On November 8, 2019, the Governor’s Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) Task Force released a Year Two final comprehensive report and recommendations for recovering the state’s treasured Southern Resident orca. The Task force continued to convene in 2019 to develop another round of recommendations for the Governor to consider in preparation for the 2020 legislative session. Year 2 recommendations focus on climate, population growth, and contaminants and would be added to the list of recommendations developed in Year 1.

Year 1 recommendations focused on prey, vessels and contaminants and a handful of the recommendations were addressed through legislation and budget appropriations in 2019. In this report, the Task Force highlights the successes from Year 1 recommendations and identifies the continuing need for the outstanding ones. Most notably, the report highlights the need for additional and ongoing funding to mitigate immediate and emerging threats.

The task force developed 13 new recommendations in Year 2 to tackle emergent threats and enable sustained and successful long-term recovery. Five of these new recommendations address the threat of contaminants, including three recommendations that specifically address human sources of nutrients. The task force also focused on two systemic threats to the Southern Residents in Year 2 that, if left unchecked, will undermine recovery efforts: (1) climate change and ocean acidification and (2) rapid human population growth and development. The task force established two new goals and formulated seven new recommendations to respond to and mitigate these threats.

WSAC submitted comments on the draft recommendations and expressed concerns. Counties will want to pay particular attention to the recommendations that address contaminants, population growth and development and a policy shift for habitat restoration that moves from a “no net loss” to a “net ecological gain” standard in state statutes (a Year 1 amended recommendation). Read the full report here.