Orca Action Month: Reduce, Remove, Remediate


June is Orca Action Month, an opportunity to bring together researchers, advocates, and orca lovers everywhere to raise awareness of the threats facing orcas, and to inspire community action to protect the endangered Southern Resident population. Read on to learn more about this year’s theme: Clean Waters, Healthy Futures

Toxic chemicals can end up in the Salish Sea through many pathways. Persistent organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls can settle in sediment and enter the food chain through bottom-feeding organisms. 6PPD-q, a chemical that’s highly toxic to marine life — including salmon — is deposited on roadways through normal tire wear and is washed into rivers and streams in stormwater. Other toxics found in common household items like cleaning supplies and lawncare products are dumped or disposed of improperly by those who don’t know, or simply don’t care, about their impacts “downstream.”

WDFW is studying the presence of toxics and their impact on wildlife. WDFW’s Toxics Biological Observation System (TBiOS) team monitors toxic contaminants in aquatic life to help inform agencies and regulators in order to reduce, remove, and remediate toxic impacts. By studying indicator species such as salmon, mussels, and herring, toxic contaminants entering the food web can be traced and “hot spots” where toxic contamination is especially high can be identified.

Monitoring toxic contaminants in the region not only allows WDFW and our partners to know when and where contaminants are entering the ecosystem, but also provides critical information on potential contaminant sources that can help guide cleanup efforts and prevent further contamination. In a recent case, the Washington State Department of Ecology has proposed requiring the Everett wastewater treatment facility to control a type of flame-retardant chemical after it was discovered to accumulate in fish and Southern Resident killer whales.

TBiOS is a critical part of WDFW’s efforts to manage the impacts of toxics on members of the Salish Sea ecological community, including of course the Southern Resident killer whales! However, it will take everyone to keep toxics out of our water. Be sure to read our final blog post next week to learn more about how you can help.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.