Puget Sounds killer whales need continued protection | Editorial

The killer whales that grace our waters are besieged by so much.

Their increasingly noisy underwater world makes it tricky for them to locate food, as they depend on their acute hearing to locate prey and one another. Overfishing has led to declines in their prey, and some of the animals are said to be starving. Boaters, in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, often get far too close to the whales, a form of harassment.

Now, the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento-based libertarian group that has created a $25 million business for itself fighting endangered species listings, has added what could be the last straw for this highly imperiled species. It has filed a petition seeking an end to the federally protected status of Puget Sound’s orcas.

There are some 50,000 orcas, the foundation argues. Why protect a handful that migrates up and down the West Coast?

Here’s why, according to local whale advocate and scientists: There are only 86 southern resident orcas — pods J, K and L — left. And contrary to this organization’s contention, scientists say these animals are a distinct subspecies, with distinct patterns of behavior.

Pacific Legal Foundation’s suit is motivated by short-term financial gain, not the health and welfare of these mighty but imperiled creatures. Let’s hope science and law prevail and their protection remains in place. And let’s continue to celebrate their presence, a majestic sight right off the shores of Vashon Island.


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