Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
A group of Central California farmers have petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to remove the orca, or killer whale, from a list of animals deserving of protection under the Endangered Species Act, the Sacramento Bee reports.
At issue is the southern resident orca population, which resides primarily in Washington’s Puget Sound but ventures as far south as the central California coast. The three pods, similar in structure to extended family groups, of orcas comprising the southern resident population were decimated during a mass capture in 1970 where dozens were killed off and dozens more were taken into captivity for show purposes. Lolita, the longest-surviving orca in captivity, is the last living whale to be taken during the raid. She resides in the smallest of any existing killer whale tanks at a display facility in Florida.
Because the southern residents, whose population was numbered at 86 during the last count in 2010, depend on chinook salmon as a dietary staple. In order to protect the salmon, water deliveries to California farmers are limited, thus creating animosity on the part of the farmers.
“It seems almost outrageous that a whale out in the ocean is restricting our water,” Fresno almond and cantaloupe farmer Joe Del Bosque told the Bee. “I’m not a biologist, I just know we’re being affected.”
The Fisheries Service, after reviewing the 2010 population figures, determined last year that it was too soon to remove the endangered species protections afforded the southern residents.