NOAA proposes plan to expand killer whale habitat

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a proposal to extend critical habitat for the Southern Resident killer whales to better protect the whales as their population continues to decline.

The proposal calls for expanding the whales' critical habitat from the Seattle area, roughly 2,560 square miles, to coastal waters stretching from Cape Flattery, Washington to Point Sur, California, excluding an area off of Washington's coast for military activities.

This would cover an additional area of 15,626 square miles between depths of 20 feet and 650 feet.

The NOAA cited research stating genetic samples show the whales swim as far north to Alaska's Taku River and as far south to the Central Valley in California for salmon.

The proposal would be limited to federal agencies to ensure that any activities they pay for or carry out do not damage or destroy whale habitats. This includes making sure the waters contain sufficient prey and that water quality allows the whales to grow and develop, reproduce and migrate.

NOAA's website states that killer whales are threatened by a lack of food due to overfishing, loss of habitat as well as contaminants such as pesticides that enter the ocean and accumulate in a whale's body.

The Southern Resident killer whales are listed as an endangered species with only 76 individuals remaining, according to the NOAA.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Why NOAA wants to better protect the Southern Resident killer whales
2. The proposed expansion of the whales' critical habitat
3. How the Southern Resident killer whales differ from other killer whales
4. Any activities carried out by federal agencies will have to ensure that whale habitats will not be damaged or destroyed

VOICEOVER (in English):
"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a proposal to extend critical habitat for the Southern Resident killer whales to better protect the whales as their population continues to decline."

"The proposal calls for expanding the whales' critical habitat from the Seattle area, roughly 2,560 square miles, to coastal waters stretching from Cape Flattery, Washington to Point Sur, California, excluding an area off of Washington's coast for military activities."

"This would cover an additional area of 15,626 square miles between depths of 20 feet and 650 feet."

"The Southern Resident killer whales are genetically different from other killer whale populations and mainly consume salmon, while the others eat seals or other marine mammals."

"The NOAA cited research stating genetic samples show the whales swim as far north to Alaska's Taku River and as far south to the Central Valley in California for salmon."

"The proposal would be limited to federal agencies to ensure that any activities they pay for or carry out do not damage or destroy whale habitats."

"This includes making sure the waters contain sufficient prey and that water quality allows the whales to grow and develop, reproduce and migrate."

SOURCES: Associated Press, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Seattle Times
https://apnews.com/e1e8cdeb23b741719c13b1466a41f84a
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/new-proposal-expanded-killer-whale-critical-habitat-reflects-latest-science
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/killer-whale
https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/feds-seek-expanded-habitat-protection-as-salmon-orcas-battle-climate-change-habitat-degradation/