Seattle Aquarium President & CEO Robert W. Davidson and Aquarium staff joined Governor Inslee, regional and tribal leaders, and environmental advocates at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center in support for our native southern resident orca population this past Wednesday.
The event marked the signing of a new plan by the governor that outlines a series of actions to help protect both our southern resident killer whales and chinook salmon—the primary food source of orcas native to the Salish Sea.
In his speech, the governor emphasized the cultural and economic importance of both species and the challenges they face. In Puget Sound, the population of southern resident orcas has declined from 98 in 1995 to just 76 today. Further the orcas’ primary food source, the chinook salmon, have also seen declines in their populations and are listed on federal and state endangered species lists.
The executive order forms a task force of stakeholders to make new recommendations on how we can better protect our orcas and salmon. The order also instructs seven state agencies to immediately boost orca recovery and outline long-term steps to better address factors leading to population decline. The order instructs the taskforce and agencies to work with leaders in British Columbia, Oregon, California, Idaho and Alaska to ensure strategies are coordinated and working together.
As Gov. Inslee noted at the event, “Washington is lucky enough to have two iconic animals: orcas and salmon, whose destinies are both intertwined and in peril.”
Seattle is the world’s only major metropolitan area with a resident population of orcas and the fate of our three orca families, J, K and L pod, is linked to all of us. Human influences on the ocean ecosystem affect whales everywhere. Our southern resident orcas were listed as endangered in 2005. The Center for Biological Diversity has analyzed our local resident orca population and, if trends continue, our local pods could go extinct within 100 years—possibly as soon as 30 years from now.
The time to act is now, and we are excited to see Gov. Inslee, tribal leaders, local officials and many others taking steps to ensure we protect these incredible animals. If you would like to read Gov. Inslee’s executive order, you can view it here. Want to learn more about orcas? Check out some of the educational resources on our website, or visit the orca Family Activity Center the next time you’re at the Aquarium.