Help Save Orcas! Urgent Action Needed

Washington Governor Jay Inslee formed the Orca Task Force in early 2018 as it became clear that the Southern Resident Killer Whale pod of Orcas whose home waters includes marine areas from the Columbia River to the Fraser River in British Columbia are starving because their main food source, chinook salmon, have declined to levels nearing extinction.

The Orca Task Force received this message from thousands of concerned citizens, and it has just issued revised recommendations. The revised recommendations include two actions scientists say are essential to orca survival – (1) increased ‘spill’ at federal dams in the Columbia Basin and (2) development of a plan to remove the four lower Snake River dams. The Conservation Angler believes that these two urgent actions – as part of a larger regional plan – are needed to rebuild Chinook salmon populations in the Columbia and Snake Rivers as quickly as possible.

But that is not allThe Orca Task Force also included a misguided recommendation to increase Puget Sound chinook salmon hatchery production – a completely failed ongoing practice – as part of the plan to immediately increase Orca survival.

The Orca Task Force does include stronger recommendations to curtail marine harvest of chinook salmon and we must let the Task Force know that ocean harvest reduction is the first and fastest way to put more chinook on the menu for the Southern Resident Orcas!

The Task Force now needs to hear from you again:  it has opened a very short five-day public comment period – Oct. 25 – Oct. 29.

Some of the Task Force’s 36 recommendations may be eliminated in the days ahead.  We need your help to ensure meaningful action on:

1. Ocean and marine chinook harvest reductions,

2. Increased Columbia River spill,

3. Lower Snake River dam removal,

4. Enforcement of existing laws

Please act. Tell Governor Inslee and the Task Force that any Southern Resident Orca Action Plan must include Recommendations #4, #8, #9, #10 and #11 – in order to rebuild chinook salmon populations in the Snake and Columbia Rivers:

Recommendation #4 calls for full and immediate enforcement of existing laws and regulations. This recommendation should straightforward and require little additional funding.  There are many laws already in force, only requiring state and local authorities commitment to implement.

Recommendation #8 calls for immediate action until these four dams are gone to increase the amount of water ‘spilled’ at all eight lower Snake and Columbia River dams so baby salmon migrating to the ocean in spring can survive and return as adults in greater numbers.

Recommendation #9 calls for immediate action to begin planning for the removal of the four lower Snake River dams and restoration of this historic salmon river by convening government, tribal and other stakeholders now to develop a just transition plan for dam removal and river restoration.  

Recommendations #10 and #11 call for reduced catch and by-catch of chinook salmon in marine and ocean waters so that more adult chinook are immediately available as prey for Southern Resident Orcas.

TO SUBMIT COMMENT: go to the online comment form  —  and take these three simple steps:

First, indicate you “strongly support” Draft Recommendations #4 (full enforcement action) #8 (more spill), #9 (dam removal planning), #10 (reduced chinook harvest) and #11 (reduced by-catch) by clicking the appropriate button;

Next, include # 4, #8, #9, #10 and #11 among your ‘Top 5 Priority Recommendations;

Finally, either COPY the message below and PASTE it into the comment box at the end of the online comment form.

You should add you own personal message as well – about why restoring our critically endangered orcas and the chinook salmon on which they depend matters to you.
Governor Inslee and Members of the Orca Task Force:

Time is short and the science is clear. Washington must enforce existing laws, support removal of the lower Snake River dams and support harvest reductions for ocean chinook salmon to help restore chinook salmon to feed Southern Resident orca and help save them from extinction. 

You also must direct the Washington Department of Ecology to immediately change state water quality standards that limit the amount of water that can be spilled at the dams during the spring juvenile salmon migration months as a critical interim measure to help salmon and orca now. The new standards must allow total dissolved gas levels up 125% of saturation. Salmon – and the orcas that depend upon them – urgently need ‘spill’ increased to this new level starting in 2019.

Finally, do not support increased hatchery chinook salmon production over immediate harvest reductions in ocean fisheries. Reducing chinook salmon catch will be the fastest method of providing the preferred prey for the southern resident Orcas.

Thank you.

Please act now, the Task Force and Governor Inslee need to hear from you!

Speak up for the orcas today.

Thank you,

David Moskowitz and Pete Soverel

The Conservation Angler

With thanks to Joseph, Sam and the whole SOS team

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