Washington state task force calls for whale-watching tour ban to protect orcas

The Washington state task force on critically endangered Pacific Northwest orcas wants to temporarily ban commercial whale-watching boat tours.

Group advising governor voted Tuesday to recommend 3- to 5-year moratorium on tours

Vessel noise can interfere with killer whales' ability to hunt, navigate and communicate with each other, so researchers are looking into what impact it will have on them. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

The Washington state task force on critically endangered Pacific Northwest orcas wants to temporarily ban commercial whale-watching boat tours.

The group advising the governor voted Tuesday to recommend a three- to five-year moratorium in order to reduce boating traffic and help orcas hunting for food.

Southern resident killer whales have hit the lowest numbers in more than three decades, capturing global attention. Just 74 animals remain in the area.

Researchers say reducing boat traffic must be the first step to mitigating the problem because white noise makes it difficult for them to find salmon.

Critics say the move doesn't address their dwindling food supply, and that barge and commercial fishing boats are far louder.

The task force previously considered creating a permit system for commercial whale-watching trips.

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