State orca task force gives statement on J50 | Guest column

Statement from Les Purce and Stephanie Solien, co-chair members of Gov. Inslee’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force

It is with great sorrow that we have learned of the presumed death of the southern resident orca J50, also called Scarlet. Losing Scarlet is particularly difficult after a truly heroic effort on the part of so many in the U.S. and Canada to save her life. And her suffering and death follow too closely the death of J35’s calf and the 17 days of orca grieving that brought world attention to the critically endangered southern resident orcas.

This is not a time any of us who cherish Puget Sound and the animals that live there would have chosen to witness. The slow demise of these highly intelligent, compassionate fellow beings is heart-rending. We have heard it said that the difference between empathy and compassion is action. And we know people all over the world are ready to act on behalf of the orca. They have told us that. They have shown up at our meetings. They have written us emails and letters. They have gathered together and demanded intervention on behalf of the orcas. If compassion were fish, the orcas would not be starving. If compassion were clean water, our orcas would not be suffering the effects of toxic contamination. If compassion were quiet waters, our orcas would once again be able to find their prey and communicate with each other. Our goal as a task force is to ensure that the outpouring of human compassion returns to our orca the conditions they need to survive into the future.

The task force is nearing the end of several months of meetings and deliberations to develop recommendations for action to the Governor. On Sept. 24, we will release the draft recommendations for public comment. We urge everyone to learn all that you can about the orcas, read the recommendations, weigh in, and then support Gov. Inslee in his efforts to turn those recommendations into action.