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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


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May 19, 2017
Contact: Hannah Anderson, (360) 902-8403

WDFW seeks comments on draft
status reviews for fisher, 5 whale species

OLYMPIA – State wildlife managers are seeking public input on their recommendations to keep the fisher and five species of large whales on Washington's list of endangered species.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) periodically reviews the status of protected species in the state. The public can comment through Aug. 19 on the listing recommendations and recently updated status reports for fishers, blue whales, fin whales, sei whales, North Pacific right whales and sperm whales.

The draft reviews for these species are available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/status_review/

Written comments on the reviews and recommendations can be submitted via email to TandEpubliccom@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Hannah Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

WDFW staff members are tentatively scheduled to discuss the reviews and recommendations with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its September 2017 meeting. The commission is a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW. For meeting dates and times, check the commission webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/

The fisher is a mid-sized member of the weasel family that once lived in the coniferous forests of Washington. The species was eliminated from the state in the late 1800s and early 1900s, mainly as a result of trapping. The fisher was listed as endangered in Washington in 1998.

Between 2008 and 2010, WDFW reintroduced fishers to the Olympic Peninsula and reintroductions into the Cascade Range have been underway since 2015. WDFW and private landowners have worked together to implement voluntary measures that protect fishers and forestry on more than 1.4 million acres of land. Despite the success of these efforts, fisher populations in Washington do not yet meet the criteria that would allow the species to be downlisted from endangered to threatened status.

Blue, fin, sei, North Pacific right, and sperm whales have been listed as endangered species in Washington since 1981. Populations of all five species greatly declined in the 1800s and 1900s from being severely overharvested by whalers. Information on each of these species is summarized below.

  • Blue whales – These large whales forage primarily on krill. Animals off Washington belong to the eastern North Pacific population and are migratory. The current population is about 1,600 whales, well below the estimated historical level of 2,200 individuals.
  • Fin whales – This species of large whales feed on krill, forage fish, and other prey. Fin whales off Washington belong to the California/Oregon/Washington population, which includes about 9,000 animals. While fin whales are now regularly present off the outer coast of Washington, several significant threats remain to the species.
  • Sei whales – These medium-sized whales feed on small crustaceans and other prey mainly in deep ocean waters. Animals off Washington belong to the eastern North Pacific population, which currently includes about 500 whales. The species is a rare visitor to the state's outermost waters.
  • North Pacific right whales – These large whales feed primarily on small crustaceans and are migratory. Once abundant, the eastern North Pacific population is nearly extinct with only about 30 whales and no sign of recovery. These whales are very rare visitors south of Alaska, with just a handful of sightings off the outer coast of Washington since the early 1900s.
  • Sperm whales – The largest of the toothed whales, sperm whales dive deep to prey on squid. More than half of the whales harvested in the north Pacific in the 1900s were sperm whales. Animals off the Washington coast belong to the California/Oregon/Washington stock, which currently includes about 2,100 whales.

All five species face potentially significant and increasing threats from one or more factors, including collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing gear and marine debris, and climate change. At the federal level, all five species are listed as endangered species and protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. WDFW wildlife biologists recommend keeping all five species of whales as state endangered species in Washington.

Forty-three species of fish and wildlife are listed for protection as state endangered, threatened or sensitive species.