% since 1996. The entire population is down to just 78 whales. They are being impacted by declines in salmon, high levels of PCB poisoning, intense whale watching pressure, and the general decline of the Puget Sound ecosystem. They are also threatened by oil spills. The government of British Columbia listed them as an endangered species in 1999.

Joining the Center in the petition were Project SeaWolf, the Center for Whale Research, the Whale Museum, Ocean Advocates, Washington Toxics Coalition, Orca Conservancy, American Cetacean Society, Friends of the San Juans, People for Puget Sound, Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club, and former Washington Secretary of State, Ralph Munro.

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