Submitted by Puget Sound Recovery Caucus

Tomorrow, June 22, the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, led by U.S. Representatives Denny Heck (WA-10) and Derek Kilmer (WA-06) will introduce a resolution before the United States Congress declaring June 2018 “National Orca Protection Month,” to honor the iconic endangered whales.

The designation spotlights the Southern Resident orca population found in the waters of the Pacific Northwest and draws attention to the extreme danger they are in.

“In one year, our Southern Resident orca population has dropped from 78 to 75 orcas, the lowest number in more than 30 years with no signs of healthy orca calves being born,” Heck said.

“At this rate, we are at serious risk of no longer having this iconic species as a part of our Pacific Northwest identity. This resolution would affirm that saving orcas is a priority of the Congress and of the United States. I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass this resolution and recognize in order to save the orcas, we need to save the salmon, and to save the salmon, we must save Puget Sound.”

“The Southern Resident population is in peril,” said Kilmer. “Congress must take action now.  This resolution represents our commitment to preserving this iconic species and the role orca play in our region’s identity for future generations.”

The Endangered Species Act lists Southern Resident orcas and several Chinook salmon stocks in Washington as endangered.  The Puget Sound Recovery Caucus introduced a resolution to designate June as National Orca Protection Month in 2016 and 2017. Puget Sound is home to 75 Southern Resident orcas in the J, K, and L pods.

On April 18, 2018, the Seattle Times reported that Southern Resident orca inbreeding could devastate the population, and on June 17, 2018, the Seattle Times reported another orca death brings the population down to 75, the lowest in 34 years.. A study released on October 11, 2017, found that reduced acoustic disturbance and increased Chinook salmon populations could help the Southern Resident orca population grow by 2.3 percent.

Heck and Kilmer are co-founders of the Congressional Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, which seeks to bring greater federal support for Puget Sound clean-up efforts.

A draft of the resolution is attached and can be found online.

Featured photo credit: Chris Hamilton

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