Statement from Director Sheida Sahandy on the final recommendations of the Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force

Media contact: Cathy Cochrane,, 360–790–7958

November 16, 2018

The release today of the final report by the Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force marks a significant achievement for our beloved Southern Resident orcas, the official marine mammal of the State of Washington. The report showcases 36 recommendations that, if enacted, will significantly enhance the orcas’ ability to fight extinction.

Listed as endangered since 2005, the Southern Residents swim at the top of the life web in Puget Sound, and their well-being depends on everything else in the ecosystem functioning in a healthy and sustainable way. Nothing has demonstrated these connections more poignantly, or galvanized us to action more effectively, than the tragic death this past summer of the newborn calf of Tahlequah (J35) and her subsequent 17-day journey of mourning with her baby.

The Puget Sound ecosystem is huge and complex, with an interplay of ecological, cultural, social, and economic factors that affect the ability of communities to be thriving and resilient over the long term. It took more than 100 years of pollution and damage to get Puget Sound to its current troubled state, and it will take time and tenacity to return it to health and resiliency. The Partnership focuses on driving the smartest investments to make that happen, on getting the hundreds of organizations involved in recovery talking to each other, and working with funders to decide where and how to invest in Puget Sound recovery. Most of the task force recommendations are based in and supported by the foundational, ongoing work of the Partnership and our many partners. Together, we’ve made progress toward some recovery goals, but these efforts have not been able to keep pace with the Sound’s rate of decline, nor to sustain the Southern Residents.

We have hope that the 36 recommendations before the Governor convey the importance of recovering and sustaining the Puget Sound ecosystem and with it the people, orcas, salmon, and other creatures that live here. These recommendations were derived by the Task Force with a focus on immediate actions that will make a real difference. It is critical to keep in mind that work to address long-term systemic threats, such as climate change, ocean acidification, and unmanaged growth, are key to long-term success.

Congratulations to the Task Force on a job well done. Now we urge the public and the legislature to support the Governor in turning recommendations into action.