Recommendations to Recover Southern Resident Killer Whales

Below are the recommendations from the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force, created by Governor Jay Inslee through Executive Order 18-02. The task force made 49 recommendations for new investments, policies, and laws to help orca recover in the following six goal areas:

  1. Increase Chinook salmon abundance
  2. Decrease disturbance of, and other risks to, orcas from vessels and noise
  3. Reduce exposure to contaminants for orcas and their food
  4. Ensure funding, information, and accountability mechanisms are in place to support effective implementation
  5. Address impacts of climate change
  6. Address future growth

Photograph by Erin Gless, Pacific Whale Watch Association

Task Force Recommendations


Recommendation: 1
Status: Underway

Significantly increase investment in restoration and acquisition of habitat in areas where Chinook stocks most benefit Southern Resident orca.


Recommendation: 2
Status: Underway

Immediately fund acquisition and restoration of nearshore habitat to increase the abundance of forage fish for salmon sustenance.


Recommendation: 3
Status: Underway

Apply and enforce laws that protect habitat.


Recommendation: 4
Status: Underway

Immediately strengthen protection of Chinook and forage fish habitat through legislation that amends existing statutes, agency rulemaking, and/or agency policy.


Recommendation: 5
Status: Pending

Develop incentives to encourage voluntary actions to protect habitat.


Recommendation: 6
Status: Underway

Significantly increase hatchery production and programs to benefit Southern Resident orcas consistent with sustainable fisheries and stock management, available habitat, recovery plans, and the Endangered Species Act. Hatchery increases need to be done in concert with significantly increased habitat protection and restoration measures.


Recommendation: 7
Status: Underway

Prepare an implementation strategy to reestablish salmon runs above existing dams, increasing prey availability for Southern Resident orcas.


Recommendation: 8
Status: Underway

Increase spill to benefit Chinook for Southern Residents by adjusting total dissolved gas allowances at the Snake and Columbia River dams.


Recommendation: 9
Status: Complete

Establish a stakeholder process to discuss potential breaching or removal of the lower Snake River Dams for the benefit of Southern Resident orcas.


Recommendation: 10
Status: Underway

Support full implementation and funding of the 2019–28 Pacific Salmon Treaty.


Recommendation: 11
Status: Underway

Reduce Chinook bycatch in West Coast commercial fisheries.


Recommendation: 12
Status: Underway

Direct the appropriate agencies to work with tribes and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine if pinniped (harbor seal and sea lion) predation is a limiting factor for Chinook in Puget Sound and along Washington’s outer coast and evaluate potential management actions.


Recommendation: 13
Status: Underway

Support authorization and other actions to more effectively manage pinniped predation of salmon in the Columbia River.


Recommendation: 14
Status: Underway

Reduce populations of nonnative predatory fish species that prey upon or compete with Chinook.


Recommendation: 15
Status: Underway

Monitor forage fish populations to inform decisions on harvest and management actions that provide for sufficient feedstocks to support increased abundance of Chinook.


Recommendation: 16
Status: Underway

Support the Puget Sound zooplankton sampling program as a Chinook and forage fish management tool.


Recommendation: 17
Status: Complete

Establish a statewide, “go-slow” bubble for small vessels and commercial whale-watching vessels within half a nautical mile of Southern Resident orcas.


Recommendation: 18
Status: Complete

Establish a limited-entry, whale-watching permit system for commercial whale-watching vessels and commercial kayak groups in the inland waters of Washington State to increase acoustic and physical refuge opportunities for orcas.


Recommendation: 19
Status: Inactive

Create an annual orca protection endorsement for all recreational boaters to ensure all boaters are educated on how to limit boating impacts to orcas.


Recommendation: 20
Status: Underway

Increase enforcement capacity and fully enforce regulations on small vessels to provide protection to Southern Residents.


Recommendation: 21
Status: Underway

Discourage the use of echo sounders and underwater transducers within 1 kilometer of orcas.


Recommendation: 22
Status: Underway

Implement shipping noise-reduction initiatives and monitoring programs, coordinating with Canadian and U.S. authorities.


Recommendation: 23
Status: Underway

Reduce noise from Washington State ferries by accelerating the transition to quieter and more fuel-efficient vessels and implementing other strategies to reduce ferry noise when Southern Residents are present.


