How to Help the Orcas
The Puget Sound is now in danger of losing a third precious orca. The poor health of the 27-year-old male came to light this week following the recent losses of a baby that lived just minutes and whose lifeless body was carried by her mother for weeks, and subsequent loss of a 3-year old female who was once bursting with health and life.Resident orca whales need about 385 pounds of fish — preferably chinook — every single day to thrive, and pregnant mothers need even more, according to Lynda V. Mapes’ article in The Seattle Times. So no one should get their hopes up yet about the fact that three resident orcas are pregnant.
What can we do?
For starters, stop eating salmon. You won’t find that advice much, because a big industry has grown up around humans eating (and wasting) salmon. You’ll hear about how complicated it is, about the failure of hatcheries, about where we fish versus where the orcas fish. The bottom line is we eat and waste a whole lot of wild chinook. Let’s leave them — and the oceans — all we can.
Here’s more advice you won’t find much, also because of industry: Vessel noise disrupts the orcas’ ability to fish, so stop or limit your whale watching tours and other boating activities.
Contact your elected officials to demand that the Army Corps of Engineers start breaching four dams on the Lower Snake River for which it now has the authority and funding. The Army Corps will not start work until it hears from Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray, according to the Orca Network. In the face of political and historical arguments for keeping the dams, it’s important to know that shipping has steadily declined along the waterway the dams create, and “the dams provide only about 5 percent of the region’s power, which today is easily replaced, if it’s needed at all. The dams provide no flood control and irrigation takes place only at Ice Harbor dam, nearest the Columbia,” according to another Lynda V. Mapes article.
Encourage elected officials to prioritize mitigation for climate change and pollution, which the Center for Whale Research points out is a major reason orccas no longer thrive in local waters.
You can take steps personally to mitigate pollution and climate change as well, including limiting water consumption (turn off water while brushing your teeth, limit showers to five minutes), reducing electrical consumption (set thermostats to 68 degrees or less, turn down your hot water heater, unplug rarely used electronics, switch off lights), use unbleached paper products, reuse (glass jars, cloth bags), recycle, avoid extra packaging, buy local and/or organic, limit pesticide use, limit household chemicals, and carpool or, better yet, walk, bike or ride the bus or train.
Photo by Christopher Michel used under Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/