Statement from Les Purce and Stephanie Solien, co-chairs of Gov. Inslee’s orca recovery task force

It is with great sadness that we received the news, on June 15, that the 23-year-old Southern Resident orca L92, also called “Crewser,” is presumed dead. Crewser’s death brings the population of Southern Resident orca to just 75.

Orca L92, now presumed dead, off San Juan Island in 2015. Photo credit: Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research

The Center for Whale Research also reported that J50, a three-year-old female Southern Resident orca, appears to be dangerously emaciated.

The loss of any Southern Resident orca underscores the urgency of the Governor’s Orca Recovery Task Force in recommending bold actions that will recover these critically endangered animals. We, the co-chairs of the Task Force, and the Task Force members, are working very hard, every day, to find the best possible remedies to the factors that threaten our resident orca. Three working groups of stakeholders, scientists, experts, and interested parties are developing proposals for actions that, if taken, stand the greatest possibility for helping the orca population begin to grow again. The recommended actions will focus on three main issues:

  • Make more Chinook salmon for the orca to eat
  • Prevent toxins in water and fish from further contaminating orca
  • Lessen the interference of vessels and other water craft with orcas that are feeding, socializing and resting

We have hope in this process. The fact that representatives from many different interests and points of view participate on the Task Force helps to ensure that our robust discussions will ensure balanced decisions. But it’s not just the Task Force that has critical work ahead. This effort calls for the participation by every individual person in Washington state. Resident orca are endangered now as the direct result of more than 100 years of steadily declining water quality, food, and habitat. No one action can reverse this damage. But each person can help save the orca right now by learning about our Southern Resident orcas and what threatens them, participating in organizations and initiatives that are dedicated to reversing this trend toward extinction, and committing to lifestyle changes that help reduce the pressures on orca. We urge you to seek information from Task Force organizations like the following:

For a complete list Task Force members, please visit the Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Recovery and Task Force webpage.

Find out what you can do at home and at work to lessen the polluted stormwater that orcas are exposed to and support recovery of the Chinook salmon the orcas depend on for food. To learn what you can do to protect resident orcas, see the recommendations from the Seattle Aquarium.

For a few other resources to learn more about related actions that will make Puget Sound cleaner for orcas, salmon, and people, visit these websites:

Check with your own local city and county governments to learn about and support their efforts to clean up stormwater and protect and improve salmon habitat.

Recovering our resident orcas is not going to be easy. It is going to require commitment and sacrifice from each one of us. Hope resides in our collective effort, in all of us working together, insisting that our children, grandchildren, and their grandchildren are able to witness the wonder and awe of an encounter with a Southern Resident orca.