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Protect the Orcas

The Orcas are back! The Southern Resident Killer Whales returned to Puget Sound with new babies in the pod. We all need to do our part to protect the Orcas while they are here.  

Underwater noise poses a challenge for orcas, an endangered species that are culturally and economically important to our region. Orcas use sound to hunt for salmon. Underwater noise impacts the killer whale’s ability to hunt, communicate, navigate, and avoid danger. That noise in Puget Sound can come from a variety of sources, including (but not limited to) small and large recreational boats and all sizes of commercial vessels.   

Here’s how you can help protect the orcas whether you're at home or on the water.

At home

Take a look at these tips from the Seattle Aquarium:

  • Increase your awareness. The Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island conducts annual surveys of the orca population; visit their website for the most up-to-date information.
  • Conserve water. Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, skip watering your lawn. More water in our rivers means more water for salmon — and more food for orcas! 
  • Conserve electricity. Use less electricity so the dams use less water. More water for salmon means more salmon for orcas
  • Put waste in its place. Properly dispose of litter, garbage and pet waste — and check your car engine to prevent oil leaks — so these materials don’t end up in Puget Sound
  • Choose non-toxic, environmentally friendly household and yard products. Even far from the water, nearly everything that goes down your drain or washes into storm drains and creeks eventually ends up in the sea
  • Use less gas. Carpool, use mass transit, ride your bike, or walk to help create a cleaner environment for our orcas
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Saving resources makes for a better environment for our orcas — and ourselves
  • Make informed decisions about the seafood you eat. Choose sustainably caught and harvested seafood. See the Seattle Aquarium's sustainable seafood page for guidance
  • Share what you know with family and friends! Together, we can all make a difference for the orcas.

Sign for boaters about regulations to protect orcas

On the water

Tips for boaters from the Port of Seattle:

  • Support the implementation of the Whale Report Alert System (WRAS) developed by OceanWise, the BC Cetacean Sightings Network, Vancouver Aquarium, and the ECHO program.   
  • Send whale sighting reports via the WhaleReport app. The alert system is a cell-phone based application that is used to inform commercial mariners when whales are nearby.
  • Slow your vessel around the orcas and give them plenty of space, following state laws and the Be Whale Wise guidelines at a minimum
  • Be extra careful around Southern Resident Killer Whales right now, because they have new babies!  If you’re a recreational boater, go above and beyond the legal requirements! If you see a dorsal fin, no matter how far away it is, you should slow down to below 7 knots 
  • Or shut down your engines to get a peaceful opportunity to watch these beautiful creatures until they pass.  
  • Even if you’re in a nonmotorized boat like a kayak, be sure to give the orcas plenty of space, as the presence of quiet boats can still disrupt foraging. Regulations require at least 300 yards on the sides and 400 yards in front and back. 

Top photo credit: "L78_K21_EastPoint01_09.12.2009" by Miles Ritter is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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