Maui News

Lawsuit Seeks Protection of Hawaiian False Killer Whale

July 14, 2016, 12:54 PM HST
* Updated July 14, 1:01 PM
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False Killer Whale hooking, file photo from unrelated incident. File photo courtesy Earthjustice.

False Killer Whale hooking, file photo from unrelated incident. File photo courtesy Earthjustice.

The National Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday seeking the protection of Hawaiʻi’s 150 resident false killer whales.

The lawsuit alleges that officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association failed to timely designate critical habitat for the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale as required by the Endangered Species Act.

The complaint claims the inaction places the endangered population of false killer whales in “grave risk” of “near-term extinction.”

According to the lawsuit, major threats include reduced prey from overfishing, injury and mortality from fishing gear, toxic contamination and anthropogenic noise.

Defendants have have identified 29 separate threats to the species survival, several of them being habitat related, according to the document.


According to the complaint, “False killer whales are a member of the dolphin family and are generally found in the open ocean where they prey on fish and squid. The Main Hawaiian Island insular false killer whales, however, are a distinct population of false killer whales that live close to land and, rather than migrate through the open ocean like others of their species, are permanent island residents.”


Backers of the suit say its been nearly four years since the whale was listed in December of 2012, and seven years since the government was alerted of the whale’s decline in September of 2009.

The NRDC is a not-for-profit membership corporation founded in 1970.  It has more than 294,000 members nationwide and more than 1,800 members in Hawaiʻi.
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