Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, announced new legislation on Jan. 4 to protect Washington state’s orca whales and marine waters under the Salish Sea Protection package.
“Increasing vessel traffic, potential oil spills, pollution, invasive species and climate change are all major threats to our incredible Salish Sea and billions of dollars in economic activity that depend upon a healthy ecosystem,” said Ranker. “Today, those threats increased with the Trump announcement to open Washington state to new offshore oil and gas exploration. We must ensure we protect our state waters from the greatest threat, a major oil spill, as well as legacy contamination and invasive species that continue to put our waters and Orca Whales at risk.”
The 2018 Salish Sea Protection package of new legislation, will commit the state to dramatically improving oil spill response, strengthening protections of orca whales, banning net-pen aquaculture of invasive species, and prioritizing toxic cleanups in the nearshore and marine environment.
“People have built an incredible quality of life in our state, but today, that quality of life is significantly threatened by outdated practices and regulations, increasing oil transportation and reckless action by the federal administration,” said Ranker. “From fishing for salmon or crabbing to exploring tide pools along a rocky shore or watching magnificent Southern Resident Orca jump and play as they swim by, this quality of life, this incredible place we call home is worth protecting.”
Salish Sea Protection Act
This legislation will fully fund Washington state oil spill prevention and response activities, update our critical, geographical response plans, research tug escorts and rescue tugs for all vessels carrying millions of gallons of oil and significantly increase coordination ours with our Canadian neighbors. A second bill will move to establish a new, permanent Emergency Response Tug, as well as requirements for tug escorts for oil tankers, oil barges and articulated tug barges operating in Puget Sound.
Orca Whale Protection Act
With the Puget Sound resident orca population dropping to its lowest level since 1984, including the deaths of several juvenile whales, immediate action is needed before these whales enter a “death spiral” in which extinction is inevitable. This legislation dramatically increases enforcement of orca whale protection laws – providing for permanently dedicated enforcement vessel, while increasing support for salmon production and restoration and calls for a trans-boundary discussion of orca whale protection and preservation.
Atlantic salmon net pens
The crisis we face due to the escape of hundreds of thousands of invasive Atlantic salmon from the Cooke Aquaculture net pen failure last year is alarming. Subsidizing an industry that is using our public marine waters for profit while eroding our environment and local economies is no longer acceptable. This legislation eliminates all new leases and permits for invasive Atlantic salmon net pens as well as net pens for other non-native finfish. It also requires strengthening oversight guidelines for existing net pen operations based upon updated scientific information, as the current regulations are more than 25 years old.
MTCA accounts and cleanup program
This legislation increases the focus on toxic cleanups of nearshore environments and marine waters. This legislation includes provisions to speed up cleanups of contaminated properties.