More Bad News for Puget Sound Orcas?

More Bad News for Puget Sound Orcas?

It's no secret that the killer whale population in Puget Sound has been declining steadily over the last decade. Chemical pollution, sewage, PCBs and other contaminants in prey fish, water-vessel traffic and the resulting underwater noise, and the declining salmon populations all seem to play a part in the decreasing numbers of our local resident orcas, the southern resident killer whales. Seven more whales went missing last year, and researchers strongly suspect they starved to death. We all know that pollution is bad, already, though, right? So it's perpetually a surprise to me when I hear about things like the approval of a proposed Maury Island strip mine project, a plan that residents have apparently opposed for years. It's both fascinating and frustrating (in a bizarre, trainwreck kind of a way) that so much talking about protecting, preserving, and cleaning up the Sound happens when the public is watching . . . but then projects like this get approval, mostly when no one happens to be looking. Rep. Sharon Nelson, who represents the 34th Legislative District, recently wrote an opinion piece for the Seattle PI available online. In the piece, Nelson says, "If we're going to save Puget Sound, we have to stop doing things like building new strip mines where killer whales feed." Apparently, there are a lot of other folks who feel the same way. Now, that may sound like a complete no-brainer. It certainly does to me. But then, I honestly don't care whether or not some mega-corporation gets the results they want for their mega-dollars spent lobbying to build pet projects on top of local people who hate the very idea of those projects. On the whole, I personally wouldn't ever greenlight this project—no matter how many (temporary) local jobs it supposedly means—for the potential damage to the health of Puget Sound, critical shoreline habitat for already-declining chinook salmon, and the safety of our few remaining resident killer whales. Admittedly, I'm a transplant to the Puget Sound area, but in the nearly ten years I've lived here, it's seemed pretty clear to me that the human residents here DO care about the water, the environment, the salmon, and yes, the whales. The frustrating part of environmental sell-outs like this, is that this sort of thing is too often done behind the public's back. If you're interested in getting involved to help preserve Puget Sound and our local marine habitat, here are a few sites to get you started with more information: There are a good many other local organizations, as well, where you can make a difference. Honestly, just picking up trash off a stretch of local beach helps make a difference. We still have whales today, because years ago, people cared enough to start making sure they were protected. If there are going to be whales in another few decades, it'll be because we cared enough to do the same.