Yesterday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee Signs Executive Order To Protect Orcas Most At Risk Of Extinction In Puget Sound, WA

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Center for Whale Research

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order yesterday for state agencies to take immediate and longer-term steps to protect endangered Puget Sound orcas whose population is the lowest it has been in three decades.

As per an official statement from the Governor’s office, “the population of Southern Resident killer whales has declined from 98 in 1995 to just 76 today. The diets of southern resident orcas consist largely of Chinook salmon, but the Chinook are listed on federal and state endangered species lists. If the Chinook population continues to decline, the southern resident orca population will follow.

“The destiny of salmon and orca and we humans are intertwined,” the governor said at a news conference in Seattle. “As the orca go, so go we.”

Recognizing the dire need for protection, Inslee outlined a strategy to try to ensure the survival of both species in the Puget Sound; instructing state agencies to take immediate steps toward long-term solutions.

The executive order is intended to provide the orcas with more salmon, less pollution, and less noise from vessel traffic.

Plans also include the formation of a task force which will bring together state agencies, tribal leaders, local governments, federal partners and other stakeholders to make recommendations at the state, regional, and federal levels. The force has until November to put together a final report including the recommendations.

“We have to be united, every industry, every community, everything we do in our personal lives, if we are going to save these orcas, we are going to have to change,” said Inslee.

The federal government listed the orcas as endangered in 2005, and more recently identified them as among the most at risk of extinction in the near future.

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