Dozens of environmental groups in Oregon and across the Pacific Northwest are teaming up Saturday to support the recovery of Puget Sound’s endangered orcas.
Promise the Pod is bringing together multiple habitat restoration programs for Orca Recovery Day.
Five habitat restoration projects will be held throughout Oregon, as well as several more in Washington, California and British Columbia.
The southern resident orcas have been listed as endangered since 2005. The population of 73 is at its lowest documented level.
Scientists blame the decline primarily on pollution and scarcity of their primary food source: chinook salmon.
“We’re seeing so many signs of wildlife decline in a lot of ways, and this one population is very indicative of the health of the overall ecosystem,” canopy director at One Tree Planted Diane Chaplin said.
Chaplin said Orca Recovery Day isn’t about saving one species, it’s about saving the whole ecosystem.
Every year, southern resident orca pods take to the Pacific, migrating north to south and back again. They rely on chinook salmon for food which is nearly 80% of their diets. They eat about 100 to 300 pounds a day.
Chaplin said the three pods combined will need about 5 million pounds of salmon a year, which is why it is important to have healthy ecosystems.
One of the ways to help is by reforestation. One Tree Planted has been planting trees along the coast to help filter out and reduce water contamination. Their goal is to plant 1 million trees.
“That helps to create cleaner rivers and streams that go out into the ocean,” Chaplin said. “It also helps salmon habitats ... by having trees they actually cool the water, they help to add woody debris to the water which actually helps create microhabitats in which the salmon roe develop.”
Kas Guillozet is the watershed program director at Bonneville Environmental Foundation. She said orcas rely on healthy forests, clean water, and space to hunt and live.
“We as environmental groups are always seeking ways to connect actions to people and increasingly we realized our tactics haven’t been the smartest,” Guillozet said. “People need to care and to care they need to connect.”
In 2018, heartbreaking images of a mother orca carrying her dead calf drew worldwide attention.
Since then, environmental advocates have been more vocal about linking the orcas' recovery to causes ranging from dam removal to toxic cleanups to climate change.