Somewhat by mistake I stumbled upon the recent heated debate about the influence of commercial whale watching excursions on Orca survival in the San Juans. My first observation is that the two camps in this debate are having a child-like food fight for the frosting on the cake - the privilege to live and work in the same neighborhood as Orca whales.
The history of interactions between the two camps is undoubtedly complicated by a number of issues; however my opinion is that you folks should be working together in a united front to assure a "Food for Orca" campaign! Perhaps a well focused market campaign is what you need to best meet your objectives.
My view from Spokane is that your contest about academic credentials or how long you have lived, or even perhaps what or how much view property you own in the San Juans, is a joke.
The public (i.e. the rest of the world) is NOT really that interested in this personal longevity or real estate issue since whatever special entitlement it may provide you towards an understanding of the big picture of Orca ecology is questionable. Any experience or ownership you may think this may give you is actually inconsequential. In fact it may actually be a liability.
Also, if for some reason you think any affiliation with the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs provides anyone a special, exclusive outlook regarding Orca, then you have been further disillusioned. (I myself did ecology research in the San Juan and Gulf islands thru UW/FHL 1984 - 94, and lived on both sides of the BC/WA border in the Islands for 12 years.)
The most basic facts seem to speak for themselves. If the general consensus is that food (chinook) availability is the main issue for Orca conservation, all of your objectives would be much better met if you joined forces and united a front against the main interests negatively impacting the 'supply side' of salmon.
I now live in the interior watersheds of the Pacific Northwest, where our local anadromous salmonids (chinoook) that swim (swam) thru Orca country once thrived in great abundance. If there was more food for Orca, the points you bicker may become moot.
I suggest you storm in great numbers (market campaign) the forestry and range departments at the universities of Washington, British Columbia, Idaho and Oregon, and the US Forest Service, and demand effective conservation of freshwater salmon habitat on both private and public lands.
Also, showing up at any and all meetings regarding barging grain down the Snake/Columbia River systems, and any other dam-salmon issues should be at the top of your list.
If you think anglers, commercial or native fishermen are the main culprits regarding the salmon supply-side, then you need to expand your horizons and get off your little isolated rocks more often. Pounding on doors in BC is critical.
If the Islands' Orca are now so critically dependent on their food supply, you basically have no other choice. Your objectives will be more easily reached if you work more effectively together on the big picture, as opposed the squabbling about such small localized phenomena, like 'NO GO Zones' on the west side of San Juan Island for a very small percentage of boats, where Orca may get the rare opportunity to eat the last remaining runs of wild salmon.
Conservation Biology Center
University of the Wilderness
Spokane, WA, 99204