Southern Resident orcas are on the verge of extinction. To save them, we need bold action immediately. The issues impacting Southern Resident orcas are varied, and tackling them will require coordination between partners across the orcas’ entire range: from the Salish Sea to the Pacific Coast to the Columbia Basin. We applaud Governor Inslee for issuing this executive order, which is an important first step to ensure that we don’t lose the heart of the Salish Sea. We look forward to working with the Governor, the Orca Recovery Taskforce and other stakeholders to ensure the survival of these orcas.
Robb Krehbiel, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife
SEATTLE,
14
March
2018
|
07:34 PM
America/New_York

For Immediate Release

Washington Governor Calls for Emergency Orca Task Force

Today, Governor Jay Inslee, joined by tribal and conservation leaders from across the region, issued an executive order outlining near- and long-term actions the state plans to take to prevent the extinction of two icons of the Pacific Northwest: Chinook salmon and Southern Resident orcas. One of these proposals is the creation of an Orca Recovery Taskforce that will include government staff, regional scientists and advocates. This taskforce would advise the Governor on future actions the state can pursue to restore salmon and orcas.

Robb Krehbiel, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:

“Southern Resident orcas are on the verge of extinction. To save them, we need bold action immediately. The issues impacting Southern Resident orcas are varied, and tackling them will require coordination between partners across the orcas’ entire range: from the Salish Sea to the Pacific Coast to the Columbia Basin. We applaud Governor Inslee for issuing this executive order, which is an important first step to ensure that we don’t lose the heart of the Salish Sea. We look forward to working with the Governor, the Orca Recovery Taskforce and other stakeholders to ensure the survival of these orcas.”

Background:

  • Governor Inslee’s executive order directed seven agencies to prioritize orca conservation and direct more resources towards near-term recovery actions. These actions include identifying Chinook salmon runs to prioritize for restoration, reducing noise disturbance from Washington State Ferries, and ensuring that funding for stormwater mitigation is directed to projects that would assist in orca recovery.
  • The top four focus areas of the Executive Order are increasing salmon populations, ensuring orcas have more space with less vessel traffic, reducing toxics in the Salish Sea, and preventing oil spills.
  • Defenders of Wildlife has been working with diverse coalition partners to advance many of these goals. We have advocated for increased spill over Federal dams in the Columbia Basin to restore this critical source of winter food. We also recently piloted our Orcas Love Raingardens program in Tacoma, which aims to improve water quality in Commencement Bay, an important estuary for Puyallup and White River Chinook salmon. We have also advocated for accelerating efforts to remove sources of pollution from the Salish Sea, like derelict vessels and creosote, which can impact both orcas and salmon.
  • Only 76 individual Southern Resident orcas remain in the waters of Puget Sound, the lowest population count in decades. Governor Inslee agreed that Washington is in a state of emergency with the Southern Resident orcas and to solicit ideas for an “advanced focused effort” to recover this iconic species.
  • On Sept. 27, 2017, Governor Inslee was briefed on the alarming population decline of the Southern Resident orca as part of the Results WA Initiative.
  • On Nov 1, 2017, the Puget Sound Partnership released the most recent State of the Sound report. In it, the alarming decline of Southern Resident orcas was highlighted as a key indication that the health of the ecosystem remains in jeopardy.
  • In 2016, the National Marine Fisheries Service declared that Southern Resident orcas are one of the most at-risk of extinction species nationwide

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.