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Conservation group asks for protection of orcas in West Coast waters

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On Thursday, Jan. 16, KOMO 4 News reported that a conservation group wants federal officials to protect endangered orcas who live in the waters off the West Coast.

On Thursday, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to designate areas that are critical habitat for orcas who live along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national U.S. group that uses science, law, and media to protect the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

Southern resident killer whales are often seen in Puget Sound during the summer and scientists are working to map their winter movements. So far, federal biologists have tracked the orcas from Cape Flattery, Wash. to Point Reyes, Calif.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the offshore areas used by the orcas should be designated as "critical habitat" areas. This designation requires federal officials to limit activities that may harm the orcas.

NOAA biologist Lynne Barre said on Thursday that she hadn't read the petition yet, but the agency will evaluate the information and determine how to respond.

Orcas, which are often erroneously referred to as whales, are actually the largest of the dolphins. Orcas live and hunt in family groups called pods which consist of up to 40 individuals. There are resident and transient orca pods. In Washington state, there are three resident pods: the J, K, and L pods.

Recently, the movie "Blackfish" illuminated the concerns behind orcas in captivity. Learn more about the film here.

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