Summary

Southern Resident killer whales hunt for salmon along the Pacific coast from Canada to California. In September 2019, the government proposed six new coastal areas from Washington to California be classified as “critical habitat” for these endangered whales, but still hasn’t made a final decision.

Why it Matters

Southern Resident killer whales are dependent on salmon for survival, but salmon populations have been depleted by overfishing, habitat damage and pollution. The Endangered Species Act – by protecting critical habitat – can help conserve the ecosystems which support these whales.

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Take Action

Ask NOAA to designate coastal areas as critical habitat for endangered Southern Resident killer whales.
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Endangered Species Act & Critical Habitat

When a marine mammal species is listed under the Endangered Species Act, NOAA Fisheries must assess which habitats are essential to their conservation, and may require special management and protection. Proposals for this “critical habitat” is published for public comment. The final ruling designates these areas under U.S. law.

When the Southern Residents were listed as endangered in 2005, the Salish Sea was designated as critical habitat the following year. This was due to its year-round importance to these whales – especially spring and summer – when hunting for their primary prey, Chinook (King) salmon.

Pacific Coast Critical Habitat

It’s well-known these fish-eating killer whales travel extensively outside the Salish Sea to hunt for salmon in Pacific coastal waters. Yet in 2006, NOAA scientists claimed insufficient knowledge to assess whether any coastal areas should also be designated as critical habitat. So they embarked on multi-year studies, including a tagging and tracking project, that was indefinitely suspended after being implicated in the tragic death of 20-year-old L-pod male, L95, aka Nigel.

In 2015, NOAA agreed that sufficient information now existed to consider expanding the  Southern Resident critical habitat along the coast, but then didn’t publish proposals until 2019. Since then? Silence.

Director Donna Wieting

Office of Protected Resources - NOAA

In September 2019, NOAA published proposals for six new critical habitat areas for the endangered Southern Resident killer whales, from Washington to California. I urge you to now complete this process and give this endangered population the protections they're entitled to under the Endangered Species Act. Thank you.

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Write & CallNOAA Office of Protected Resources

Please finalize the critical habitat ruling.

Key Talking Points

Customize your letter with these additional options.

  • Time is running out for the Southern Resident killer whales.
  • These whales can no longer rely on finding Chinook Salmon in the Salish Sea.
  • The best available science shows that lack of salmon is the number one threat to these endangered whales.
  • Coastal waters from Washington to California are essential feeding grounds for these whales.
  • River mouths up and down the coast are known hotspots for these hungry whales.
  • A final ruling must be made on coastal area critical habitat before it’s too late.

Did you Know?

All direct contact to local, state, and federal elected or appointed officials has to be counted and reported and really can make a difference.

Your personal letter, email, or phone call has a much HIGHER value than any “click and send” website letter or petition. You can use our samples to get you started…

Director Donna Wieting
NOAA Office of Protected Resources
1315 East-West Highway
13th Floor
Silver Spring, MD, 20910

Sample Letter

Dear Director Wieting,

I’m alarmed that the population of Southern Resident killer whales continues to decline each year. In 2019, NOAA published proposals for six additional areas of critical habitat, but you are yet to finalize this ruling. I therefore respectfully request this process be finalized, so that appropriate protections to these coastal regions can support the recovery of these endangered whales.

The Southern Residents were listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2005 when their population stood at 88: Today there are less than 75 individuals. Under the ESA, NOAA is obliged to determine and designate all critical habitat. However, for the last 15 years only the Salish Sea has been designated, despite the verified importance of Chinook salmon in Pacific coastal waters to this fragile population.

In September 2019, NOAA published proposals for public comment regarding six new areas of critical habitat along the west coast, with the comment period closing that December. Yet over one year later, you are yet to finalize this ruling.

As a matter of urgency, I urge you to now complete this process and give this unique community the best possible chance of survival. They need every protection afforded to them under the ESA. Without recognizing and protecting all of the critical habitat important to their survival, we are failing them.

Sincerely,

 

__________________

Address

Director Donna Wieting
NOAA Office of Protected Resources
1315 East-West Highway
13th Floor
Silver Spring, MD, 20910

Director Donna Wieting
NOAA Office of Protected Resources
1315 East-West Highway
13th Floor
Silver Spring, MD, 20910

(301)427-8400

Sample Script

Hello, I’m calling today with a message for Director Wieting.

My name is______ and I am a resident of _____ state.

I’m alarmed that the Southern Resident killer whales are struggling to survive without sufficient Chinook salmon, yet only the Salish Sea feeding grounds are designated as critical habitat.

As a matter of urgency, I’m asking that you finalize the ruling to the six new proposed areas, and ensure that Pacific coastal waters are also designated as critical habitat for these whales.

They need every protection afforded to them by the Endangered Species Act. Without recognizing and protecting all of the areas important to their survival, we are failing them.

Thank you.

Contact

Director Donna Wieting
NOAA Office of Protected Resources
1315 East-West Highway
13th Floor
Silver Spring, MD, 20910

(301)427-8400