Cantwell Secures $1.5 M for Orca Recovery Research

September 16, 2004 News Release from Office of Senator Cantwell.

Cantwell Secures $1.5 Million for Continued Orca Recovery Research in Senate Spending Bill
Federal funds would support study of declining orca population

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced today that she secured $1.5 million in a Senate spending bill for research funding to study the decline in the Puget Sound Southern Resident orca population and to support ongoing recovery efforts.

“A healthy orca population, with its position at the top of the food chain, is a barometer for the well-being of the Puget Sound ecosystem,” Cantwell said. “These funds will help us understand why our beloved orca population is declining and allow us to move forward and ensure they are part of our region’s future.”

These funds would support ongoing research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and build upon the $1.5 million Cantwell secured in fiscal year 2004 and $750,000 in fiscal year 2003. The research will determine factors that may be causing the population’s decline, define goals for population recovery, identify specific measures to help restore the population, and help develop a comprehensive recovery plan.

Last October, Cantwell successfully persuaded NOAA to allocate $100,000 of the funds to help reunite L-98 with his pod. Known as Luna, the orca has been stranded in the Nootka Sound near Gold River for over three years, while his pod is based in the Puget Sound.

While the early stages of a reunification effort earlier this summer fell victim to poor communication between the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and a First Nations tribe of Vancouver Island, the funds secured by Cantwell were not used, as NOAA would have only been involved in later stages of the reunification within American waters.

This funding is even more critical in light of NOAA’s ongoing consideration of listing the Southern Resident orca population under the Endangered Species Act. An announcement is expected in December. In May 2003, NOAA listed the population as officially “depleted” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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