Orca update: Aquarium hosts Governor’s Orca Salmon Task Force

As part of ongoing efforts to help save our southern resident orca population, a task force convened by Governor Jay Inslee has been meeting regularly over the past six months to help determine how we can take measurable steps to better protect our local orca population.

The Seattle Aquarium was pleased to host representatives of the task force—which is composed of government agencies, elected officials, tribes, researchers, industry leaders, environmental groups and concerned citizens—as they rolled out their final workgroup recommendations for state lawmakers.

CEO Bob Davidson speaks in front of a crowd
Aquarium President and CEO Bob Davidson welcoming task force members to the Aquarium.

The Aquarium has been taking an active role with the workgroup and has been a strong voice for bold action in support of our orcas. The task force’s recommendations adhere to three main goals: 1) increasing Chinook salmon abundance, 2) decreasing the disturbance of orcas from vessels and noise and 3) reducing the exposure of southern resident orcas and their prey to contaminants.

Some highlights from the 36 recommended actions include:

  • Additional state funding for salmon habitat restoration and hatchery production.
  • Increased water spill over the Snake and Columbia River dams and planning to help re-establish salmon runs above key dams around the state.
  • A study to examine if removal of the four Lower Snake River dams would benefit Southern Resident orcas relative to the associated costs.
  • Strategies to reduce the catch, bycatch and predation of Chinook by humans and marine mammals.
  • The protection of forage fish species and other food sources for Chinook salmon.
  • New rules to reduce noise from small vessels, commercial whale-watching charters, large ships, the military and state ferries around the southern residents.
  • Increased oil spill and pollution prevention as well as new regulations to help reduce chemicals that may be harmful to orcas or their prey.

If you would like to read the full list of recommended actions you can view them on the Orca Task Force homepage. Though the Aquarium has not taken an official position on the recommendations as a whole we are glad that the Governor and state legislature will be taking a serious look at how we can better protect this iconic species and the salmon they rely upon.

Throughout this process it has been made clear that there is not a single policy that will turn things around for our southern residents. There are many factors that have contributed to their decline and we all have to do our part to ensure we can experience these amazing creatures for years to come. We will continue to keep you updated on our blog as the recommendations move through the legislative process. As always you are welcome to learn more about orcas or many other creatures who call the Salish Sea home on our animal facts page—or come visit us at the Aquarium for one of our many upcoming events!

Orca photo: Center for Whale Research

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