Critical Habitat for Southern Resident Killer Whales

September 18, 2019:  We, NOAA Fisheries, propose to revise the critical habitat designation for the Southern Resident killer whale (Orcinus orca) distinct population segment (DPS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by expanding it to include six new areas along the U.S. West Coast, while maintaining the whales' currently designated critical habitat in inland waters of Washington. Specific new areas proposed along the U.S. West Coast include roughly 15,626 square miles of marine waters between the 6.1-meter depth contour and the 200-meter depth contour from the U.S. international border with Canada south to Point Sur, California. We solicit comments from the public on all aspects of the proposal, including information on the economic, national security, and other relevant impacts of the proposed revision to the critical habitat designation.

February 24, 2015: NOAA Fisheries announced a 12-month finding on a petition to revise the Critical Habitat Designation for the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population segment is warranted. After reviewing the petition, public comments, and the best available information, we intend to proceed with a revision to critical habitat. We outline in the Federal Register notice next steps for collecting and analyzing data, and for developing a proposed rule to revise critical habitat expected in 2017.

April 24, 2014: NOAA accepted a petition and will consider whether revising critical habitat for Southern Resident killer whales is warranted. We requested information on habitat needs and the West Coast area proposed for inclusion as critical habitat and opened a public comment period that ended on June 24, 2014.  

Comments received on information on habitat needs and the West Coast area proposed for inclusion as critical habitat are posted to In the "Search" box enter the docket number, "NOAA-NMFS-2014-0041" and click the "Public Submission" box under the Document Type heading on the left side of the screen.

November 29, 2006: NOAA Fisheries designated final ESA critical habitat for the Southern Resident killer whales.

The dataset is intended to provide the public with a general basemap of areas designated as critical habitat for these whales.  Every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information depicted; however maps produced from this dataset DO NOT constitute a legal description of critical habitat.  For exact legal descriptions of the areas designated as critical habitat (as well as the specific areas not designated) please consult the NOAA Fisheries 

Chronology of Killer Whale Actions