Bush admin takes unexpected step to save Washington state’s orcas

Yesterday, the National Marine Fisheries Service surprised conservationists, cetacean lovers, and most other sentient beings, really, by declaring the orcas of Washington state’s Puget Sound endangered. The move mandates a recovery plan and critical-habitat designations, and comes after years of debate over just how much chemical pollution, boat traffic, Navy sonar experimentation, and depletion of their favorite food (salmon) the sound’s fluctuating population of resident orcas can withstand before dying out. Happily, Northwesterners with diverse stakes — from orcaphiles to salmon fishers — seem determined to save the iconic black and white cetaceans. “It’s not like the spotted owl, where it’s loggers versus owls,” orca expert David Bain says. “We’re all on the same side on this one.”