The San Juan community is deeply impacted by the ongoing crisis facing the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), who spend significant periods of time foraging off the west coast of San Juan Island. Three key threats face the dwindling population of whales: declining prey; vessel traffic and noise; and environmental contamination. While much of the authority to address these threats is at the state and federal level, numerous opportunities to advance recovery efforts are in the hands of local communities such as San Juan County.
Veda worked closely with a project team to design two workshops that included a mix of presentations on the state of the science about the SRKW and the status of recovery efforts, and small group discussions to identify, prioritize and gain commitments to advance local actions to help recovery efforts.
In November 2017 and December, 2018, Veda facilitated two highly dynamic and interactive day-long workshops that drew a combined total of 155 people.
Veda staff led workshop participants in discussions that resulted in prioritized local actions in each of the three categories of key threats to the whales. One example is the decision to prioritize protecting and restoring forage fish habitat to address reductions in prey resources.
Another positive outcome included commitments from boat operators to spread the word about the importance of flying “Whale Warning” flags when whales are present.
As a result of the workshops:
Of the 31 priority recovery actions identified by participants of the 2017 workshop, 30 were included in Governor Inslee's Orca Recovery Task Force Recommendations Report.
CLIENT SHOUT OUT:
The San Juan County Marine Resources Committee (MRC) is a voluntary citizens advisory group to County Government, established in 1996. Their mission is to protect and restore the marine waters, habitats and species of the Salish Sea to achieve ecosystem health and sustainable resource use. Veda is honored to work with the San Juan MRC, the San Juan Public Works - Environmental Resources Division, and the residents of San Juan County. Like them we are deeply committed to doing everything in our power to help recover this magnificent species.
Veda Environmental provided leadership and facilitation in framing the critical issues and preparing staff and volunteers to work with the diversity of professional and public interest stakeholders in an intense half-day session on finding ways for the people and government of San Juan County to help protect the SRKW. They were excellent and timely in preparation for the event, facilitation of the event, and follow-up reporting. The results have helped determine the next step actions for San Juan County government in addressing this critical issue.