Animal Welfare Institute: Inslee’s Task Force abandons mandate to make bold recommendations for Orca and Salmon recovery

The Animal Welfare Institute is gravely disappointed that some of the recommendations released today by the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force fail to take bold action to save these endangered whales while ignoring public support for dam removal and public opposition to sea lion killings.

In March, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee established the task force with the directive to develop “swift near-term actions and effective long-term actions necessary to recover these iconic and endangered animals.” Today, the task force published its final report, presenting 36 recommendations to the governor.

AWI opposes a task force recommendation to continue to study dam removal, rather than strategically targeting certain dams for removal. AWI also strongly opposes the recommendation to pursue lethal control of sea lions in the Columbia River

Basin as a means of increasing the number of salmon that reach the spawning grounds. Killing sea lions will not help restore salmon runs, especially given the pressures of human fishing on these salmon stocks.

Moreover, the task force has disregarded public input. Its original dam removal recommendation had strong public support yet was eventually withdrawn. The public has consistently opposed the lethal removal of sea lions in the Columbia River Basin. The task force, however, supported and expanded on a federal proposal for a cull among its final recommendations.

“The lethal removal of pinnipeds is not supported by the public nor is it based on science, best available or otherwise,” stated Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for AWI. “The pursuit of this proposal, and its inclusion in the final recommendations to the governor, show the political calculus at the heart of the task force.”

The proposal to remove four low production dams along the Lower Snake River was so widely backed by the public in the last comment period that task force staff did not have enough time to process the nearly 9,000 supportive comments before the final meeting. The task force noted in its final recommendations that “in the Columbia River Basin, dams completely block passage to more than 55 percent of the spawning and rearing habitat historically used by Chinook.” Yet the group does not propose any actions leading to immediate dam removal.

“AWI has fervently maintained that dam removal would yield the greatest benefit toward restoring functional ecosystems in the Columbia River Basin and Washington state waters,” said Ryan Ososki, policy advisor at AWI. “Dams, culverts and other barriers throughout the Columbia River basin have had, in our opinion, the single most damaging impact on salmon stocks and southern resident killer whales.”

AWI believes that the strategic removal of dams along the Lower Snake River would be most beneficial to orca and salmon recovery.

“We’re deeply disappointed by the task force’s inclusion of several relatively inconsequential actions among its recommendations, while failing to promote the bold actions requested by Governor Inslee,” said Cathy Liss, AWI’s president. “Southern resident killer whales and the Chinook salmon on which they fundamentally depend are headed toward extinction. We had hoped that the task force would tackle big issues such as dam removal and habitat restoration in order to save these populations.”

Task force documents note that its members sought “consensus” recommendations.

“In an effort to reach consensus, the task force has abandoned its mandate from Governor Inslee to take bold steps to benefit orca and salmon recovery,” stated Liss. “Indeed, the aim of reaching only consensus recommendations has prevented the task force from producing truly substantive proposals for action.”

To view AWI’s comments on the task force’s previous proposals, click here and here.


The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

2 comments

  • Mark Schmid
    Mark Schmid Wednesday, 21 November 2018 11:14 Comment Link

    I agree with everything the previous comment said. The salmon of the Salish Sea, and with them, the Orcas, the Sea Lions, the Seals, the Sea Otters, Bald Eagles (for crying out loud, the heraldic animal of the US) and last but not least, human fishery are an integral part of the Beautiful North West Pacific. A paradise in terms of nature and animals that exists only here. All that and more is at stake here. And the US and Washington state governments are stomping on that inheritance with their feet and destroying it, much like the great American buffalo was exterminated out of pure ignorance and stupidity. It's a shame! It's a crime (!) for all future generations, not to mention the present. Now it's the dams in the rivers that anatomically sever the life-lines in the Salish Sea and its wildlife and nature. Besides the massive development, toxins, climate warming etc. Many things, such as climate warming are hard or very hard to tackle, but at least removing the severing dams, or replacing them with much better ones that allow 99% of the fish to pass is by far not impossible. Many countries, for instance in Europe have built such dams and shown how it's done. But the greatest country in the world isn't capable of that and instead destroys all the incredible and outstanding wonders it has inherited (or taken by force). One after the other. It's a crime and a shame. Yea, let's 'rake' America 'great'... again.

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  • Joe Toro
    Joe Toro Saturday, 17 November 2018 19:10 Comment Link

    I’m with you AWI. I am so angry! What kind of ignorance is this? Remove the dams for orca and salmon recovery, and save the orca population! Governor Inslee, you should be more concerned about doing what’s right instead of being concerned about political ramifications. The lethal removal of sea lions and the reduction of boat traffic is not even close to resolving the real problem! Orcas need food. Salmon cannot reproduce until those dams are removed! Our Orcas are STARVING!!!

    Stop wasting time with your task force discussing topics that don’t even scratch the surface in resolving the real problem!
    There’s talk of you running for President in 2020? We already have a president who doesn’t give a damn about the environment or about animal populations! Being an Orca killer is probably something that our current president would be prowd of. What about you?

    Your wonderful State of Washington, home of the beautiful San Juan Islands, who’s industry relies heavily upon thriving orca and salmon populations, needs for you to make the right decision. Our wonderful resident pods living throughout the San Juan Islands are unlike anywhere else in the world!

    If you don’t order the removal of the dams now, it will be too late! You’ll help drive both the orca and salmon populations to extinction!

    Do everyone a favor and call the Army Corps of Engineers, and order the dams to be removed immediately! Don’t wait for another dragged out meeting with your task group! Show the people of WA that you’re able to make a DAM decision! How many more baby orcas need to die before you make the call?

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