Government and Industry are Working Together to Protect Washington’s Endangered Southern Resident Orca Whales
Press Releases
Wednesday, December 19, 2018 07:15 PM

San Juan Islands, WA... Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s recent recommended three-year suspension of viewing endangered Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW) will not eliminate whale and wildlife watching activities in the San Juan Islands. Southern Residents make up a small percentage of local viewing opportunities; visitors can still view the Salish Sea’s other healthy populations of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions and river otters on land or by sea. The San Juan Islands are still one of the best places in the world to do so.

According to a recent Seattle Times articleInslee stated that “The whale-watch industry spends up to 85 percent of its time with customers watching other whales. We will still have a robust whale watching industry.” These other whales include Bigg’s or transient killer whales, humpbacks, grays, and minke whales.

Visitors come from all over the world to see whales and other marine wildlife in the wild and to visit Friday Harbor’s Whale Museum and many waterfront parks to educate themselves on the conservation of whales. Naturalists leading tours on the water or onshore, provide education and instill a stewardship ethic in visitors that has helped make the plight of the SRKWs a world-wide issue.

Responsible ecotourism is a critical piece of education, conservation, and the economy of the San Juan Islands. Some local ecotourism operators and NGOs are in favor of the temporary SRKW viewing suspension, while many others are in favor of alternative measures that would highly limit viewing of SRKWs under a proposed strict permit system; believing a limited group of seasoned ecotour operators would serve as educators and a deterrent to poor behavior on the part of boat owners unaware of the whales’ presence or vessel regulations around whales.

New vessel rules are just one of many proposed comprehensive measures to support SRKW recovery. Regardless of how recovery efforts unfold, visitors and locals can still view Southern Resident orca whales from shore throughout Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. Here in the San Juan Islands, orcas sometimes come quite close to the shoreline while chasing salmon through the kelp forests. For those who happen to be in the right place at the right time, they will get the thrill of a lifetime as these majestic animals glide through the water.

The San Juan Islands’ communities support the Governor’s wish to “...restore the ecosystem to one that sustains orca, salmon and the quality of life for all Washingtonians.” While Governor Inslee and the legislature work with all parties to create common sense, bold actions to protect these beloved and imperiled animals, we encourage the Washington Fish and Game Commission and the Pacific Salmon Commission to give the first allocation of Chinook salmon to the Southern Residents as a first step.


Media Contact:

Barbara Marrett

P.O. Box 1330

Friday Harbor, WA 98250

[email protected]

(360)378-6822 ext. 6