Feds propose threatened status for Puget Sound orcas

The National Marine Fisheries Service yesterday proposed giving threatened status to a population of 80-some orcas that spend their summers in Washington state’s Puget Sound and the waters surrounding British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Government officials say the listing would be somewhat symbolic, as the marine mammals already receive some protections under state laws and federal laws in both the U.S. and Canada. But the announcement is still a victory for conservation groups that have been fighting a 2002 ruling by NMFS that the population wasn’t distinct enough from other orca populations to merit protection under the Endangered Species Act. The agency now has up to a year to make a final decision and will take public comments for 90 days. Enviros hope the listing will go through and lead to closer scrutiny of shipping traffic, wastewater disposal, use of toxic chemicals, and other activities potentially harmful to orcas.