For Immediate Release
Seattle, WA

Washington’s Southern Resident Orca Recovery Task Force today released the final version of its recommendations in year two for saving southern resident orcas from extinction. Among its recommendations, the task force addressed the biggest threat to orcas – starvation – through actions that would restore habitat for Chinook salmon, the primary food source for orcas, and increasing the amount of salmon that reach the Pacific Ocean. Of the 36 recommendations put forth from the first year-end report, 22 were not given sufficient resources to adequately or quickly respond to the orca crisis. 
 
Robb Krehbiel, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement: 
 
“We are pleased to see the ambitious recommendations put forth by the orca recovery task force. In order to save this critically endangered species we need to think big, and while the state has made progress, there is a lot more work to be done. We are especially eager to see policies that address the impact human development has on critical salmon habitat. If we want the next generation of Washingtonians to know our orca neighbors, Governor Inslee and the state legislature must turn these new recommendations into law while increasing our investment in recovery actions from the year-one report.” 
 
Background: 
•    One of the most important aspects of the year two report is a recommendation to move the state of Washington toward an “ecological net gain” standard to offset habitat loss from development projects. Currently, the state has a “no net loss” standard. Under the “no net loss” standard, one acre of habitat is restored for every acre that is developed. An “ecological net gain” standard would require developers and local governments to aggressively restore salmon habitat by restoring more habitat than they destroy, reversing a decades-long trend of continuous habitat loss. 
•    Due to Washington’s projected population increase, the threat from development on salmon habitat will also increase. Leading salmon biologists have stated that protecting remaining salmon habitat will be insufficient to recover salmon in the state of Washington. Policies like ecological net gain are essential to not only protect remaining salmon habitat but to restore enough habitat and recover salmon runs in the state of Washington to ecologically meaningful levels. 
•    Among the 36 recommendations in the first year-end report was addressing the lack of salmon available to orcas through habitat restoration and barrier removal. This included a stakeholder process which began earlier this year to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with removing the four dams in the lower Snake River, which would allow more salmon to reach the Pacific Ocean. 
•    As both year-end reports state, restoring salmon habitat is critical to providing more food for endangered southern resident orcas, which rely heavily on salmon primarily found in the Snake River. Snake River salmon are among the largest salmon on the west coast and return to the mouth of the Columbia River in late winter or early spring, a time when few other salmon are available to the orcas. This is also when orcas are pregnant and in need of additional nutrition. Just 73 southern resident orcas remain today. The population was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2005; its population has continued to decline since then. 
 

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

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Kerry Skiff
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(202) 772-0253

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