The Southern Residents are already at numbers teetering on extinction...We must be smarter about what is discharged into our waters.

Kathleen Callaghy, Northwest Representative at Defenders of Wildlife

Volunteers and advocates across Washington will speak out against toxic pollutants that harm orcas, salmon and people during Orca Action Month. This year’s theme is Clean Water, Healthy Futures.

“We learn more every day about the harmful impacts of chemicals like PFAS and PPDs put into everyday products,” said Cheri Peele, Senior Project Manager at Toxic-Free Future. “It is urgent that our state fully ban these chemicals in all products and find safer solutions to protect  salmon, orcas and people.”

Orca Action Month was founded by Orca Network in 2007. Now, every June the Orca Salmon Orca Alliance raises awareness about the threats facing critically endangered Southern Resident orcas. Throughout the Pacific Northwest, the public is invited to events that share what we can all do to protect and celebrate the orcas of the Salish Sea.

"We started Orca Month to bring more attention to the Southern Resident orcas' need for salmon, and to provide a platform for other organizations, agencies, businesses and audiences to become aware and learn how to take action to protect them,” said Orca Network co-founders Susan Berta and Howard Garrett. “It’s incredible to see how much it has grown and changed over the decades, and with the help of many partners, the reach is beyond anything we ever imagined.”

Toxic contaminants are one of the three primary threats to the critically endangered Southern Resident orcas, of whom only 74 remain today. Toxic chemicals present in everyday items from cosmetics to plastics to household cleaners contaminate waterways through stormwater runoff, wastewater treatment plants, industrial discharge, derelict structures, and other sources. One chemical that is lethal to coho salmon which are eaten by the Southern Resident orcas is 6PPD quinone, a substance created when 6PPD comes off of car tires in dust and breaks down.

Contaminants are absorbed by plankton and passed all the way up the food chain to salmon and orcas. The risks to orcas, especially to young calves, include metabolic, immune and endocrine system disruption, as well as reproductive disorders and developmental effects.  

"The Southern Residents are already at numbers teetering on extinction," said Kathleen Callaghy, Northwest Representative at Defenders of Wildlife. “Contaminants are impacting their ability to reproduce and fight off disease. We must be smarter about what is discharged into our waters.”

As part of Orca Action Month, Washingtonians are encouraged to sign a petition or postcard urging the Washington Department of Ecology to regulate PPDs, brominated and/or chlorinated substances, formaldehyde, and other harmful chemicals in the next phase of its Safer Products Washington law.  

“The time for talk is over. The time for action was yesterday,” said Rein Attemann, Puget Sound Senior Campaign Manager at Washington Conservation Action. “Wild salmon and orcas are nearing extinction, and we need bold action now. Our leaders and agencies, who are accountable for their survival, must ensure these substances are banned or closely regulated.”

In addition to taking action, the public is encouraged to attend Orca Action Month events in their area throughout June, all of which can be found at These range from beach cleanups to arts and crafts parties, talks, salmon habitat restoration, speaker series, trivia nights, and more! 

For over 75 years, Defenders of Wildlife has remained dedicated to protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come. To learn more, please visit or follow us on X @Defenders.


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