Northwest orcas don't need protection, lawsuit claims

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SEATTLE (AP) — Property-rights advocates and California farmers filed a petition on Thursday urging the government to delist Pacific Northwest orcas from the Endangered Species Act, arguing that group of whales is not a sub-species.

"They invented a sub-species," said Damien M. Schiff, an attorney for the Sacramento, Calif.-based Pacific Legal Foundation. "Federal officials simply can't create a new sub-species classification in order to protect."

The petition was filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. The government has 90 days to review the petition's findings, which include science studies commissioned by the law firm that say the orcas aren't any different from other orcas around the world.

A previous petition by this group failed in 2006.

The orcas in question live in the Puget Sound and nearby Canadian waters. They were listed as endangered in 2005. There are about 85 whales divided into three different pods, according to the Center for Whale Research.

The petition alleges that the orcas' endangered listing has affected water supplies to California farmers due to restrictions placed to protect salmon that the orcas eat.

"This petition is based on make-believe law and made up biology," said Earthjustice spokeswoman Kristen Boyles.