SEATTLE (AP) – The federal government is weighing a petition calling for a whale protection zone on the west side of Washington’s San Juan Island.
Three groups asked NOAA Fisheries in November to establish an area that would restrict motorized vessels in order to protect endangered southern resident killer whales.
The orcas face three primary threats, including limited prey, pollution and impacts from vessel traffic and noise. With the loss of seven animals in 2016, the population is down to 78.
NOAA Fisheries considered a similar no-go zone in 2011 but declined to move forward, citing strong opposition at the time. It did adopt rules requiring boats to stay 200 yards from the whales and out of their path.
In their petition, Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity and Project Seawolf say those protections aren’t enough.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public input as it decides whether to accept the petition and begin writing rules for a whale protection zone.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.