WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced that the 143 false killer whales living around the Hawaiian islands are endangered by the long-line fishery there, and should be protected.
The Hawaiian population numbered nearly 1,000 twenty years ago.
The mammals, actually dolphins, often are hooked incidentally or caught up in fishing lines, according to the agency’s proposal to add the insular population to the list of endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The name false killer whale comes from the fact that like the more widely known Orca, the dolphins eat other marine mammals. When left alone, they may live 60 years and grow up to 15 feet in length.
The agency’s proposal is in response to a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The species has been protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972, and earlier this year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration created a Take Reduction Team tasked with developing new procedures to protect the false killer whale from incidental by-catch.
The agency requests information regarding critical habitat and other information that may inform the development of the formal listing rule.