Our Islands have a very important endangered species, so important in fact it’s on the flag of our county. These islands depend on the industry of tourism, but the laws that we have in place, while helpful, are not being properly followed or enforced.
Our current laws say any vessel or object cannot be 300 yards in the vicinity of an orca and 400 yards in the path of an orca. But the distance that is written within the law is not followed and it is often advertised on multiple sites for these companies, with photos about 20 yards away. We must protect the animals we seem to love so much in these tours and these animals need to regrow from the dwindling numbers that they find themselves at. It’s clear from numerous studies that these animals’ are being hurt.
There is a bill (SB5371) being considered by our Governor, Jay Inslee, that seeks to raise the distance from an orca to 1,000 yards. I concur with this bill but we need to go beyond and actually enforce them. Finally, I’d like to restate that this is a dire situation and to present a solution beyond stricter law enforcement. BeWhaleWise has a helpful flag to help us understand where orcas are if you are an approaching unaware boat but these are not currently required, only optional. I would urge the state legislature to require flags when in the vicinity of orca whales to further protect them from harm.