Endangered orcas get new protection from US government

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FILE- In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, an endangered female orca leaps from the water while breaching in the Salish Sea west of Seattle, Wash. The capture of killer whales for theme-park display in the 1960s and ’70s was devastating for the Pacific Northwest’s resident orcas: 13 were killed and 45 kept to entertain paying crowds, leaving only about 70 in the wild. The captive whales could nevertheless now provide a boon to researchers urgently trying to save wild whales in the Northwest and elsewhere. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — Endangered killer whales have received new habitat protections from the U.S. government.

The National Marine Fisheries Service on Friday finalized rules to expand the Southern Resident orca’s critical habitat from the Canadian border down to Point Sur, California, adding 15,910 square miles (41,207 square kilometers) of foraging areas, river mouths and migratory pathways.

While environmentalists praised the action, many also called for habitat protections for salmon to aid in the orca’s recovery.

There are currently 75 southern resident orca whales in the three resident J, K and L pods. The whales have in recent years been at their lowest numbers since the 1970s.

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