The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has published its 12-month finding on a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to revise the critical habitat designation for the Southern Resident killer whale (Orcinus orca) Distinct Population Segment under the Endangered Species Act. In November 2006 NMFS issued a final rule designating approximately 2,560 square miles (6,630 square km) of inland waters of Washington State as critical habitat for the Southern Resident killer whale DPS. CBD’s January 2014 petition requests that NMFS revise this critical habitat to include Pacific Ocean marine waters along the West Coast of the United States that constitute essential foraging and wintering areas for Southern Resident killer whales. Additionally, the petition requests that NMFS adopt as a primary constituent element for both currently designated critical habitat and the proposed revised critical habitat, protective in-water sound levels. NMFS has reviewed the public comments and best available information on Southern Resident killer whale habitat use. NMFS’ 12-month determination describes how the Service intends to proceed with the requested revision.
Click here to read the Federal Register notice of NMFS’ action.