OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is taking public input on its Puget Sound orca status report and the recommendation to list the marine mammals on the state's endangered species list.
The status report and listing recommendation are available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/status/orca/index.htm on the Internet. Public comment on the documents will be accepted through April 1, and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to act on the proposal to add orcas to the endangered species list at its April 2-3 meeting in Spokane.
WDFW staff are scheduled to discuss orca report and listing recommendation with the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at a March 12-13 workshop. No action will be taken at the workshop.
The status report cites several possible factors that could be responsible for the orcas' decline, including an overall decrease in salmon abundance, pollution and possible harassment from marine vessel traffic.
The state "endangered" designation is given to native Washington species that are seriously threatened with extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the state. The state listing process is separate from the federal protective status designation process.
Orcas are protected by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. A petition to add Puget Sound's resident orca population to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) was recently denied, but federal wildlife officials are currently reviewing that decision.
Written comments on the final report and listing recommendation must be submitted no later than April 1 to Harriet Allen, WDFW Wildlife Program, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA., 98501-1091. Comments can also be sent to WDFW by e-mail at email@example.com.