Supporting the orca task force
October 29, 2018
To the Washington State Orca Task Force:
We are writing to provide comments on your recommendations dated October 24, 2018. With 11 stores across the Puget Sound region, 60,000 members, and more than $275 million in sales, PCC Community Markets is the nation’s largest co-op grocer. We have a long track record of supporting sustainable food systems, including sustainable seafood. We were the first retailer to partner with Monterey Bay Seafood Watch. We maintain high standards of sustainability for the seafood that we offer.
This summer, our members and staff watched and learned as the ongoing struggles of the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) were brought to public attention with a striking urgency. As a grocery retailer, PCC decided to stop selling chinook salmon caught in the waters of Washington, Oregon or British Columbia. We know this is a very small step and that is why we also are advocating policies that would rebuild chinook salmon runs, decrease vessel noise that threaten orca survival, and reduce toxins in the Salish Sea.
We agree with the task force that much work is needed to increase the chinook populations that SRKWs depend upon. Fish habitat restoration experts in our region tell us that funding for restoration projects is inadequate. We support increased investment to improve fish passages and habitat restoration. Funding should include both onshore and nearshore projects. Nearshore habitat, such as eel grass and kelp beds, is critical to support forage fish, yet it is often overlooked. We additionally support investment in research on zooplankton, the food of juvenile salmon and forage fish.
The noise from vessel traffic is a challenge to our local SRKW population. Whale behavioral experts best understand this impact and how to mitigate it. We support those experts in their effort to establish a protection zone that would limit vessel disturbances in areas where the SRKWs forage, as well as other strategies proposed to protect SRKWs from noise.
Finally, we support the task force’s proposal to reduce contaminants in the Salish Sea. PCC has fought for decades to reduce the use of harmful pesticides and toxins. PCBs should be eliminated from use and rapidly cleaned up in contaminated areas. The Department of Ecology quickly should review, identify and reduce the contaminants threatening the health of SRKWs and their prey. This review should include harmful pesticides that pollute and reduce the biodiversity in salmon spawning streams.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
PCC Community Markets Public Affairs