What you can do to #RememberTahlequah and protect our Southern Resident Orcas

With only 74 individuals left, and others far underweight, scientists fear the Southern Resident orca population is reaching a tipping point towards extinction. The orcas are telling us clearly that they, and their Puget Sound home, are in trouble.

The deaths of Crewser, Tahlequah’s calf, and Scarlet this summer are a stark reminder that if we fail these whales now, that’s on all of us. The choices we as a region make in the coming months will determine the fate of southern resident orcas. Stabilizing and recovering their population requires an unprecedented cooperative effort, and we need your help to succeed.

There is no one silver bullet solution that will reverse the decline of orcas in the next year. In honor of the 17 days that Tahlequah carried her calf, we have put together 17 actions to help our southern resident orcas.

  1. Ask Governor Inslee to turn Orca Task Force Recommendations into actions. The Task Force has released a report with a suite of ambitious actions addressing prey, vessels, and pollution. Now is the time for the Governor to act on the 2018 recommendations. Send an email to Governor Inslee today.
  2. Join our Sound Advocate Pods to build a network of orca advocates in communities around The Salish Sea that will be ready to engage and act at critical moments.  Sign up here.
  3. Call your state legislators at 1-800-562-6000. Tell them that you expect bold actions that increase the amount of food for orcas, decrease toxic pollution, reduce vessel noise and harassment from vessels, and decrease the threat of oil spills. (Stay tuned for more during the 2019 legislative session.)
  4. Dispose your unused medicines properly. Individually, we have a responsibility to dispose of unused medicines properly to protect human health and safety as well as the environment. Do not dump them into sewers (toilets and sinks) or garbage cans as they will find their way into our waterways toxifying all sorts of wildlife including forage fish, salmon and orcas. In the Salish Sea region, public health agencies in four counties (King, Snohomish, Kitsap, Pierce) now have secure medicine return programs with many more convenient drop box locations than even before. These comprehensive drug take-back programs will soon be expanding to three other counties (Clallam, Whatcom, Skagit), and eventually across the entire state.  Help keep drugs out of orcas.Residents of King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish can find MED-Project drop boxes online at https://med-project.org/  or call 1-(844)-633-7765.If you live in another county, check for drop box locations at www.TakeBackYourMeds.org.
  5. Support salmon-safe farmers, businesses, and local food providers. The lack of salmon is a statewide issue, so wherever you live, please seek out local food opportunities that respect salmon.
  6. Orcas Love Raingardens – We get roughly 40″ of rain every year in the Puget Sound region. All that rain hits our roofs, yards, and driveways and runs off into the streets. Along the way it picks up pollutants and toxic chemicals, ending up in local streams and ultimately Puget Sound, unfiltered. A Rain Garden can help capture some of that runoff, collect it, and filter it back into the ground before it has a chance to carry pollution to our local waterways. Read more about WEC’s Orcas Love Raingardens project to plant raingardens at schools in the Tacoma Public School District.
  7. Check your community’s grade in Nature’s Scorecard! We’ve put together a scorecard that grades our cities and counties on how well they’re planning for a healthy future. Nature’s Scorecard provides a snapshot of how our communities around Puget Sound are performing, measured against the requirements. Find your city’s score and contact them to let them know how they did!
  8. Reduce single-occupancy vehicle travel. Toxic road dust from tire wear has been implicated in killing Coho salmon in streams.
  9. Eliminate pesticides where you live as residential pesticides show up in streams every spring, when young salmon are most sensitive to toxics.
  10. Fix that oil leak in your vehicle as source of PAHs that cause problems in herring. Learn more at  Don’t Drip and Drive.
  11. Switch to non-toxic personal care products as drugs have been implicated in juvenile salmonid survival. See this infographic for more information.
  12. Reduce your speed on the water (if you are a boat owner) to 5 knots when you are close to an orca.  Recent studies have shown that faster boats are much noisier, thereby impacting orca’s ability to use echolocation to find food, communicate, and navigate.
  13. “Be Whale Wise” when you are on the water in a boat or kayak. Washington state requires all vessels to be 200 yards from an orca on either side and 400 yards away from the direction the orca is traveling.
  14. Get involved in a local habitat restoration project- Organizations across the region from Conservation Districts, to Salmon Recovery Lead Entities, to Salmon Enhancement Groups, to state and local agencies to local non-profits like EarthCorps are working every day to restore salmon habitat. They could use the help of volunteers like you.
  15. Create shoreline friendly fish habitat if you are a shoreline property owner to support salmon that supports orcas. If we restore our shorelines, there will be more forage fish such as sand lance and smelt, to support more salmon for the Orcas. Puget Sound has 7,500 miles of shoreline, 2,500 of which has been degraded by development. Learn more here!
  16. Attend Environmental Lobby Day in Olympia on January 29 to advocate for the Orca Emergency Recovery Package. Save the date – and stay tuned for more details.
  17. Attend a town hall meeting with your state legislators during 219 legislative session. Stay tuned for more details.

The problems facing our orcas are complex, and no one solution will guarantee our orcas’ survival. But we can all play a part and collective action makes a statement. Find out more about these actions, share what you’re doing, and follow the hashtag #RememberTahlequah to learn more and stay involved.

The best time to save the southern resident orcas and the salmon they depend on was 30 years ago. The next best is now.

Read more about WEC’s work to protect orcas, and as a member of the Orca Recovery Task Force.