Puget Sound orcas gain more protection; Florida manatees downlisted to threatened

Ninety endangered orcas in the Northwest may soon swim easier, as the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed Friday to designate nearly the entire Puget Sound — about 2,500 square miles of water — critical orca habitat. The usual suspects took the usual sides: developers opposed more regulation; enviros said the proposal didn’t go far enough, since it excludes waters less than 20 feet deep, which is prime habitat for orca prey. The proposal will be open to public comment but could be final as soon as November. On the opposite side of the nation, Florida’s wildlife commission voted last week to downlist the manatee from the state’s endangered species list to threatened status, despite continued dangers from red tide, boats, and habitat loss; greens contend that the commission is being pressured by development and boating interests. The manatee is listed as endangered by the feds, but that status is also being reevaluated. Oh well, you know what they say: You orca some, you manatee some.