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Orca groups call for immediate action to save Southern Residents

Twelve organizations penned a letter calling for bigger and bolder actions to save the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.

A dozen orca organizations are calling for immediate action to save the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. 

On Tuesday, the group sent a letter to government officials in Washington and British Columbia identifying their five key actions to help save the Southern Resident orcas. The letter calls for “bigger and bolder” actions to give the whales a “real chance at recovery.”

“If bold and immediate actions are not taken in both the United States and Canada, we face the increasing likelihood of losing this unique population forever,” the letter reads.

The actions include funding for international salmon habitat restoration projects, breaching the four Lower Snake River dams, replacing and retrofitting floodgates along the Fraser River in British Columbia, cleaning up known contamination hotspots in Puget Sound and the Fraser River delta, and allocating a fisheries quota for the Southern Residents on the West Coast.

While some of the actions have been proposed during orca recovery efforts, others have not been seriously addressed. The organizations say their five actions are “big-ticket, science-based, and are essential for moving forward.”

RELATED: Revised bill to protect Puget Sound orcas doesn't ban whale watching

Last year, Governor Jay Inslee’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force recommended that whale watching boats be banned from viewing the orcas for three years. However, the latest legislation to protect the whales removes the ban and states boats would have to stay 300 yards away and significantly slow down. 

Those who oppose the whale watch ban point to salmon recovery as the top priority, but some supporters believe a ban would help the whales find the few salmon that are left.

Click here to read the letter.

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