To Save New Orca Calf, Earth Law Center with Ocean Defenders Seek Rights for the Southern Resident Orcas
A coalition of groups (NGO’s, community groups, scientists, lawyers and indigenous peoples) unveiled today their Declaration on the Rights of the Southern Resident Orcas (http://legalrightsforthesalishsea.org/petition), urging all levels of government to recognize the inherent rights of the Southern Residents. This recognition has renewed urgency with a new calf born to the Southern Residents who have not produced a surviving offspring in three years.
“We’d be having very different conversations if we approached recovery with the Orca’s best interests in mind,” said Elizabeth M. Dunne, Esq., who helped draft People’s Recommendation 74 which the people delivered to Governor Inslee’s office during a rally last November. Recommendation 74 recognizes the Southern Residents’ right to life, including to their naturally occurring food source of Chinook salmon from the lower Snake River.
Over 20 countries now recognize the Rights of Nature (species and ecosystems) in law and/or through judicial decisions. Both San Francisco and Malibu passed resolutions in 2014 on the rights of whales and dolphins, and Toledoans for Safe Water are advancing a Lake Erie Bill of Rights that will appear on the ballot in February 2019.
Howard Garrett, co-founder of the Orca Network, supports the Declaration because he sees recognizing the Southern Residents’ inherent rights as “essential to the orca’s survival and well-being.”
Most scientists agree that a key to the Southern Resident Orcas’ survival lies in breaching the four lower Snake River dams. “Yet, politics keep getting in the way. Environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), are used to call for more studies (already done over 16 years ago) at a cost of $33 million and to excuse immediate action on dam breaching.” - Jim Waddell, US Army Corps Civil Engineer (Retired), and founder of Dam Sense.
Regulatory environmental laws in Canada have similarly failed the Orcas. The Canadian government refused an emergency order to protect the Orcas, and plans for the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline and subsequent increased tanker traffic further threatens the Orcas’ survival. “The Orcas know no borders, so neither do our efforts,” says Julia Nicholls, Save Our Whales, “we cannot hope to save the Orcas without working together.”
The coalition is calling upon all to act now (www.earthlawcenter.org/salish-sea-initiative) by signing on in support of the Declaration and committing to concrete actions that will advance the Orca’s rights, such as the passage of local laws that secure rights of the Orca and ecosystems upon which they depend, and contain specific, enforceable, actions to advance those rights.