By Melissa Malott, Executive Director of Citizens for a Healthy Bay; photos by Kelly Keenan
2018 has undoubtedly been the ‘Year of the Orca’.
Is there anything more iconic to the Pacific Northwest than the Southern Resident killer whales? I have yet to be convinced there is (although I am willing to entertain salmon as a contender for the top spot).
Many of us love these animals not just for their beauty, but also for their intelligence. I’ve been lucky enough to come face to face with an orca, and it’s abundantly clear there’s a lot going on behind those big white patches of theirs. These animals, just like humans, are playful, social, have individual personalities, and even have language dialects that differ from pod to pod. These orcas are truly special. It’s because we can see so much of ourselves in them, that we feel such a strong responsibility to do everything we can to save them.
Southern Resident orcas off the coast of Vashon.
But time has nearly run out for these endangered orcas.
This year, the Southern Residents captured our attention like never before. Like many of you, I was heartbroken as I watched orca mother J35 carry her deceased calf for 17 days, and I mourned when another juvenile orca likely died of starvation soon after.
As a port city on the Puget Sound with contaminated sites in and near our waters, Tacoma has a big role to play in protecting the Southern Resident orcas, and Citizens for a Healthy Bay is dedicated to doing our part to aid their recovery.
- We provided technical comments on oil spill prevention plans for local and regional oil transportation plans, and strongly advocated for these plans to be heavily strengthened. In fact, the Department of Ecology used our comments to request the Trans Mountain Pipeline fix its plan within 60 days. Any oil spill would spell disaster for salmon populations and the orcas that rely on them for food.
- An increase in greenhouse gas emissions worsens the effects of global warming. Even slightly warmer waters can dramatically throw off salmon spawns, making the starving orcas search for food even more difficult.
- With the draft cleanup action plan for the last remaining Superfund site in Tacoma’s Tideflats due to be released in 2019, we’ll be thoroughly reviewing the cleanup process and demanding an effective cleanup to remove as much toxic contamination as possible. Orcas are a top predator and accumulate any toxins that enter the marine food chain in their bodies. These accumulated toxins contaminate the mother’s milk and can contribute to the birth of unhealthy calves, making survival extremely difficult.
Thanks to a generous donor who will match any gift to CHB until December 31, when you donate to our work, your impact toward saving these animals is doubled.
Please make a tax-deductible donation to save our beloved orcas.
We want to ensure the Southern Residents are healthy and thriving for generations to come. We need your help to make this a reality.
Thank you in advance for your support.