Recommendation: 24
Status: Underway

Reduce the threat of oil spills in Puget Sound to the survival of Southern Residents.


Recommendation: 25
Status: Underway

Coordinate with the Navy in 2019 to discuss reduction of noise and disturbance affecting Southern Resident orcas from military exercises and Navy aircraft.


Recommendation: 26
Status: Complete

Revise Revised Code of Washington 77.15.740 to increase the buffer to 400 yards behind the orcas.


Recommendation: 27
Status: Underway

Determine how permit applications in Washington State that could increase traffic and vessel impacts could be required to explicitly address potential impacts to orcas.


Recommendation: 28
Status: Inactive

Suspend viewing of Southern Resident orcas.


Recommendation: 29
Status: Underway

Accelerate the implementation of the ban on polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in state-purchased products and make information available online for other purchasers.


Recommendation: 30
Status: Underway

Identify, prioritize, and take action on chemicals that impact orcas and their prey.


Recommendation: 31
Status: Underway

Reduce stormwater threats and accelerate clean-up of toxics that are harmful to orcas.


Recommendation: 32
Status: Underway

Improve effectiveness, implementation, and enforcement of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits to address direct threats to Southern Resident orcas and their prey.


Recommendation: 33
Status: Underway

Increase monitoring of toxic substances in marine waters; create and deploy adaptive management strategies to reduce threats to orcas and their prey.


Recommendation: 34
Status: Underway

Provide sustainable funding for implementation of all recommendations.


Recommendation: 35
Status: Pending

Conduct research, science, and monitoring to inform decision making, adaptive management, and implementation of actions to recover Southern Residents.


Recommendation: 36
Status: Needs Improvement

Monitor progress of implementation and identify needed enhancements.


Recommendation: 37
Status: Underway

Protect against regulatory rollbacks at the federal and state level.


Recommendation: 38
Status: Complete

Explore setting minimum standards for local stormwater funding to ensure that all programs have the resources necessary to protect water quality.


Recommendation: 39
Status: Complete

Develop a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit framework for advanced wastewater treatment in Puget Sound to reduce nutrients in wastewater discharges to Puget Sound by 2022.


Recommendation: 40
Status: Underway

Better align existing nonpoint programs with nutrient reduction activities and explore new ways to achieve the necessary nonpoint source nutrient reductions.


Recommendation: 41
Status: Underway

Collect high-quality nutrient data in watersheds to fill key knowledge gaps of baseline conditions.


Recommendation: 42
Status: Pending

Create one or more entities with authority and funding to recover and advocate for Southern Resident orcas by implementing task force recommendations, creating new recommendations as needed, and reporting to the public, governor, and tribal co-managers on status.


Recommendation: 43
Status: Underway

Take aggressive, comprehensive, and sustained action to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.


Recommendation: 44
Status: Underway

Increase Washington’s ability to understand, reduce, remediate, and adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification.


Recommendation: 45
Status: Underway

Mitigate the impact of a changing climate by accelerating and increasing action to increase the resiliency and vitality of salmon populations and the ecosystems on which they depend.


Recommendation: 46
Status: Underway

Expand the Governor’s Maritime Blue scope of work and provide funding to implement recommendations from the Southern Resident Killer Whale Force and pursue shipping and other maritime innovations that benefit Southern Residents.


Recommendation: 47
Status: Pending

Identify and mitigate increased threats to Southern Residents from contaminants due to climate change and ocean acidification. Prioritize actions that proactively reduce exposure where the increased impacts are expected to be most severe.


Recommendation: 48
Status: Pending

Adopt and implement policies, incentives, and regulations for future growth and development to prevent any further degradation of critical habitat and sensitive ecosystems; enable and channel population growth in ways that result in net ecological gain; evaluate and report outcomes for all jurisdictions at the state, county, tribal, and municipal levels.


Recommendation: 49
Status: Underway

Conduct a comprehensive environmental review and take action to minimize potential whale-strike risk and underwater noise posed by the growing number and distribution of fast ferries and water taxis in Southern Resident critical habitat.

New Action

Status: Underway

Governor updates the statewide salmon strategy and requires a work plan every 2 years to direct implementation.

Status: Underway

Increased funding to expand monitoring of fishing