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NOAA Fisheries Proposes Depleted Designation
For Prince William Sound Killer Whales


October 28, 2003
Tuesday - 1:00 am

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has proposed designating the AT-1 killer whale group of Prince William Sound as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

"We are concerned about this group of killer whales," said Dr. James Balsiger, administrator for the Alaska Region of NOAA Fisheries. "For genetic, behavioral, ecological and


Pod of killer whales.
Photo: Josh Keaton, National Marine Fisheries
management reasons we propose designating AT-1 whales as separate from the larger population of transient killer whales in the eastern North Pacific."

The AT-1 group once numbered 22 animals, but now contains only nine whales, including four females. No new calves have been sighted since 1984.

The AT-1 whales have been observed feeding on harbor seals and porpoises in Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords in Alaska.

The AT1 group is currently considered part of a larger population of 346 transient killer whales in the eastern North Pacific. Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords are also home to about 362 resident killer whales. Resident and transient killer whales have different eating habits, calls and genetics.

NOAA Fisheries received a petition from the National Wildlife Federation last November to list the AT-1 group as a separate and depleted stock of marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The petitioners suggested that effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, chemical contaminants such as PCB's and DDT, increased vessel traffic, and a reduction in available prey species are possible factors in the decline of the AT-1 group. Agency officials found merit in the petition, and now propose designating this group as a depleted stock.

If the stock is found to be depleted, NOAA Fisheries officials will consider what measures might be necessary to revise the declining population trend of AT-1 stock of killer whales.

NOAA Fisheries welcomes information about the AT-1 killer whales. A 90-day formal public comment period ends January 22. The agency is particularly interested in hearing about the identification of AT-1 killer whales as a population stock; the historical or current abundance of this group; factors that may be affecting the group; and conservation measures that may promote their recovery. Comments may be sent to: Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 709 W. 9th St, Juneau, AK 99802-1668 or faxed to (907) 586-7012.

The Federal Register notice and other information can be found at: People may also contact Kaja Brix at (907) 586-7235 or Tom Eagle at (301) 713-2322 Ext.105 for further information.



pdf The Federal Register notice: Proposed depleted designation of the AT-1 group of transient killer whales. Comment period through January 22, 2004

pdf National Wildlife Federation petition


Source of News Release:

National Marine Fisheries - Alaska Region
Web Site


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