On November 16th, the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force issued their Year 1 final comprehensive report to Governor Inslee, which contains a list of recommendations to reduce threats to the endangered Southern Resident orca population. The 36 proposed actions are intended to increase Chinook salmon abundance, decrease disturbance from vessels and noise, and reduce the exposure of orcas and their prey to chemical contaminants.
Soundkeeper applauds the Task Force for their work. These recommendations do not cover everything the orcas need, but they are a strong basis for moving forward. They include strong protections for habitat and water quality, oil spill protections, removal and cleanup of toxic pollution, and better strategies for keeping contamination out of waterways and reducing the whale’s exposure to ongoing pollution that threatens their ability to survive.
If you wrote to the Task Force and the Governor – THANK YOU. Your voice, and your support of Soundkeeper’s work, was instrumental in helping reach this point and will be critical going forward to make sure the recommendations are put into action.
This may very well be our last chance to make a difference for the Southern Resident Orca Whales. Meaningful action on these recommendations to protect the whales and the salmon they rely on is absolutely essential. Soundkeeper will work with the legislature, regulatory agencies and our partners to move that process forward. And we will keep you informed of opportunities to add your voice — like the recent comment period on statewide Clean Water Act permits for managing polluted runoff.
We are very grateful for your support, and for the opportunity to work with our partners on the Orca Salmon Alliance. You can read the full OSA statement below on the Task Force recommendations.
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Statement from the Orca Salmon Alliance:
“With only 74 orcas remaining, the Southern Resident orcas are in a state of emergency. They face a network of threats coming from multiple sources; no single solution will guarantee their recovery. The Orca Salmon Alliance is encouraged to see the Task Force focusing on actions across the state and across stakeholders, from the Columbia-Snake River basin to the Salish Sea.
“The only way we will save these incredible animals from extinction is by acting quickly and collaboratively throughout Washington State and the Southern Resident orcas’ range, involving voices from a variety of backgrounds and ensuring an open and transparent process with input and accountability from the public.
“The Orca Salmon Alliance appreciates the hard work of the Task Force, and while the final report is not perfect, and we still have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure the recommendations move forward and maintain an expedited timeline, we are encouraged by the momentum to save Southern Resident orcas. Their survival will require urgent action, hard decisions, collaboration and compromise. Focused efforts must continue in 2019 including the Washington legislative session to ensure that recommendations are fully supported, funded, and implemented.”
The Orca Salmon Alliance appreciates the hard work of the Task Force to address these pressing issues and to develop comprehensive, science-based measures to ensure the survival of Southern Resident orcas. Members of the Orca Salmon Alliance provided facts, studies, and information on various measures throughout the Task Force’s deliberations, participated in the three working groups, and engaged the public in support of bold action and inclusive solutions to save the Southern Resident orcas from extinction.
Many of the Orca Salmon Alliance’s priority actions were included in the final report, including increasing spill levels over federal dams in the Columbia-Snake River Basin, working to restore healthy and resilient rivers and watersheds in Washington State, establishing a speed limit around the orcas and a commercial whale watching permit system to reduce noise, and increasing and strengthening toxic pollution and clean up laws and their implementation and enforcement.
The report includes a recommendation to temporarily suspend (3-5 years) whale watching on the endangered Southern Resident orcas that did not provide the opportunity for full public consideration or input. The Orca Salmon Alliance does not yet have a position on this last-minute recommendation in the report, but we will continue to watch it closely. We support stakeholder and public engagement on this and all the recommended actions moving forward, and look forward to continued work for their survival and recovery with the Task Force in 2019.
In March of this year, Governor Jay Inslee signed an Executive Order that created the Southern Resident killer whale Recovery Task Force in order to meet the critically urgent needs of the endangered Southern Resident orca population. Representatives from tribal, federal, state, and local governments, the private sector and nonprofit sector, the Legislature, state agencies, as well as members of the Government of Canada were invited by the Governor to participate.
The Orca Salmon Alliance coalition was founded in 2015 to prevent the extinction of the Southern Resident orcas by recovering the wild Chinook salmon populations upon which the whales depend for their survival. OSA members include Orca Network, Defenders of Wildlife, Save Our Wild Salmon, Washington Environmental Council, Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Puget Soundkeeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Seattle Aquarium, Whale Scout, and Toxic Free Future.