When the resident orcas in the Puget Sound were listed as an endangered species back in 2005, it seemed inevitable that business interests -- who hate being restricted in their ability to ruin the environment at whim, including destroying the salmon runs on which the orcas' survival depends -- would try to overturn the ruling. And sure enough, within the year, the Building Industry Association of Washington filed a suit to try to delist them. It was thrown out in a matter of months.
Now comes yet another attempt, courtesy of a right-wing legal foundation filing another delisting attempt on behalf of a handful of California farmers, unhappy that they've lost irrigation water to salmon restoration:
NOAA Fisheries will begin a review of the status of a population of killer whales that is currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. This review is prompted by a petition from the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation to remove existing protection for these whales.
NOAA said the petition presents new information from scientific journal articles about killer whale genetics, addressing issues such as how closely related this small population is to other populations, and meets the agency's standard for accepting a petition to review.
During the status review, the agency will seek public input and gather all relevant information to determine if NOAA should propose to remove this distinct population of killer whales from the federal species-protection list. The agency cautioned that acceptance of this petition does not suggest that a proposal to delist will follow.
These fish-eating marine mammals, sometimes called orcas and officially known as Southern Resident killer whales, were listed as endangered in 2005, when there were 89 of them in the population.
Southern Resident killer whales spend time in Washington's Puget Sound and nearby waters. They generally leave for the open ocean in the winter. Scientists say that there are now 86 killer whales in the population. The petition asserts that the Southern Resident killer whales are actually part of a much larger population and are, therefore, not in danger of extinction.
NOAA insists that accepting the petition does not mean it is necessarily inclined to delist:
We'll begin a review to determine the population's ESA status, and are soliciting scientific and commercial information about these whales to ensure that the status review is comprehensive. Acceptance of this petition doesn't presuppose any particular outcome. We'll consider and address all substantive information received by Jan. 28, 2013.
What's especially specious are the arugments being raised by the Pacific Legal Foundation: