Orca whales that spend their summers in Seattle’s Puget Sound eat salmon from the Sacramento River when they head into the Pacific Ocean each winter.
California farmers face water restrictions to protect those salmon.
The Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation filed a petition on behalf of farmers arguing that the orcas don’t qualify for the 2005 endangered species listing because the animals are part of a north Pacific population that is not endangered.
Today’s decision against the farmers is by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA officials say their yearlong, scientific review determined the Puget Sound orcas are distinct from other killer whales and still need protection. There are about 85 orcas in three pods, which also spend much of the year in the Pacific.