Be heard on proposed orca protection plan | Editorial

The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing greater distances between boats and killer whales, including setting aside a half-mile-wide swath of coastline as a no-go zone for boats and kayaks.

Several whale advocates, particularly members of Orca Relief, say the tougher restrictions are necessary to protect killer whales from vessel noise that might interrupt their echolocation.

The San Juan County Marine Resources Committee has endorsed the greater distances between boats and killer whales, but wants to develop an alternative to the no-go zone.

The San Juan County Economic Development Council has said that the no-go zone would end kayaking on the west side of San Juan Island, and would result in the loss of several million dollars in expenditures by visitors drawn to the islands for marine-related activities.

The Center for Whale Research has said that the greatest threats to the whales’ health are depleted salmon stocks and pollution.

The Journal opposed the no-go zone in an editorial, saying that current restrictions regarding boats and whales are sufficient if enforced. The editorial states that a no-go zone ignores larger threats, like the 150,000 pounds of untreated toxins that get flushed into our inland sea every day.

Now, the federal government wants to hear from you.

On Monday, 7-9 p.m., in the Grange Hall in Friday Harbor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, will host a meeting to hear public comment on its vessel distance and no-go zone proposal.

Several advocates and organizations have been vocal on this issue. We hope all islanders who are concerned about this issue will take the opportunity to learn more and be heard.

It’s a rare opportunity: This meeting is the third of three that will be held. The first was Sept. 24 in Anacortes. The second is tonight, 7-9 p.m., at the Seattle Aquarium.

If you miss the meeting, which we hope you don’t, you can submit written or electronic comments by Oct. 27. By e-mail, write orca.plan@noaa.gov. By regular mail, write Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, Northwest Regional Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

Documents related to the federal proposal are available on www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/Whales-Dolphins-Porpoise/Killer-Whales/Index.cfm

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