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Washington State News

WDFW seeks comment on status review for killer whale

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public input on a draft Periodic Status Review for killer whale that includes a recommendation to keep the species on Washington’s endangered species list due to the status of the Southern Resident killer whale population. The public comment period is open until Feb. 19, 2024.


“There have been great efforts made toward killer whale conservation in Washington since the Department’s last status review of the species, but the Southern Resident killer whale population continues to be imperiled,” said Jessica Stocking, marine coastal flyway section manager. “Due to the continued depleted state of the Southern Resident population, as well as ongoing threats to all Washington killer whales, WDFW recommends retaining killer whale as a Washington endangered species.”

The draft Periodic Status Review for killer whale is now available on WDFW’s website. The public can submit written comments on the document via email or by mailing the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife ATTN: Taylor Cotten, P.O. Box 43141, Olympia, WA 98504.

All members of the public are invited to share their perspectives and participate in WDFW public feedback opportunities regardless of race, color, sex, age, national origin, language proficiency, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, status as a veteran, or basis of disability.

“Following the public comment period, we will finalize the Periodic Status Review and brief the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on the recommendation,” said Cotten. The Commission is tentatively scheduled to consider this topic in spring 2024.

The killer whale (Orcinus orca, also commonly known as the orca) is the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family, weighing up to 11 tons and measuring up to 32 feet long. They are mostly black with white eyebrow patches and a white underside extending from throat to tail. Three ecotypes of killer whales occur in Washington: fish-eating residents, mammal-eating transients, and offshores. The Southern Resident population has shown an overall declining trend since 1995, falling from 98 whales to 75 whales as of July 2023. Although Washington’s transient and offshore killer whale populations are stable or increasing, the species is broadly listed as endangered in Washington due to the status of the imperiled Southern Residents.

WDFW regularly analyzes and reviews information to inform status and classification recommendations for species listed as endangered, threatened, or sensitive in Washington. More information is available on WDFW’s At-Risk Species webpage.

WDFW works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.


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