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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.


Action 1

Expand and better coordinate existing toxic monitoring programs in Puget Sound focused on chemicals harmful to Southern Resident orcas.

Action 2

Create and fund a program to study and monitor the impact of contaminants of emerging concern on Southern Resident orcas.

Implementation Details

  • The Legislature should fund the Washington Departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife and the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program managed by the Puget Sound Partnership, to expand and coordinate existing monitoring and new science programs in 2019. Funding is needed immediately to develop and support a robust toxic monitoring program as well as to conduct new science to understand the exposure of Southern Residents, their prey, and other species in the lower trophic levels to contaminates of emerging concern and the resulting effects. This funding is critical to gain a more comprehensive understanding of contaminants of emerging concern; to collect data to address critical uncertainties; to evaluate the impact of these contaminates on Southern Residents to prioritize cleanups, phase outs, and bans; to document whether the actions taken are effective; and to make changes to implemented actions and strategies if the data demonstrates no impact.
  • The task force requested that in Year Two, the contaminants working group look at issues associated with nutrient loading, water quality, and ongoing work that is examining links between specific contaminants and health and reproductive challenges for orcas.

Recent Progress

  • In 2021, the Department of Ecology was given $2.8 million to create a monitoring and operations program for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and $682,000 in ongoing funding for the Puget Sound Observation Network.
  • The 2021 Toxics in Fish Implementation Strategy was completed and provides guidance on reducing contaminants in Puget Sound.
  • Some additional funding for the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program was granted in 2019 to the Puget Sound Institute to work with the program’s toxics workgroup to develop a framework for monitoring and prioritizing chemicals of emerging concern.

More details may be found in the progress reports in theĀ resources library.