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4 thoughts on “What would Puget Sound’s killer whales really want?

  1. They would want us to adopt a reasonable set of rules that apply to everyone – regardless of race – equally. Think we’ll do that?

  2. There must have been over 250 people at the Seattle Aquarium last night to provide public comment to NOAA’s proposed vessel regulations for Puget Sound killer whales. Most all of the comments were from unhappy whale watchers, commercial fisherman, recreational anglers, and kayakers, especially about the proposed “ no go zone” and its inevitable impact on their business and recreational pleasure. While they love orcas and enjoy making a living off the orca, it is at the expense of this endangered species.

    I commend NOAA and NMFS’s proposed vessel regulations, as this rule making is a critical piece of the puzzle to protect and recover Puget Sound’s iconic, beloved and endangered killer whales. Action on this threat is long over due. If we expect the orca populations to recover for future generations to enjoy and marvel, sacrifices must be made NOW by those who love and live off whale watching and catching the orcas‘ food source.

    For several years I have witnessed first hand how vessels, mostly recreational anglers, recreational whale watchers, commercial fisherman and some commercial whale watching operators have violated the current 100 yard regulation. My observations are from the west side of San Juan Island, right in the middle of the proposed „no-go zone“. I am in total support of the vessel regulations NOAA has proposed with some minor modifications to the „no-go zone“.

    I am skeptical of the exceptions proposed to accommodate commercial fisherman, government vessels, and cargo vessels as they are part of the problem. Exemptions will just create a huge rift among all the stakeholders who are affected.

    Although vessel operational changes are part of the solution, NOAA continues to delay on more critical actions that are needed to protect and recovery Puget Sound’s resident endangered orca whales, such as: restoration of salmon runs through removal of dams; restoration of habitat, land use restrictions, water quality improvements and changes in harvest and hatchery practices; reduction of toxic pollution that impacts the food web; and reduction of noise impacts from sonar and other activities.

    Enforcement is a key pragmatic issue that should be addressed regarding both existing and proposed regulations. Without a much-improved strategy for education and enforcement, it makes no sense to increase restrictions as it would be guaranteed to fail. One of the major vessel issues is inappropriate and harassing behavior by recreational boaters who are apparently unaware of the existing limits.

    For the orca!

  3. A week of ago, Fisheries also held a meeting in Anacortes – with the same special interest groups in attendance. The attendance at this meeting was also close to 250 people – significantly more than the remaining 85 orcas of the Southern Resident Orcas (J-, K-, and L-pods). The population of Anacortes is approaching 15,000 people and the population of the central Puget Sound is nearing 4,000,000 people. Against such overwhelming odds, our resident Orcas are in desperate need of protection.

  4. Starting from the value that we want the best possible environment for the Southern Residents, including the most plentiful Chinook runs, the cleanest, healthiest water, and the least noise and vessel disturbance, there’s a need to balance between avoiding all disturbance and the benefits of instilling an appreciation in whale-watchers of the astounding natural history of Orcinus orca, plus the need for all of us to restore habitat by dismantling some dams, protecting shorelines, opening tidelands and estuaries, maintaining buffers around streams and wetlands, reducing harvest, by-catch, toxic pollution, stormwater run-off and careless logging, plus restoring streams and rivers, strengthening the ESA, NEPA, Clean Water and Air laws, improving global environmental cooperation and effectively addressing global warming, and more issues than I can remember at any one time. Bringing up these issues leads to even more sticky problems like birth control and consumption restraint. In short we need to wake people up to how we have mis-managed our natural heritage, how we’ve denied the relationship between ourselves and the natual world, considered ecosystems as warehouses for commodities that belong to us, and believed our job is to exploit, manipulate, disturb, simplify or manufacture nature to satisfy our short-term desires.

    Right, this is an ambitious message to try to broadcast, even on a whale watch boat where passengers are often transfixed on the wonders of those magnificent, powerful and graceful beings as they glide so effortlessly, play so enthusiastically and bond so lovingly in traditional extended families. But speaking as a naturalist myself, it sometimes happens, but the perspective of how the experience is interpreted sometimes gets lost when people feel backed into a corner with their self-interest and deeply held opinions.

    So on one hand I’d like the orcas’ waters to be as quiet and free of disturbance as possible, and on the other hand I’m sorry to see such distance between the watchers and the whales that people can no longer can feel the orcas’ presence and so may not open their hearts and minds to the behavioral changes that could help provide the whales the best environment possible. At the same time I’m aware that the narration can sometimes sound more like a Disney World trip than a visit to the world of the orca, which makes that whole argument moot. Overall, I’m not sure of what the right distance is, especially since that depends largely on the skills, knowledge and message of the naturalists, but 200 yards seems worth a try, and the distance itself teaches respect.

    This only begins to address the many complexities and implications of these proposed regs, so rather than try to deal with the effects on kayakers, fishers of all sorts, boaters, the problem of adequately funding enforcement, the greater economy, etc. etc., I’ll refer to the comments by People for Puget Sound, which pretty well cover the important issues in a thoughtful, balanced way.

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