OLYMPIA - A report that details the status of Washington's killer whale populations is now available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's online Science Magazine.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted April 3 to add killer whales to the state's endangered species list - a designation that directs special management attention and priority to recover the species in Washington.
The status report was funded in part by an appropriation from Gov. Gary Locke as part of the governor's larger initiative to strengthen the health of the Puget Sound ecosystem and the fish and wildlife species that depend on it.
The report cites several possible factors that could be responsible for the orcas' decline, including an overall decline in salmon numbers throughout the region, accumulations of long-lived pollutants such as PCBs and DDT, and possible harassment from "whale-watchers" and other marine vessels.
Canadian officials have already listed the southern resident killer whales as an endangered species. They have protection under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, and federal officials, who have designated the southern resident population as a "depleted stock" under the act, are currently reviewing their decision to not list them under the federal ESA.
There are four killer whale populations in Washington waters - southern residents, northern residents, transients and offshores. The resident and offshore populations feed primarily on salmon, other fish and squid. The transients feed almost exclusively on marine mammals, such as seals and sea lions.
Science Magazine also features in-depth stories on naturally occurring toxins and their effects on razor clam fisheries, high-tech research into the lives of mountain goats and a photo essay on last fall's move of 41 elk from the St. Helens Wildlife Area in Cowlitz County to timberlands in the North Cascades.