In addition to listing,
several measures should be taken to insure the survival of the Southern Resident
killer whales. If undertaken, these measures will help mitigate the effects
of the threats outlined in this petition and increase survivability within the
Southern Residents. All of these efforts should also be undertaken in Canada,
and an international dialogue on conservation efforts should be instituted.
A. INCREASE FUNDING FOR SOUTHERN
RESIDENT RESEARCH AND CONSERVATION EFFORTS
Although the Southern Resident
population is very likely the most often observed and studied population of
killer whales in the world, there is still much to learn about their genetics,
biology, and ecology. Increasing funding for field and laboratory research will
be essential to learning more about the Southern Residents before they are extirpated.
Funding is also needed to promote the conservation and recovery of the Southern
Residents. Many activities can be undertaken with relatively small investments
that will provide conservation benefits to both the Southern Residents and the
ecosystem upon which the Southern Residents depend. The following recommendations
should be funding priorities:
- Funding for an enhanced
and coordinated stranding network. The stranding network would provide immediate
response to reports of killer whale and other marine mammal stranding events
in order to resuscitate sick and injured animals. If the animal is unable
to be saved, the stranding network must be able to collect samples for chemical
and biological information, assess the cause of stranding and death, and appropriately
dispose of the carcass.
- Funding for shore-based
observations of vessel and whale interactions. Vessel traffic is potentially
threatening the existence of the Southern Residents. Commercial and recreational
whale watching boats may be altering the behavior of the killer whales, high-speed
ferries are increasing the risk of collisions, and the increased level of
commercial traffic has increased acoustic pollution and risks of oil spills.
More research is needed to determine how these interactions are affecting
Southern Resident behavior and survival.
- Funding for continuing
and new photo-identification studies. The photo identification studies undertaken
by institutions such as the Center for Whale Research are the most important
tool available for assessing the health of the Southern Resident killer whales.
Continued support for these efforts are essential to insure that population
changes within the Southern Residents do not go undetected. Furthermore, additional
funding can increase our understanding of the social, behavioral, and ecological
habitats of the Southern Residents, insuring that recovery efforts are tailored
B. PROTECT AND RESTORE THE HABITAT
OF SOUTHERN RESIDENTS AND THEIR PREY
Habitat destruction is
affecting the survival of the Southern Residents by altering the ecosystem in
which they live, and also by destroying important habitats for their preferred
species of prey. Perhaps the most effective way of preserving the Southern Residents
would be to insure that current areas of suitable habitat are maintained and
degraded areas are restored. Some priorities for habitat preservation for the
Southern Residents include:
- Protecting Puget Sound
herring and forage fish habitat. Protecting Puget Sound herring is critical
for the survival of the Southern Residents. Herring are an important prey
species for chinook salmon, which in turn is the preferred prey of Southern
Residents. It is also believed that killer whales may eat herring directly.
Chinook are a threatened species, and further loss of herring may result in
additional declines in chinook populations. Further development of important
herring habitat, including commercial shellfish rafts, salmon farms, pier
and dock development, and development at Cherry Point, must be halted. Surf
smelt and sand lace are also important forage fish for chinook, and protecting
nearshore habitats will be important to the recovery of both salmon and killer
- Protect and restore
estuarine, riparian, and shoreline habitats. The most important threat to
salmon that run through the Southern Residents' habitat is habitat destruction.
In order to insure that the Southern Residents' food source remains viable,
aquatic, riparian, and shoreline habitats must be preserved and restored.
Elwha dam removal should be prioritized, but additional restoration areas
will need to be identified and restored to insure suitable numbers of salmon
continue to support the Southern Residents. Furthermore, protection of existing
habitats from shoreline armoring should continue, and removing or modifying
shoreline armoring to restore shoreline functions should occur in other areas
- Support NMFS's Technical
Review Teams working on salmon recovery. Recovery efforts for salmon will
be crucial, and recovery efforts along the coast should be prioritized. Likewise,
he efforts being made to preserve marine resources by state agencies should
also be supported. Recovery goals that include a fish quota for the killer
whales should be encouraged.
C. REDUCE POLLUTION IN THE HABITAT
OF SOUTHERN RESIDENTS
Reducing the source of contaminants
is crucial to preserving the Southern Residents. In addition to the funding
needed to address the pollution problems that were noted above, additional pollution
strategies should be undertaken to insure the survival of the Southern Residents:
- Review NPDES permits
to insure water quality is suitable for Southern Residents. The permits issued
within Southern Resident and chinook habitat should be reviewed for discharges
of persistent chemicals to determine whether the collective pollution levels
of all current permits are affecting Southern Resident and chinook survival.
Monitoring data from permitted outfalls should be analyzed to determine the
cumulative loading rates of persistent anthropogenic toxicants. Analysis of
cumulative toxicant loadings from non-point source discharges, including municipal
combined sewer overflows in Seattle, Tacoma and other Puget Sound cities,
should also be conducted. Municipal discharges from both sides of the border
should be reviewed and addressed.
- Clean up and remediation
of contaminated sites. Organochlorine contamination is a major threat to the
continued existence of the Southern Residents. Because these pollutants bioaccumulate,
it is important to eliminate the sources of pollution before the contaminants
can work their way into the lipids of top predators. Current sources of these
contaminants must be reviewed, including current and past military bases,
so that an appropriate clean up and remediation strategy can be drafted. The
clean up and remediation plan must be fully funded so that the contaminant
threat can be mediated. Contaminant transport through marine food webs should
be modeled to evaluate whether sediment clean-up standards that have been
implemented at NPL sites are sufficient to protect long-lived, top predators.
New cleanup standards for persistent organochlorine contaminants should be
developed and implemented throughout Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de
Fuca, regardless of whether a site has been previously 'remediated' under
CERCLA. The reduction and elimination of persistent bioaccumulative toxins
from point and storm-water discharges should be required of all contaminated
- Coordinated efforts
to reduce and respond to oil spills. Oil spill prevention and vessel safety
improvements should include permanently stationed, year round, fully equipped
rescue tugs capable of responding within one hour to vessel distress in the
Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, Georgia Strait and Rosario
Strait. A permanent rescue vessel at Neah Bay should be included in this network.
D. ADDITIONAL CONSERVATION EFFORTS
- Reintroduction of captive
Southern Residents. Pending successful results from release attempts for other
killer whales, and assurances that the captive whales do not carry communicable
diseases, captive killer whales taken from the Southern Residents should be
re-introduced to the population. The effects of the capture period on current
population numbers should also be further studied.
- Reduce impacts of whale
watching. Whale Watching vessels should be encouraged to use four-stroke engines
rather than two-stroke engines to reduce the pollution generated in the Southern
Residents' habitat. Limitations should be placed on recreational whale watching
vessels to insure the safety of the Southern Residents.
- Support decisions to
eliminate the use of the most harmful chemicals. Several governmental agencies
and other organizations have begun to indicate that certain toxins should
be banned. For example, the UN recently adopted a resolution banning the use
and production of twelve of the most dangerous POPs, and the Washington State
Department of Ecology recently proposed to ban the use and production of seven
toxic chemicals. These efforts should be encouraged.