For 17 days, a mother orca carried her dead calf in what scientists are calling an unprecedented display of grief. Tahlequah, or J035, as she's officially known, traveled hundreds of miles refusing to let go of her newborn girl who sadly lived less than an hour before passing away.
While her tragic story has garnered a lot of attention, what remains to be seen is what we are going to do to help ensure that she and her family don't continue to suffer similar losses.
These orcas, who are otherwise known as the southern resident killer whales, are a unique and beloved population living in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, they're also highly endangered.
The heartbreaking loss of this newborn comes just weeks after another death left this population at a 30 year low, with just 75 individuals left in existence (not counting Lolita).
While they continue to face a host of threats ranging from boat noise to pollution, one of their biggest problems now is a lack of their main food source, Chinook salmon, which is also unfortunately endangered.
For years, scientists and conservationists have been calling on officials to act to breach four dams on the lower Snake River – which produces half of the salmon found in the Columbia Basin – to help restore salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest, but no action has been taken.
It could be started now without further study or delay by using the 2002 Lower Snake River Environmental Impact Statement, which concluded dam breaching is the best way to help recover salmon.
There's no reason to keep waiting, and it would be unforgivable to sit back and watch these unique and beloved orcas pass one by one until they're gone simply because our elected officials lacked the political will to do something while they had the chance.
Please sign and share this petition urging Governor Jay Inslee and the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force to take immediate action towards breaching these dams.