Scientists: We can't save the southern resident orcas alone

SEATTLE -- Scientists are urging state legislators to take immediate action to save the southern resident orcas as four bills related to orca recovery make their way through the legislature.

At a press conference at Seattle Aquarium Wednesday, orca task force members also called for lawmakers to increase funding for projects that will contribute to salmon recovery. The state House and Senate recently released its budgets and are reconciling them.

As experts voice their concerns to legislators, they know they can't convince them alone. They're calling on members of the public to pick up the phone and call legislators to apply more pressure. The legislative session is set to end at the end of the month.

"We realize that the best time to restore Puget Sound and to protect the orcas was frankly 30 years ago," said Mindy Roberts of Washington Environmental Council. "The second best time is right now."

Roberts and others are looking for momentum behind the efforts to save the southern residents from extinction.

"We are at a critical juncture in the state legislative process with four very important bills making their way through the legislature," said Deborah Giles, a marine biologist with decades of experience studying the southern residents.

Those four bills address vessel disturbance to orcas, toxic cleanup, shoreline protection and the risk of an oil spill.

Never before have scientists seen the political will needed to push necessary projects forward for orca, salmon and overall Puget Sound health.

Brendan Flynn, a Puget Sound gillnetter and task force member, said it's the first time he's seen a solid chance of tackling the southern resident's issues in such a holistic way.

"If you care about Puget Sound, if you care about the orcas, the time to act is now," said Jacques White with Long Live the Kings.

The Washington Environmental Council has a campaign called, '17 days, 17 ways to protect Southern Resident Orcas.' It honors the 17 days J35, or Tahlequah, carried her dead calf on her head in 2018. Here's a list of actions, including numbers of calling legislators and more information about the legislation.