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Message from Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance

  • Written by Janet Thomas/Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance

Dear Islanders,

The Southern Resident orcas are facing imminent extinction. Unlike other orca species they do not eat other marine mammals. Their primary diet is Chinook salmon--specifically the salmon that comes from the Fraser River in B.C. and migrates along the west side of San Juan Island. Tragically, the SRKWs access to their primary feeding area has been seriously impeded by unrelenting tourism activity that has effectively driven them away from accessing their diminishing food supply.

The Department of Fish & Wildlife is conducting a SEPA Environmental Impact Statement regarding rules and regulations for commercial whale-watching of Southern Resident orcas. Currently the only rule re: Southern Resident whale-watching is a 300-400-yard distance which is consistently violated. This scoping period is an opportunity to comment on expanded forms of regulation and mitigation measures that are specifically designed to save the SRKWs.

Monday at 5 pm is the deadline for submitting public comments: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/F3MT63M

After a year of intensive meetings, WA Gov.Inslee's appointed SRKW Task Force voted almost unanimously for a 3-5 year moratorium on whale-watching of the Southern Residents. Unfortunately, industry lobbyists managed to get it removed from consideration.

In a comprehensive science-based letter (see attached) to the National Marine Fisheries, Dr. Timothy Ragen, the retired Director of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission ends with: I urge NOAA to implement, maintain, and enforce a moratorium on whale-watching (by all vessels, including commercial and recreational) of SRKWs in U.S. waters until such time as the population no longer needs the protection of the ESA. The central question here is whether NOAA, on our country’s behalf, is willing to take the steps needed to save the SRKW population, not merely for ourselves, but for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come."

Please ask the Licensing Committee to put the SRKWs first and do everything possible to save them from extinction. This includes empowering the Department of Fish & Wildlife to create effective limitations and regulations, including a moratorium.

Again, the link to respond online is:


Thank you for your concern and your action!


Janet Thomas/Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance


  • bill carli Sunday, 07 June 2020 10:13 Comment Link Report

    if they only had salmon to eat....

  • Karen Parker Sunday, 07 June 2020 01:27 Comment Link Report

    The complexity of Orca whale extinction issue is clearly not being appreciated by the ongoing licensing of the SEPA whale watching industry. Based on multiple assessments cataloging imminent threats from multiple industries, particularly the commercial whale watching industry, it is illogical to continue to permit whale watching for next 3-5 years. This keynote species provides the very identity and intrinsic value of the San Juan islands, and they must be given at least 3+ years to rebuild their numbers, or the economy of many industries will be threatened. More importantly, the ecological integrity of the islands and the sanctity of this special community will surely decline. The Orca play important ecological roles within the ecosystem of the sound, roles which transcend a mere price tag. I encourage you to embrace a community-supported environmental economic approach to honor these noble pods, and to work with Friends of the San Juans, the Lummi tribe as well as innovative environmental economists to revive this symbol of vitality for the islands. The current system of whale watching tours is essentially pimping extinction, and you will forever have blood on your hands by turning a blind eye to support the unsustainable business of whale watching.

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