Submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity
On Aug. 1 conservation groups sent a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect critically endangered Southern resident killer whales from boat traffic and noise near Washington’s San Juan Island. The proposed “whale protection zone” could help save an iconic orca species that is down to just 75 individuals and facing extinction. The groups gave the administration 30 days to respond.
“West Coast orcas are dying out right in front of our eyes while the Trump administration ignores their plight,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need swift protections to prevent their extinction.”
This week’s heartbreaking images of orca mother J35, also known as Tahlequah, pushing her dead calf for almost a week, highlighted their plight. Southern residents are rapidly declining because of depleted Chinook salmon runs, vessel noise and traffic in key foraging areas, water pollution and other threats.
Vessel noise blocks the orcas ability to find food. The whale-protection zone would give them more quiet for foraging, communicating, resting and navigating. The proposal seeks to restrict vessels in the zone from April 1 to Sept. 30.
“We have long been concerned about vessel noise and disturbance in the heart of Southern resident habitat. This action could yield huge benefits at a critical time when these orcas really need our help,” said Janet Thomas with Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance. “Officials need to stop stalling and create this whale-protection zone.”