OUR LAST CHANCE TO SAVE AN ORCA SOCIETY
A Bunch of Letters May Make the Difference
The southern resident Orcas of the Pacific northwest need our help. This iconic and unique population of killer whales had their numbers drastically reduce in the 1960s and 1970s due to capture for marine parks. Marine parks have made an incredible amount of money from these captures, but this population of Orcas has never recovered and now faces extinction within our lifetimes. Unlike other populations of Orcas, this distinct group feeds almost exclusively on chinook salmon. They have been doing this for thousands of years, but dams on the Snake River in Idaho (and other locations) have disrupted salmon reproduction, placing the Orcas and the salmon on the critically endangered species list.
Persistent organic pollutants can also be added to the list of threats facing the survival of this distinct culture. It may feel strange to use the word culture when referring to non-human animals, but in this case it is very appropriate. I interviewed Dr. Lori Marino (internationally renown for her studies on the brains of whales and dolphins), and I was stunned when she stated that Orcas have a larger neocortical surface area ratio to their brain size than humans. The neocortex is the part of are brain where all things we think make us unique as humans takes place. What can this possibly mean? One thing it certainly means is that thinking of the southern resident orca population as akin to a human culture close to being lost forever is not crazy. It is actually the best analogy we can muster to understand what is happening to these Orcas (click here to read the story of a mother from this population grieving over her dead calf).
Fortunately, a significant step in the right direction is available to us right now! Congressmen Mike Simpson of Idaho has introduced legislation to Congress that includes the breaching of the Snake River dams, which will restore the salmon run that the Orcas rely upon for survival. Unfortunately, the date for this breaching to begin is in 2030, which is much too late for both the salmon and the Orcas. With only 74 individuals left, the southern resident Orcas have only 4 to 5 years to survive reproductively. In order to save these individuals, we need to act quickly and decisively. Please contact rep. Mike Simpson and let him know how much you care about restoring the salmon habitat critical to the southern resident’s survival. Please inform rep. Simpson and your own representatives, that this is a priority that must begin immediately. Together we can let our representatives know that we are watching them, because we understand that losing this population is unthinkable. Feel free to use the letter I wrote below. But please WRITE! WE CAN DO THIS TOGETHER!
Congressmen Mike Simpson
Address (sending a physical letter may have added benefit, I am doing both):
802 West Bannock
Boise, ID 83702
Dear Congressmen Simpson,
I am happy to see the legislation you have proposed that includes the breaching of the lower Snake River dams. However, in order for the watershed recovery required to save the southern resident Orcas and the salmon, it must begin this year and not in 2030. With only 74 members of this distinct and culturally significant Orca population alive, in terms of reproductive survival, there is only 4 to 5 years left for recovery to begin before it is too late.
This is a pivotal moment in history, as we are just coming to terms with the full extent of damage our species has done to this planet. History WILL look back on this moment and judge our actions. Losing the southern resident Orca population would be a crime against God’s creation and the greatest of tragedies.
You have the unique opportunity of being recorded on the right side of history, and to have your name attached to one of the most important stewardship accomplishments of our time. Please, change the legislative proposal to include a start date for breaching the dams in 2021. You will be a hero for it, and you will have gained many allies from around the world for the rest of your life, including myself.