Endangered Orcas Could Put an End to Whale Watching in Parts of Washington
The governor recently announced a billion-dollar plan to fuel orca recovery, which includes banning commercial whale watching of local orcas.
If you’ve ever witnessed a whale breach, you’d understand why around 400,000 people pay to do just that off the Washington Coast—home to numerus breeds of these majestic creatures—every year.
But a new plan announced by Washington governor Jay Inslee could make perhaps the most well-known whale species a little more elusive to whale seekers—for good reason. In an effort to save the endangered Southern Resident orca, Inslee has proposed a three-year ban on commercial whale watching of orcas and a permanent widening of the “no-go” and go slow” zones for all vessels around orcas.
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The proposal comes at a time when Washington orcas are in dire need of a boost. Currently, there are just 74 left in the population, the lowest number since the 1970s, according to PBS. Due to environmental stressors, a severe lack of salmon, and increased vessel noise that hinders communication, orcas have struggled to reproduce successfully for decades. In an especially sad case last summer, one grieving orca mother carried her dead calf with her for 19 days.
With the 1.1 billion dollar plan for orca recovery, Washington State will invest in methods for increasing the salmon population as well as reducing vessel noise by switching to electric hybrid state ferries.
As for your summer whale watching plans? Don’t fret—Washington’s biodiverse whale population, along with the numerous other whales (orcas included) that pass through, means you’ll likely still be able to catch plenty of breathtaking wildlife in action. According to Washington Governor Inslee, the whale-watch industry spends up to 85 percent of its time with customers watching whales other than the Southern Resident orcas. “We still have a robust whale watching industry,” said Inslee.