Quantcast

Washington Gov. Proposes 'Herculean Effort' to Save 74 Remaining Southern Resident Orcas

Animals
Southern Resident killer whale mother and her calf swimming. NOAA

With only 74 left in the wild, the Southern Resident orca population in Puget Sound needs help now more than ever. That's why on Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's office announced "an unprecedented investment" to help boost the population as well as the Chinook salmon they eat.

"We are undertaking a herculean effort to save these iconic creatures. It will take action at every level of the environment across our entire state," Inslee said in a news release. "We need to restore the ecosystem to one that sustains orcas, salmon and the quality of life for all Washingtonians."


The population of the beloved killer whales is at a 30-year low. Their plight was underscored this summer when a mother whale Tahlequah, or J35, carried her dead calf for at least seventeen days and 1,000 miles in her heartbreaking "tour of grief" this August.

Then in September, the ailing J50, another member of Tahlequah's pod, was declared missing and presumed dead after a three-day search in the waters between Washington state and Canada.

Inslee's orca recovery plan is part of his 2019–21 state budget, which proposes about $1.1 billion in combined investments to address the main problems faced by the critically endangered killer whales: a lack of salmon; toxic contaminants; and vessel traffic and noise.

Much of the investment will go towards improving the diets of Southern Resident orcas, which mostly eat Chinook salmon. But the salmon's numbers are down 60 percent and if they continue to decline, the orca population will too.

For that reason, Inslee's proposed budget will provide $363 million in the capital budget for salmon recovery, culvert removal, water quality and water supply projects that will expand and improve salmon survival across the state.

Other proposals include a ban on commercial whale-watching of the Southern Residents for three years, increasing the distance boats must stay away from the orcas from the current federal rules of 200 yards to 400 yards, reducing risks of catastrophic oil spills, and removal and prevention of toxic contaminants in the waters. The money will also go towards scientific research and monitoring efforts.

Inslee's orca recovery plan follows recommendations issued this fall by the governor's Southern Resident Orca Task Force. The task force recommended an initial target of increasing the population to 84 orcas over the next decade.

Tax increases will be needed to pay for Inslee's plan, the The Seattle Times reported.

The Democratic governor, who is "not ruling out" 2020 run for president, is a strong climate and environmental advocate. Saving the orcas will require the sacrifices of the state residents to help the imperiled orcas, he told the Times.

"Everybody is involved in this mission and everyone has to be for it to succeed," Inslee added. "These expenditures have to be done now. There are lots of things in life you can put off for a decade. This is not one of them … This is a one-time shot."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

California Condor at soaring at the Grand Canyon. Pavliha / iStock / Getty Images

North America's largest bird passed an important milestone this spring when the 1,000th California condor chick hatched since recovery efforts began, NPR reported Sunday.

Read More Show Less
The Roloway monkey has been pushed closer to extinction. Sonja Wolters / WAPCA / IUCN

The statistics around threatened species are looking grim. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added more than 9,000 new additions to its Red List of threatened species, pushing the total number of species on the list to more than 105,000 for the first time, according to the Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images

The campaign to re-elect President Donald Trump has found a new way to troll liberals and sea turtles.

Read More Show Less
Night long exposure photograph of wildifires in Santa Clarita, California. FrozenShutter / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristy Dahl

Last week, UCS released Killer Heat, a report analyzing how the frequency of days with a dangerously hot heat index — the combination of temperature and humidity the National Weather Service calls the "feels like" temperature — will change in response to the global emissions choices we make in the coming decades.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A Zara store in Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Timahaowemi / CC BY-SA 3.0

Green is the new black at Zara.

The Spanish fast fashion behemoth has made a bold move to steer its industry to a more environmentally friendly future for textiles. Inditex, Zara's parent company, announced that all the polyester, cotton and linen it uses will be sustainably produced by 2025, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Whether you enjoy running recreationally, competitively, or as part of your overall wellness goals, it's a great way to improve your heart health.

Read More Show Less
Text from the plaque that will mark the site where Ok glacier once was. Rice University

By Andrea Germanos

A climate change victim in Iceland is set to be memorialized with a monument that underscores the urgent crisis.

Read More Show Less