Contributed photo/David Ellifrit, NOAA

Contributed photo/David Ellifrit, NOAA

Orca legislation passes

It’s a win for the orcas and their advocates.

Four bills with the purpose of protecting the Southern resident orca population successfully passed through both chambers of the state Legislature and are now headed to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for his signature.

“We all did it together,” Friends of the San Juans’ Katie Fleming said in an email to supporters. “Thank you for your time and efforts to contact our representatives — they heard you ask for better protection of our Salish Sea.”

The bills were part of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force’s recommendations to Inslee on saving the endangered species from extinction.

The following bills were voted upon by the Legislature during the current session:

• House Bill 1578 – Reducing threats to Southern resident orcas by improving the safety of oil transportation passed the House on March 7 with 70 yeas and 28 nays, and passed the Senate on April 10, with 32 yeas and 13 nays.

• Senate Bill 5918 – Providing whale watching guidelines in the boating safety education program passed the Senate March 7 with 48 yeas and 0 nays, and passed the House on April 7 with 90 yeas and 5 nays.

• SB 5577 (second substitute) –Concerning the protection of Southern resident orca whales from vessels passed the Senate on March 7 with 46 yeas and 3 nays, and passed the House on April 15, with 84 yeas and 13 nays.

• SB 5135 (substitute) – Preventing toxic pollution that affects public health or the environment passed the Senate on March 7 with 25 yeas and 24 nays, and passed the House on April 15 with 60 yeas and 37 nays.

• HB 1579 – Implementing the recommendations of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force related to increasing Chinook abundance passed the House on March 7 with 59 yeas and 39 nays, and passed the Senate on April 10 with 26 yeas and 20 nays.

“Southern Resident killer whale protection and recovery has been a priority since we co-petitioned for federal listing in 2001,” Friends of the San Juans Executive Director Stephanie Buffum wrote in an email. “We are grateful for Governor Inslee’s leadership in establishing the Task Force and requesting many of these bills, and for the work of Rep. Lekanoff.”