Chinook and other salmon are an integral part of the Puget Sound ecosystem, cultural identity, and Tribal Treaty Rights. Sadly, salmon runs have been declining dramatically over that last century due in part to loss of access to healthy spawning and foraging habitat.
Southern Resident killer whales (orcas) are endangered due to a lack of prey, noise and disturbance, and toxics and other pollution. WEC pushed for strong recommendations on Governor Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force, a comprehensive blueprint for orca survival and recovery. The breadth and depth of solutions reflects the urgency to address the three main threats facing Southern Resident orcas.
No single action will turn the tide for orcas. For them to survive now and thrive into the future, we need to take many actions together that will add up to stop their decline and create the conditions needed for long-term recovery. WEC works on all three threat areas.
- WEC advocates for better policy to protect and restore salmon habitat, and the funding to carry out the work. We work with partners and other representatives on the Salmon Recovery Council to increase the pace. In 2019, WEC helped pass a bill that provides better tools for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to manage habitat, and we continue to defend and advance this work.
- Vessel traffic makes it harder for orcas to find and catch the Chinook salmon that they depend on. In 2019, we helped pass a bill that decreases vessel speeds and keep vessels away from orcas. It also directed the state to develop a commercial whale watch licensing program to “reduce the daily and cumulative impacts to Southern Resident orcas by license holders,” underway in 2020.
- Reducing toxics is also a key element of both orca and salmon recovery. Read more about our work to eliminate toxic chemicals.
The public cares deeply about recovering orcas, salmon, and the communities that depend on them. WEC and our partners connect people with opportunities to educate and advocate. With the Orca Salmon Alliance, we host Orca Action Month to highlight the connection between salmon recovery and Southern Resident orcas that depend on healthy runs of Chinook for their survival.