Administration Agrees to Revisit Ocean Salmon Fishing Impact on Endangered West Coast Orcas
Lawsuit Stayed As Southern Resident Killer Whale Population Drops
SEATTLE― A lawsuit challenging West Coast salmon fishing’s impact on critically endangered orcas was put on hold today after the Trump administration agreed to update its analysis. A federal judge approved the settlement and stayed the case until May 1, 2020, or sooner if the National Marine Fisheries Service completes the new biological opinion that will include mitigation measures.
The order comes just as two emaciated Southern Resident killer whales have gone missing and are feared dead. If the orcas known as J17 and K25 don’t survive, that would leave just 74 orcas. Declining salmon runs have left Southern Residents without enough to eat, prompting the lawsuit by Center for Biological Diversity and Wild Fish Conservancy.
“These orcas are starving to death, so more Chinook salmon can’t come soon enough,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Updating the outdated fishery analysis with the latest science is a crucial step forward. We need to be smart about how we’re managing salmon and move boldly to restore wild salmon runs, including by removing dams that modify their habitat and block their passage, including dams on the Lower Snake River.”
Meanwhile conservationists have been advocating other measures to protect these orcas. Last year the Center sued the Trump administration for failing to protect the Southern Residents’ full West Coast habitat and launched another lawsuit to establish a “whale protection zone” to shield orcas from boat noise and disturbance in the heart of their Puget Sound habitat.