Notes from Seattle: Orca Awareness Month

The magnificent Orca whale is the beloved icon of the Pacific Northwest and Puget Sound. But a recent and significant decline in the Southern Resident Orca population has caused deep concern among researchers, government agencies, and citizens throughout the Northwest. Between 1995 and 2001, the Southern Resident Orca population declined by 20%, and in November 2005 was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Governor Gregoire’s declaration of June as Washington Orca Awareness Month describes some of the reasons for making an entire month the occasion for showing our appreciation for our Orca neighbors and helping instill a sense of stewardship to protect them and their fragile habitats, which we also depend on. The Southern Resident Orcas are endangered, officially under the ESA and in reality. The harm that is done to them is indirect as a consequence of a wide variety of activities including declining salmon runs, toxic pollution and all manner of boat traffic. Orca Month is meant to aid in their recovery by educating the public and taking action to improve conditions for the survival of the Southern Resident Orcas.

We also are blessed to have this “urban” community of Orcas in our midst, to know them as individuals and pods, and to watch them from our many miles of shoreline, ferries and boats. We have only begun to learn about this species’ intelligence and social capabilities. By restoring the whales‘ home and habitat we also help ensure our own health and survival. By learning more about them we may gain some insights into how an intelligent mammal can live in harmony on this planet.

The Orca Action Page shows ways that you can help support the Orcas, as well as practical ways to minimize your impact on Earth.

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