A federal rule that went into effect July 30 expands protected habitat for the endangered southern resident orcas down the West Coast.
The Center for Biological Diversity pushed for the protections, which designate 15,910 square miles of habitat for wildlife. The protections will expand those in the Salish Sea and along the coasts of Washington and Oregon, down to California’s Point Sur, the Kitsap Sun reported.
More foraging areas, river mouths and migratory routes are protected now. The orcas, which number 75 among three pods, have historically spent their summers in the Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, which were protected as critical habitat in 2006.
“This is an opportunity for not only Oregon but California to recognize these whales are not Washington’s whales,” said Deborah Giles, a research scientist at the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology. “The Southern Residents are not local, they really are a widely ranging animal all the way down to Monterrey.”