NOAA Fisheries Report Includes Chance for Whale Protection Zone
From: NOAA ecolist:
10 Year Orca Whale Report: Today, NOAA Fisheries released a report highlighting the accomplishments of 10 years of dedicated research and conservation of the endangered Southern Resident Orca whale population. With a decade of federal funding and productive partnerships with the killer whale community, we have taken targeted actions, collected substantial new data, and refined scientific techniques to protect this listed species and ensure a strong foundation for its recovery.
Orca Relief applauds NOAA Fisheries for compiling this history of the work they have done to protect the endangered Southern Resident Orca over the past decade. We are confident it will be a valuable tool for all of us to press hard for adequate federal funding for research, management, and enforcement.
We are encouraged by 4 highlights of the summary:
- 1. The research conducted over the past decade confirms our view that noise and disturbance (especially from smaller commercial and private whale watching boats) negatively affects Orca communications and behavior.
For the decade ahead, NOAA Fisheries says they will:
- continue to work on all aspects the threats to Orca recovery (which we favor), including noise and disturbance from commercial and private whale watching vessels.
- take vessel impacts “into consideration when determining the need for additional conservation actions, such as a protected area.” (p.20) [A good start, although we would like to have seen a commitment to the Orca WPZ on their 10-year time-line.]
- “consider new threats and actions as [they] look to a future with climate change.” (also p. 20)
We are also encouraged by the agency’s understanding of the potentially catastrophic impacts of any significant increases in the oil and gas economy of Puget Sound.
The agency makes it clear that increasing the amount of salmon prey and reducing the toxic load of the Southern Residents are both decades-long and hugely-expensive efforts – and their control and influence over these efforts are somewhat limited.
In contrast, special management protection of the SRKWs Critical Habitat, in the form of an Orca Whale Protection Zone, which we have been advocating for several years, could be relatively easily, quickly, and inexpensively accomplished by NOAA Fisheries. Orca Relief is working on a WPZ concept to present to NOAA Fisheries to catalyze action toward WPZ. This report helps on that path.
Check out the report, video, podcast, & other resources at: http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/news/features/killer_whale_report/index.cfm