Cherry Point Amendments and Critical Areas Ordinances need to reflect measures to protect orcas / Letter to Whatcom County Council, Dena Jensen

scientists shipping noise herald

April 15, 2016  Dena Jensen

Dear Whatcom County Council:

I am sending this email for you to earnestly consider during your review of the Cherry Point Amendments to Whatcom County’s Comprehensive Plan and the Critical Areas Ordinance. The information below is why it is critical that expanded vessel shipping going anywhere out of Cherry Point is, at this time particularly, unacceptable.  Thus, this is another reason it is critical that the County include the study in the Cherry Point Amendments that will help the County find legal ways to limit the export of unrefined fossil fuels, above current levels, out of Cherry Point.

I don’t know if you all saw the Bellingham Herald article this weekend, “Scientists ask Canada to reduce shipping noise to help save orcas.” ( I am sending along a copy of the letter linked to in the article, and signed by 20 “marine scientists with specific expertise in the biology of the endangered southern resident population of killer whales and/or in anthropogenic ocean noise in the Salish Sea:”

From the “Cherry Point Environmental Aquatic Reserve Management Plan”, :

 “Marine mammals that may use the Reserve based on their presence in the southeast Strait of Georgia include: harbor seals, Pacific harbor porpoise, Dall’s porpoise, Stellar sea lions, California sea lions, Gray whales, the Southern Resident Killer Whale, and humpback whale (Calambokidis and Baird 1994; Falcone et al. 2005).”

From the National Marine Fisheries Service West Coast Region Seattle, WA

December 2016, “Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation” :

“The Southern Resident killer whale Distinct Population Segment (DPS) was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2005. In the listing, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) identified three main threats to their survival: 1) scarcity of prey, 2) high levels of contaminants from pollution, and 3) disturbance from vessels and sound. As of 1 July 2016 after the summer census, there were only 83 individuals left in the population (CWR 2016). Their small population size and social structure also puts them at risk for a catastrophic event, such as an oil spill, that could impact the entire population. Updates regarding research and management actions for the primary threats (prey, pollution and vessels) are included below and in discussions of whether the recovery criteria related to each of the threats have been met. This review fulfills our requirement under section 4(c)(2) of the ESA to conduct, at least once every five years, a review of listed species to ensure that the listing of these species remains accurate.”

I will conclude by referencing the last paragraph of the April 12, 2017 letter from the 20 scientists that was linked to in the Bellingham Herald article which I mentioned near the beginning of this letter:

“Along with increasing food availability and minimizing the risk of contaminants, which includes petroleum spills, reducing acoustic disturbance from large vessels and other noise sources is essential to the recovery of the southern resident killer whale population. Once again, we are greatly encouraged by the Canadian government’s promise to ensure that new developments do not increase ocean noise in the region. We also urge you to adopt a concrete, funded, sciencebased plan and timetable for noise reductions that will substantially improve and restore the acoustic environment of the Salish Sea.”

I call on you Council Members to use this information to take prompt and meaningful steps in the Cherry Point Amendments and Critical Areas Ordinance, toward such precautions, advised by the scientists above, to save our southern resident killer whales from extinction.


Dena Jensen
Birch Bay

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