Letters to the Editor

'Denying' unfair letter | Letters

Mark Anderson’s arguments are weak.

He concludes that whale watching boats should be banned from the west side of San Juan Island because they are responsible for the decline of the Chinook salmon and for orca deaths.

He completely fails to support these claims.

Mr. Anderson acknowledges the orca population’s robust state. In 1994, the three Southern Resident pods totaled 71 whales, in 1996, there were 97, and in 2001, 79. The population now numbers in the 80's(NOAA).

Orcas die of things other than starvation (such as disease, old age, and whatever misfortune might befall the Puget Sound pods when they are absent half the year.

The decline of the Chinook salmon could be attributable to competition with other species who also eat salmon, and over-fishing.

NOAA Fisheries and the Puget Sound tribes have approved agreements for harvesting the salmon. The contract acknowledges that fishing for Puget Sound chinook may affect the Sound’s orca population.

The only groups Mr. Anderson lists as culprits in reducing salmon availability are the ones he would specifically exempt from a “no-go” zone. Whale watching boats do not fish.

NOAA’s most recent declaration of rules includes mention of studies where “researchers have found that marine mammals display no reaction to vessels or concluded that there is no correlation between vessel effects and survival.” Mr. Anderson’s point about the presence of the whale watching boats increasing the orcas’ need for food makes no sense, yet he says “no one can deny it.”

The “politically interesting” point on the organizations who are in accord on the NOAA rules does not seem surprising or relevant. Mr. Anderson is advancing a No-Go zone, which is not at issue. NOAA is not recommending it.

Finally, on the matter of enforcement of existing rules: Mr. Anderson says enforcement is not working. If enforcement mechanisms aren’t working for current rules, why make new ones?

Overall, the main problem I have with Mark Anderson’s analysis is its failure to prove what he asserts. We should be wary of proposing “solutions” that have no likelihood of solving anything, and, in the process, wreak havoc on the livelihood of small business owners.

Janice Peterson

San Juan Island


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