Northwest Seaport Alliance Unveils Orca Protection Plan

Big Orca Sunset Spyhop

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the cargo operating partnership of the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, has teamed up with Washington State Ferries, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Puget Sound Partnership to identify ways to protect the endangered orca population.

The parties co-convened a workshop focusing specifically on finding solutions to underwater noise, which greatly impedes an orca’s ability to use sonar to hunt and communicate.

The workshop was held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center on October 3, 2019 and was attended by state, federal, tribal and Canadian government representatives, researchers, natural resource agencies, whale conservation groups and representatives of the marine industry.

The goal was to explore the possibility of establishing a program to reduce the exposure of the endangered orca to ship noise.

The workshop resulted in 22 recommendations, the biggest of which is to create a similar program to the Port of Vancouver’s Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation initiative (ECHO) for Washington State.

Port of Seattle Commissioner and NWSA Managing Member Fred Fellaman spoke highly of the workshop: “It was heartening to have such a broad range of expertise in the same room committed to tackling the critical issue of orca survival in the Salish Sea.

“As we know from the study of cooperative hunters such as wolves, lions and orcas, we can accomplish great things when we work together, and the recovery of our iconic orca hinges on our collaboration.”

John McCarthy, Port of Tacoma’s commissioner and Managing Member of the NWSA, emphasised how larger ships is helping the orca population: “While The Northwest Seaport Alliance has seen steady increases in container cargo volume over the last decade, there are actually fewer ships calling at our gateway now than in the past.

“This is because vessels have gotten larger and can carry more cargo per trip, which reduces ship traffic.”

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