Letters to the Editor

Pollution, lack of salmon are greatest threats to local orcas

I must say that, in my opinion, the statements recently made by Orca Relief are quite disturbing.

When Mark Anderson clearly states that he believes "Whale watching is absurd," then I believe it demands a response from individuals who may have a different opinion.

We moved here approximately 11 years ago and live on the west side of San Juan Island. In fact, we live next door to the house Orca Relief uses as their office and we enjoy watching the whales from our deck, as well as from our small boat. We especially enjoy hearing them huffing and puffing in the early morning and twilight hours when there are no boats around. However, I do not believe that Orca Relief is aware of this because they only work from 9 to 5 during the week and very seldom on weekends.

We also see them during the day when the whale-watching boats are out and I must say that I do not see the abuse that Orca Relief claims is occurring. It is very rare that we see any activity that could be considered harassment of the whales. When we do see it, Soundwatch is usually close by and they do a very good job of intervening as well as educating boaters regarding safe and appropriate whale watching guidelines.

We have observed J pod feasting on salmon in Haro Strait with two large freighters going by and numerous whale-watching boats in close proximity. They did not appear to be distracted or having any difficulties catching and feeding on salmon. We have observed similar feeding behaviors many times while boating in the waters around the islands. In addition, we have observed orcas that were displaying a curious and friendly behavior toward boaters.

In my opinion, the main concern has to do with the pollution in our waters and the lack of salmon. From our deck, we can see the commercial fishing boats as they pull their nets up and some of these boats are so heavy they have to offload their catch. We have actually seen 11 commercial boats harvesting in this area in one day. We then wonder why the orcas are starving and have high levels of poisons in their bodies.

If we really want to save the whales, we should be focusing our efforts on these issues rather than perceived notions and unproven claims based on an organization's agenda that will have little or no impact.

We also enjoy trolling our boat along the west side of the island for our two and, if we are lucky, three salmon a year. However, it is my understanding that this will not be permitted if the proposed guidelines are enacted. But get this: commercial boats will have an exemption.

Jim Pound
San Juan Island

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