June Is Orca Awareness Month!

Graphic design courtesy of Sara Hysong-Shimazu

Welcome to Orca Awareness Month 2016

From Governor Jay Inslee for Orca Month:

"I'd like to congratulate the Orca Network on this, the 10th anniversary of Orca Month. During that time, your organization has played a key role in monitoring these iconic animals, advocating for their protection educating the public about their importance to the Pacific Northwest.

"There many reasons why we celebrate orcas, the state's official marine mammal. They are intelligent, social, and simply awe-inspiring in a way that few can deny.

"When I first talked to the Orca Network back in the early 1990s, the southern resident population was on the upswing - reaching a high of 98 animals in 1995. But by 2001, the pods' numbers dropped to around 80 animals, corresponding with a period of poor ocean conditions for chinook salmon, their primary prey. The good news is that our orca population hasn't declined any further since then. The bad news is that it has fallen far short of the 2.3% annual growth rate set for delisting under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission periodically reviews the status of species listed for state protection. As you are likely aware, the commission will soon consider a recommendation by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to continue state protection for our killer whales. I know we are in agreement that protection should continue."

June is Orca Awareness Month, to raise awareness of and move toward recovery for the endangered Southern Resident orcas. This year the Transient orcas are helping us out by visiting south Puget Sound for an extended visit. How does this help the Southern Resident orcas?

10 years strong

2016 marks the 10th year that Washingtonians celebrate orca awareness month. Started a decade ago by Susan Berta and Howard Garrett of Orca Network, Orca Month raises awareness of endangered Southern Resident orcas and the need to help them recover to a healthy population. The celebration has taken many forms, from orca wine vintage dedications to orca songs, dances, and gubernatorial proclamations.

This year the one-year-old Orca-Salmon Alliance is participating and will focus on increasing awareness about the threats to the Southern Residents and their primary food source, Chinook salmon. Members of the Orca-Salmon Alliance are:

The Center for Whale Research
Defenders of Wildlife
Endangered Species Coalition
Natural Resources Defense Council
Orca Network
Save Our Wild Salmon
SRKW Chinook Salmon Initiative
Washington Environmental Council
Whale and Dolphin Conservation

If you happen to be out boating on these beautiful, warm summer days and spot a pod of orcas, please follow the BeWhaleWise.org regulations and guidelines, and stay at least 200 yards from the orcas. And make sure to post a sightings report and photos here!

Happy Orca Month!

A Message From Ralph Munro

"For more than thirty years, I have watched, and worked to protect, the magnificent orcas of Puget Sound and British Columbia waters. It has been both a happy and sad experience.

On the sad side, I have seen the number of orcas diminish, watched the toxicity levels in their bodies increase, worried about less and less salmon for them to feed on and sometimes wondered if they will even be here for our grandchildren to observe.

Photo: Courtesy of Dave Ellifrit,
Center for Whale Research
Happier memories include seeing growing numbers of people willing to work for protection of whales of all species, an increasing number of whale-related programs such as Orca Network, the Center for Whale Research, Orcalab, etc. And finally, tens of thousands of local citizens who are willing to stand up and shout, "Don't let our orcas die!"

As we celebrate Orca Month, let each of us recommit our time, talents and treasure to work that insures protection and growth of our orca population. These incredible creatures of the sea need our help. Good luck and Godspeed."

-Ralph Munro, Triple Creek Farm, Mud Bay, Olympia

Orca Month ProclamationMake A Donation to Orca NetworkOrca Month Events