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Feds to help fund enforcement of killer whale rules

The orca calf pictured here, J-46, was first photographed in off  the west side of San Juan Island in November of 2009.  - Contributed photo
The orca calf pictured here, J-46, was first photographed in off the west side of San Juan Island in November of 2009.
— image credit: Contributed photo

A combination of federal and state money, more than $1.2 million in all, will be used to boost enforcement of rules meant to better protect the struggling Southern resident killer whales of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.

Federal officials authorized spending roughly $900,000 on enforcement in response to grant application by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, who in June sent a letter in support of the funding request to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.Rick Larsen

“Southern Resident Killer Whales are an inseparable part of the Puget Sound’s cultural, economic and ecological makeup,” Larsen noted in a press release. “This grant will put a cop on the beat to protect these endangered whales as they continue their recovery.”

In addition to $924,961 in federal funds, Washington state will augment enforcement of on-the-water rules implemented by NOAA in 2011 with $300,000 in state money. Those rules include a restrictions that prohibit vessels of all types — motor boats, sail boats and kayaks — from approaching a killer whale closer than 200 yards or from intercepting a whale or positioning a vessel in its path.

Listed as endangered under federal law in the U.S and in Canada in 2005, the population of Southern residents, which consist of three closely related clans, J, K and L pods, now totals 82 animals, according to the most recent survey by San Juan Island's Center for Whale Research. The population, which most recently peaked at 99 in 1995, plummeted to 79 over the next six years, and has hovered in the mid-80s during its tenure on the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The pool of state and federal funds will be used in part to hire an enforcement officer to conduct regular patrols and investigate violations. The federal grant is also earmarked for public outreach and education, and for evaluation of recovery plan developed for the Southern residents by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which, like NOAA, is a division of the U.S. Commerce agency.

According to the Fisheries Service, the greatest threats to the Southern residents survival are lack of its preferred prey, Chinook salmon, pollution and disturbance by boats.

For more information on the grant, visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/conservation/states/funded.htm.

 

 

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