Orca task force releases draft of recommendations; public comment period begins

SEATTLE -- Gov. Jay Inslee's orca task force released an updated draft of recommended actions Wednesday aimed at saving the southern resident killer whales from extinction.

The 36 recommendations are a product of several months of meetings between dozens of stakeholders throughout Washington. The public has through Oct. 29 to comment on them.

  • Click here to comment on the latest recommendations.

The draft focuses on three goals: Increasing Chinook salmon abundance, the orca's main prey; decreasing vessel noise and disturbance; and reducing the orca's exposure to contaminants.

While task force members reached consensus on the majority of recommendations during a two-day meeting in Tacoma last week, there are still three outstanding actions that will need to be addressed before the final report comes out. Those include:

  • Recommendation 9: Determine whether removal of lower Snake River dams would provide benefits to southern resident orcas commensurate with the associated costs and implementation considerations.
  • Recommendation 18B: A limited-entry commercial whale-watching permit system that will allow for limiting by number of trips per day and length of time spent with the whales and will allow for establishing "quiet days" of at least two days in a row where no whale watching is allowed.
  • Recommendation 28: Establish a whale protection zone to reduce disturbance to foraging orcas, including a go-slow and no-go zone on the west side of San Juan Island.

"We have [36] recommendations and the majority of those are supported -- wholeheartedly -- by the members of the task force," task force co-chair Stephanie Solien said. "So the fact that we only have three left to wrestle with - and they are important ones - I'm very heartened by the progress we've made for the orca."

Task force members will meet once more on Nov. 6 to go over public comment and hammer out the final details. The final report is due on Nov. 16.