About the Orca Recovery Bills

All four Orca Recovery priority bills passed the Washington State Legislature this year, including salmon habitat recovery, oil spill prevention, vessel noise and disturbance, reducing toxic pollution.

This package represents recommendations put forward by Governor Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force last November that brought together experts and advocates from across the state to find solutions to save resident orcas and restore Salish Sea.

Bills passed:

    • Protecting habitat (HB 1579): Supports chinook salmon and forage fish populations by protecting habitat and reducing invasive predatory species
    • Preventing oil spills (HB 1578): Extends proven safeguards to all vessels carrying crude oil by establishing zone-based tug escort requirements for oil-laden vessels in the waters around the San Juan Islands
    • Reducing vessel noise and disturbance (2SSB 5577): Reduces vessel speed to 7 knots within half nautical mile and increases the vessel buffer zone around orcas so they can more easily find prey, institutes commercial whale watch licensing and fees, and initiates process to identify safe whalewatching around Southern Resident orcas
    • Reducing sources of toxic pollution (SSB 5135): Prevents toxic pollution by addressing the use of classes of chemicals that are of particular concern to sensitive species like orcas and vulnerable populations like kids
    • Toxic site clean-up: The legislature also updated and stabilized funding — paid for by polluters — to clean up toxic sites, reduce stormwater runoff, and prevent toxic chemicals from impacting our health and the environment with stabilized funding for the state’s Model Toxic Control Act. Environmentalists, frontline communities, and local governments have called for these changes for more than a decade.