Revised Orca Recommendations Out For Public Comment Before Final Report Due

Revised orca recommendations are back out for public comment, and there’s a pretty tight turnaround for submitting feedback this go-around.

A MEMBER OF A SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALE POD FLICKS ITS TAIL. (CANDACE EMMONS, NMFS, FLICKR, HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/)

Midnight Oct. 29 is the deadline for expressing the level of support you have to a pared-down list of 36 items, as well as giving your top five things to do to help the starving southern resident killer whales.

The list comes out of last week’s Governor Jay Inslee’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force meetings, and were posted today.

After comments are collected, the group which includes anglers and boating interests will finalize its year 1 recommendations on what to do about major threats to orcas, with a final report to be issued in mid-November, ahead of next year’s legislative session.

This isn’t to say the other two-dozen draft recommendations aren’t worthy of attention, but a number will catch the eyes of Washington anglers.

They include:

Significantly increasing restoration and acquisition of habitat in the watersheds of key Chinook stocks

Example: “Emphasize large-scale estuary restoration programs focused on the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Possession Sound, Green-Duwamish, Puyallup, the mouth of the Columbia, and Chehalis rivers. Prioritize grant making for restoration that increases Chinook recovery in the short term.”

Enforcing habitat protection laws on the books

Example: “Direct WDNR, WDFW, and DOE to identify and report to the Task Force in 2019 on approaches using existing habitat, instream flow, and water quality regulations to improve prey availability.”

Boosting production of hatchery Chinook known to benefit orcas in coordination with habitat and restoration actions

Example: “Authorize/provide funding for WDFW to coordinate with co-managers to increase hatchery production at facilities in Puget Sound, on the Washington Coast, and in the Columbia River basin in a manner consistent with sustainable fisheries and stock management and the ESA. Decisions on hatchery production implementation are made by WDFW and tribal co-managers, with Endangered Species Act consultation from NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where appropriate.”

Getting salmon above run-blocking dams

Example: “Provide funding to WDFW and regional salmon organizations to coordinate with partners to determine how to re-establish sustainable salmon runs above dams including, but not limited to, the Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee Dams on the Columbia River and the Tacoma Diversion, Howard Hanson and Mud Mountain dams in the Puget Sound. Provide policy support for actions needed. Prioritize projects that produce downstream adult Chinook.”

Figuring out if harbor seals and sea lions are limiting Chinook numbers in Puget Sound and the coast and consider what can be done about it

Example: “Conduct a pilot project for the removal or alteration of artificial haul out sites where sites are associated with significant outmigration and predation of Chinook smolts. Fund a study to determine if pilot removal accomplishes the goal of significantly reducing Chinook smolt predation.”

Supporting controlling sea lions in the Columbia

Example: “Support MMPA authorization to add Steller sea lions to the list of pinnipeds managed in the lower Columbia River. Support increasing removal levels and altering removal requirements.”

Relaxing regulations on popular but Chinook smolt-eating game fish species

Example: “Adjust game fish regulations and remove catch and size limits on non-native predatory fish—including, but not limited to, walleye, bass, and channel catfish—to encourage removal of these predatory fish, where appropriate.”

Passing a new law to create a slow-speed bubble zone around orcas

Example: “Enact legislation in 2019 creating a half-mile “go-slow” zone, defined as speeds of 7 knots over ground or less.”

Creating a new and annual certification program for all Puget Sound boaters

Example: “Create a $10 marine endorsement called a Be Whale Wise certification which would be required annually for all boats on the inland marine waters.”

Asking anglers and others not to use fish finders and other transducers within a kilometer of orcas

Example: “Establish a “standard of care” for small vessel operators limiting the use of echo sounders and other underwater transducers within a half nautical mile of Southern Resident orcas. Implement as a voluntary measure and provide exceptions for safe navigation.”

And switching from the voluntary to required go-slow and no-go zones in a key feeding and fishing area of the San Juans

Example: “Establish a no-go whale protection zone for commercial whale watching vessels, recreational vessels, and commercial kayak groups on the west side of San Juan Island from Pile Point to Mitchell Bay, within ¼ mile of shore. Allow vessels to transect the no-go zone to exit from shore.”

2 thoughts on “Revised Orca Recommendations Out For Public Comment Before Final Report Due”

  1. I do not believe a $10.00 marine endorsement is needed or should be charged since there is not any specific expenditure for this fee it is just another way our state fleeces its citizens especially the recreational fisherman and boater. You want to charge us yet you will not address the main problem of lethal culling of the pinnipeds,

  2. The last four points are unacceptable! There is no reason saltwater boaters should have to pay more for our RIGHTS to use the waters. Sometimes you may not even know the Orcas are within a half mile, unless there is a crapload of whale watching boats next to them so requiring slowing or shutting down transducers is absurd. And the no-go zone… 95%, or more, of the time there are no Orcas there.

    Maybe implement a 5mph speed limit within 1/2-1 mile of the shorteline in the proposed no-go zone. This MUST include native and other commercial fishing boats as well as a ban on gillnets strung perpendicular to the shoreline in the Orca travel lanes.

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