Our 2020 State Policy Priorities for a Healthy Ocean

Panoramic view from atop Mount Walker of Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains, Washington

The Washington state 2020 legislative session is about to begin, and the Seattle Aquarium will again be advocating for science-based measures to protect our marine environment. This year, we will be working hard to reduce plastic pollution, protect orcas and accelerate actions to address climate change. As a new member of the Environmental Priorities Coalition, we will be doing so in close partnership with 23 other like-minded conservation organizations.

Reducing plastic pollution

Plastic is becoming ubiquitous in marine ecosystems. Plastic accounts for 92% of all marine debris, which is often gobbled up by fish and other animals. Sea turtles ingest plastic bags that they confuse for jellyfish, and sea birds eat marine litter they have mistaken for prey. If we don’t make drastic reductions in the amount of plastic we use and dispose of every day, scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by weight.

The Seattle Aquarium will continue our efforts from last year and keep fighting for crucial actions to combat pollution from single-use plastics (plastic products used just once before being discarded). This includes the reusable bag bill, which will eliminate single-use plastic bags. We will also support a new ban on Styrofoam, among other important environmental protections.

Saving our southern resident orcas

Last year, we helped pass four key orca recovery bills to protect our struggling southern resident orcas, but much more action is needed. Right now, only 73 of the endangered southern resident population remain, and they greatly depend on shrinking salmon populations. The Seattle Aquarium will be working with our partners to pass the Healthy Habitat, Healthy Orcas bill, which is based off a recent Orca Task Force recommendation. If passed, this bill would help change the trend of development-related salmon habitat loss through a new standard called, “net ecological gain,” benefiting the orcas as well as many other species. (Look for another blog post soon that will dive more deeply into the concept of net ecological gain!)

Mitigating climate change

Did you know that our oceans and forests are fighting climate change every minute of every day? They help to absorb carbon dioxide and remove it from the air through a process known as carbon sequestration. But climate change also brings new risks to these ecosystems.

This year, we are supporting two new pieces of legislation that would help mitigate climate change. The first would update the state’s limits on climate pollution to reflect current science. The measure would emphasize the importance of carbon sequestration by investing in the health of trees, soils and the ocean. The second piece of legislation involves the adoption of a clean fuel standard to cut climate pollution and clean our air.

You’re invited to Environmental Advocacy Day!

On January 30, the Seattle Aquarium policy team and hundreds of other advocates will be in Olympia to show our support for our legislative agenda and many other environmental protections. We hope you will consider joining us! Environmental advocates will have an opportunity to attend issue briefings, learn how to lobby and meet with your elected officials. More information and a registration link can be found here.

For more details about the Environmental Priorities Coalition, visit the Coalition's website.

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