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Listing of Southern Resident Killer Whale Under the ESA


Endangered Species Act
Action Status
Final Rule
Affected Species


NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is issuing a final determination to list the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population segment (DPS) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of (ESA) 1973. Following an update of the status review of Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) under the ESA, NMFS published a proposed rule to list the Southern Resident killer whale DPS as threatened on December 22, 2004. After considering public comments on the proposed rule and other available information, we reconsidered the status of Southern Residents and are issuing a final rule to list the Southern Resident killer whale DPS as an endangered species. 

On January 25, 2013, we, received a petition submitted by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation to remove the exclusion of captive animals from the endangered species listing of Southern Resident killer whale DPS, as well as, recognize the captive killer whale “Lolita” as a protected member of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale Distinct Population Segment (DPS). We completed a status review and published a proposed rule, and we are now amending the regulatory language of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of the DPS by removing the exclusion for captive members of the population. We have further determined that Lolita, a female killer whale captured from the Southern Resident killer whale population in 1970 who resides at the Miami Seaquarium in Miami, Florida, is not excluded from the Southern Resident killer whale DPS due to her captive status.

We accepted a petition to delist the Southern Resident killer whale DPS on November 27, 2012, initiating a public comment period and a status review. Based on our review of the petition, public comments, and the best available scientific information, we found in 2013 that delisting the Southern Resident killer whale DPS is not warranted.

Last updated by Office of Protected Resources on 07/06/2021