​NFWF and Partners Announce Nearly $670,000 in Conservation Grants, New Boating Safety Campaign, All to Help Southern Resident Killer Whales

 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funds six projects and launches effort to help recreational boaters know how to ‘Be Whale Wise’

Killer whales and boat traffic near the San Juan Islands
Killer whales and boat traffic near the San Juan Islands

​SEATTLE (November 20, 2019) – NOAA’s Fisheries Science Center in Seattle today hosted the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and its partners to announce $666,200 in new conservation grants to help stabilize and recover the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population. The grants will generate $610,600 in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $1.2 million. 

The 73 Southern Resident killer whales prey on salmon and other fish, but especially prefer Chinook salmon. Recent research determined that Chinook salmon are having low survival rates in the early life stages. This results in less fish making it out to the ocean and therefore lower numbers returning of the size that killer whales need to feed. The six grants announced today support projects throughout the food chain to understand the shifting prey base of Chinook and to restore habitat important to both juvenile Chinook and their prey. 

"We must continue our dedication to increasing chinook abundance and mitigating the effects of climate change, as these efforts are vital to recovering our Southern Resident population," said Gov. Jay Inslee. "I look forward to seeing the positive impacts these grants will have in advancing projects recommended by the Southern Resident Orca Task Force to support a healthy environment and food supply for our killer whales.”

This year, in addition to the conservation grants, the partners in the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program (KWRCP), including SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., Shell, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA Fisheries, also announced that they will be supporting the ‘Be Whale Wise’ campaign in the spring. The public education effort will help to educate local boaters about measures they can take to better protect killer whales, and will include retail displays at Shell service stations in the region. 

“Thousands of boaters share waters with killer whales in the Puget Sound area – many with the hope of catching a glimpse of this cultural icon; so engaging these boaters about how they can help this population survive is vital,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Working with the recommendations of the Governor’s task force, and working side-by-side with NOAA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, SeaWorld and Shell, we are doing everything we can to help this population thrive in the Pacific Northwest.” 

This year’s group of projects support reducing impacts on killer whales from commercial and recreational vessels. Sound and disturbance from large and small vessels are also known to further decrease killer whale feeding success through stress/disturbance and ‘masking’ of the echolocation they use to hunt. The Orca Task Force listed several recommendations to reach both recreational and commercial fishing boats, in addition to the large vessel shipping industry, in order to address these concerns. 

“Orca whales are synonymous with the cultural identity and heritage of the Pacific Northwest,” said Shirley Yap, Shell VP of West Coast Manufacturing and General Manager of the Shell Puget Sound Refinery located in Anacortes, WA. “Our refinery’s vision is to proudly fuel life in the Pacific Northwest, which is why we’re committed to helping protect this iconic species for generations to come. As part of this commitment, Shell is taking a multi-pronged approach including continued investment in the NFWF Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program, by issuing a standing request that our maritime vessel contractors honor the voluntary orca protection programs in the Salish Sea, and through our recent involvement in volunteer efforts associated with ‘Orca Recovery Day’ last month. We will also provide orca protection informational materials at our service stations throughout the region to help visiting and resident boaters comply with new regulations.”

The KWRCP also supports cutting-edge science, including aerial drones and acoustic monitoring to study whales with reduced impact. This research will provide managers with the information on which parts of Puget Sound and coastal Washington are important to killer whales, maps of potential threats from current shipping and pollutant sources and the nutritional health of individuals in the population. 

“SeaWorld is a proud partner in the Killer Whale Recovery and Conservation Program, and together our efforts are making strides in not only better understanding the myriad issues that the Southern Resident population is facing, but developing the necessary action plans to address these challenges,” said Dr. Hendrik Nollens, vice president of animal health and welfare for SeaWorld. “Our collective goal is the recovery of these killer whales, and the strength of the partnership is harnessing the expertise our grantees bring to the table in this important collaboration.”

Southern Resident killer whales were listed as endangered in 2005, and NOAA Fisheries has highlighted the population as one of eight national “Species in the Spotlight,” at greatest risk of extinction. The Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program works to understand why the population has failed to recover and takes steps identified in the recovery plan and recommendations from the November 2018 Orca Task Force to bring this population back from the brink. 

A complete list of the 2019 grants made through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program is available here. A short video about the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program can be viewed here.

"NOAA Fisheries shares the urgency in recovering the Southern Residents. That's why we're pleased to join with NFWF and partners across the region to understand and address threats to the whales, all guided by science," said Barry Thom, Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. "These grants will advance critical monitoring to better understand how we can improve prey availability in the near term, while also investing in habitat restoration and protection needed for the sustainable recovery of the Southern Residents and the greater Salish Sea ecosystem.”

For more information about the Governor’s Task Force, please see this link

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,500 organizations and generated a conservation impact of more than $5.3 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

About NOAA Fisheries
NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation's ocean resources and their habitat. We provide vital services for the nation: productive and sustainable fisheries, safe sources of seafood, the recovery and conservation of protected resources, and healthy ecosystems—all backed by sound science and an ecosystem-based approach to management. Find out more at www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov.

About SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., supports two initiatives at the Foundation that focus on coastal and marine resources, the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program and the Ocean Health Initiative. The Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program funds efforts to advance the knowledge and conservation of killer whales with a primary focus on activities that aid in the recovery of the Southern Resident killer whale Distinct Population Segment (DPS) and the Northern Pacific Resident population. The Ocean Health Initiative works through other Foundation programs to support a portfolio of projects that bolster the health of threatened marine and coastal species and habitats while engaging communities in these conservation efforts. For more information, visit seaworldcares.com.

About Shell
Shell companies have operations in more than 70 countries and territories with businesses including oil and gas exploration and production; production and marketing of liquefied natural gas and gas to liquids; manufacturing, marketing and shipping of oil products and chemicals and renewable energy projects. Over the past 100 years, Shell has helped preserve and protect habitat and species through hundreds of conservation projects and initiatives. Collaborating with key organizations and environmental NGOs has enabled Shell to leverage its efforts to ensure the highest possible impact – including the protection of more than 13 million acres of wetlands.

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 Contact:

 

Rob Blumenthal, 202-857-0166

 

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