Dear Senator Rolfes,
Thank you for your service and commitment to the people and places of Washington State. Because of the snow here in Friday Harbor, I was unable to be in Olympia for yesterday's testimony on behalf of the southern resident orca whales and their need for quiet and undisturbed waters in order to survive.
Here is my two-minute testimony in writing:
Two-Minute Testimony to the WA State Senate Committee re: Bill # 5577 regarding the Protection of Southern Resident Orca Whales from Vessels.
“Acoustic hell” is how renowned scientist, Dr. Christopher Clark, describes the experience of the Southern Resident orcas when they are surrounded by whale-watching boats. Dr. Clark came to Friday Harbor in 2017 at the invitation of Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance, an organization that has been working to save the Southern Residents for more than 20 years. He addressed the negative impact on the orcas from the sound of engines and the cavitation impact of propellers. He spoke of the Southern Residents’ immediate need to readily access their diminishing food supply.
The Southern Residents echo-location process is extremely complex. It encompasses seeing, hearing, feeling, communicating, navigating, orienting to gravity—and locating food. It is the foundation of their complex language, their ability to recognize their families, their food-sharing, their family travel and their extraordinary intelligence.
Throughout history, the sacredness of the Southern Residents has been an integral part of Northwest indigenous life, art and culture. Now, the financial interest of the whale-watching industry is destroying them. Therein lies the tragedy of these times.
Gus Speth, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy…and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation—and we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
Please do the right thing—which is everything in this Senate Bill, and more. Restore the words “suspension” and “moratorium” on Southern Resident whale-watching. These critical words invite the public into active participation in the future. The whale-watching industry could become truly heroic in this endeavor because there is more than enough nature—in all its miraculous forms—to nurture authentic eco-tourism throughout the Salish Sea without contributing to the extinction of the Southern Residents.
Globally, we have already entered the Sixth Extinction. But unlike past mass extinctions caused by such events as volcanic eruptions, asteroid strikes, and natural climate shifts, this current crisis is almost entirely caused by us--humans. Being a beacon for survival, instead of extinction, is the best PR on the planet.
Executive Director / Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance