A letter submitted by Orca Network said that humans have poisoned the waters and destroyed food sources for the Southern Resident Orcas. True! Notably absent was any mention of the second leading cause of orca decline: vessel noise and disturbance.
The precautionary principle is a scientific approach that says when there is a threat of irreversible damage — in this case, the extinction of a species — we should err on the side of caution. The Washington State Orca Task Force and Canadian Department of Fisheries recommend a moratorium on whale watching the SROs. Dr. Chris Clark, a bioacoustics expert on marine mammals, calls the Salish Sea an underwater “acoustic hell.” Dr. Tim Ragen, retired director of the US Marine Mammal Commission, says the SROs are in crisis and a moratorium on whale watching is a moral imperative.
Pacific Whale Watching Association acknowledges on their website, “When chinook salmon are scarce… any noise disturbance undoubtedly has a greater effect.” Yet PWWA hired a lobbyist to overturn Orca Task Force recommendations and sued a citizen’s Initiative to provide greater protective measures for the whales.
Science has shown that all vessel noise and disturbance is harmful to the orcas. They don’t need “sentinels” (as whale watchers call themselves) nor should they be required to provide an “awe-inspiring experience” for humans. They need to eat. I urge the Center for Whale Research and Orca Network to follow the precautionary principle and join multiple experts who support a moratorium on whale watching the Southern Resident Orca whales.