'It's beneficial to us to preserve the killer whale': Mayor declares June 'Orca Awareness Month'

From left, Mayor Carrie Lacher greets Soundwatch coordinator Kari Koski after reading a proclamation designating June as
From left, Mayor Carrie Lacher greets Soundwatch coordinator Kari Koski after reading a proclamation designating June as 'Orca Awareness Month,' Thursday in Friday Harbor Town Hall. Looking on from left, Whale Museum executive director Jenny Atkinson and Whale Museum board president Julie Corey.
— image credit: Richard Walker

Outlining the challenges facing the Southern resident orca pods, Friday Harbor Mayor Carrie Lacher proclaimed June to be "Orca Awareness Month," Thursday in Town Hall.

There to receive the proclamation were Whale Museum executive director Jenny Atkinson, Whale Museum board president Julie Corey, and Soundwatch coordinator Kari Koski.

The proclamation came as the Southern resident killer whales return to the area to hunt local salmon runs. With the whales' return comes whale-watching season.

The Southern resident orcas were declared endangered in 2005.

"Major factors in the decline of the Southern resident orca population includes captures for marine parks" until 1976, "declining salmon runs, toxic pollution, loss of habitat, and increasing vessel traffic and noise levels in Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean," Lacher read in her proclamation.

"Much of the local economy is dependent on the protection of the county's natural marine environment and wildlife in the county ... it is beneficial to residents of Town, Native American tribes, the people of the State of Washington and visitors to protect and preserve the Southern resident killer whale."

Lacher said bringing attention to the orcas will also bring attention to "the need to clean up Puget Sound, save our endangered salmon runs, and restore important Puget Sound habitats."

Atkinson and Corey told of upcoming orca awareness programs, including the 11th annual Orca Sing, June 19 at Lime Kiln Point State Park. The event features the City Cantabile Choir, orca stories, information about whale health from local and regional groups, and a Tlingit killer whale welcome by Odin Lonning and Annie Stateler.

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