A federal agency will designate waters around Hawaii as protected critical habitat for endangered false killer whales. About 17,500 square miles of ocean habitat will be protected under a new rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, reports the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The rule was published Tuesday in the Federal Register and goes into effect Aug. 23. The waters around the state host about 150 false killer whales, which are actually members of the dolphin family and formally known as pseudorca crassidens. The Center for Biological Diversity has been advocating for the protection of the species, per the AP.
"It's a very good day for the false killer whales," says Brett Hartl, the center's government affairs director. "Getting critical habitat is a very important step." The protected habitat covers ocean from Niihau to the Big Island, including depths up to about 10,000 feet. The rule excludes 14 areas, including 13 sites requested by the Navy and one area requested by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. "What they've done is probably not exactly what we hoped for, but I think at the end of the day, the critical habitat that the false killer whale receives is a huge step in the right direction," Hartl says.
(Read more Hawaii