While locals and tourists thrill at seeing our resident orca whales in Puget Sound, many of you might not know how precarious are their chances for long-term survival.
Our endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population here in the southern Salish Sea is declining, down 20 percent since the 1990s to only 80 whales. Many of our Chinook salmon runs, the food of choice for these orcas, are endangered and declining. The forage fish that the Chinook and other salmon eat are declining.
It's all interconnected, and we humans are largely to blame for these declines.
We've dumped toxic contaminants into our seas and oceans, logged and trashed pristine watersheds that support salmon, altered the landscape in harmful ways, and the list just goes on. Shame on us!
But there are good people working hard to help our whales and salmon.
|Southern Resident orcas in Puget Sound. Photo by Alisa Lemire Brooks.
Last weekend I was lucky to attend part of the Orca Network-sponsored Way of Whales event on Whidbey Island. This year the place was packed as never before, and several hundred people gathered to listen to experts discuss scientific research on things such as orca food preferences, their poop that yields a wealth of information, and the struggle for Columbia River Basin salmon, an important orca food source, to survive.
|Panel of biologists, activists, and government researchers discuss local orca issues.
We saw a lovely short film about our Southern Residents produced by a European filmmaker that featured 80-year-old J8 (Speiden), the second-oldest orca of the J pod who disappeared and is presumed deceased as of September 2013. The Southern Resident orcas spend their whole lives with their extended families.
Still out there wild and surviving is J2 (Granny), presumed born in 1911. It breaks my heart that she has seen all of her children and grandchildren be born and die, but she's still looking after her pod.
So here's my takeaway from the event. The panelists were asked what one thing they would recommend to help our orcas survive.
- Don't eat farmed salmon (they contaminate wild stocks).
- Learn more about what you can do and share that information.
- Think about linkages to marine health of your everyday actions (e.g., don't use weed killer in your yard that could end up in Puget Sound through groundwater transport).
- Join and support organizations such as Save Our Wild Salmon that are engaged in policy issues to support changes we need to help salmon, such as demolishing some key Snake River dams.
- Learn about your watershed where you live.
- Plant more trees.
- Pay more attention to what you're eating and how its production affects our environment (eat more organic).
- Pay more attention to the world around you, become a well-informed citizen and...
- TAKE ACTION!