For Immediate Release, October 26, 2021

Contact:

Kristin Carden, (510) 844-7100 x 327, kcarden@biologicaldiversity.org

Gov. Inslee Urged to Take Emergency Action After Key Puget Sound Orca Dies

OLYMPIA, Wash.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance urged Gov. Jay Inslee today to take immediate action to protect Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident killer whales after recent reports that a member of the L pod, a matriarch known as Marina, is missing and likely dead.

In today’s letter the groups urged the governor to halt all state-managed salmon fishing in Washington waters and enact strict measures to prohibit all vessels from approaching the Southern Residents or entering the waters on the west side of San Juan Island, an important foraging location for the orcas.

“Marina’s tragic death is a major blow to the Southern Residents, and it should push Gov. Inslee to act,” said Kristin Carden, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Center. “These orcas have a complex social structure that relies on post-reproductive females, and the loss of just one matriarch can devastate a population. That’s why the governor should take emergency action before any more are lost.”

The Southern Resident population has dropped to an all-time low of just 74 individuals in recent years because of a lack of prey, along with vessel noise and disturbance and toxic contaminants. Marina was 47 years old at the time of her presumed death and mothered seven calves, several of whom are still alive today with calves of their own.

“The science is clear that Marina’s death gravely diminishes the chance of survival for both her immediate offspring and their calves,” Carden said. “State action to protect against vessel noise and make sure the orcas have more salmon to eat will give them their greatest chance at survival.”

In 2021 the Center secured new federal protections for the Southern Residents’ coastal habitat, from the Canadian border to Big Sur, California. This safeguards additional foraging areas, river mouths and migratory pathways that were not included in the initial protection of Washington’s inland waters.

A Center lawsuit resulted in an amendment to the Pacific Coast Fishery Management Plan that limits non-tribal commercial Chinook fishing, in years where the estimated population falls below a certain threshold, to ensure that the orcas have enough to eat. These amendments went into effect in September.

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Southern Resident orcas. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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