Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Wednesday, October 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 36° Partly Cloudy
News >  Washington

Tribes sue Coast Guard over tanker traffic’s risk to orcas

Two orcas pop up in front of the Bremerton ferry leaving for Seattle April 3, 2017 off Bachmann Park in Bremerton. (LARRY STEAGALL / Larry Steagall/The Kitsap Sun)
Two orcas pop up in front of the Bremerton ferry leaving for Seattle April 3, 2017 off Bachmann Park in Bremerton. (LARRY STEAGALL / Larry Steagall/The Kitsap Sun)
Associated Press

SEATTLE – The Tulalip and Suquamish tribes are suing the Coast Guard, alleging a failure to protect endangered orcas from the risk of oil spills associated with tanker traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Tuesday, the tribes argue that the Coast Guard has failed to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service over the impact of the tanker traffic it regulates on the killer whales. The tribes say the risk has increased significantly since the Canadian government approved the expansion of the TransMountain pipeline last November. That decision is expected to increase tanker traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca sevenfold.

Chief Petty Officer David Mosley in Seattle said the Coast Guard is reviewing the complaint.

The tribes are represented by the environmental law firm Earthjustice. They seek an order requiring the Coast Guard to avoid harm to the whales until the agency consults with the fisheries service.

Individual Puget Sound orcas are identified by unique black and white markings or variations in their fin shapes, and each whale is given a number and a name. The Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island keeps the federal government’s annual census on the population.

Three families – the J, K, and L pods – are genetically and behaviorally distinct from other killer whales. They use unique calls to communicate with one another and eat salmon rather than marine mammals.

Their numbers have fluctuated in recent decades as they have faced threats from pollution, lack of prey and disturbance from boats. They were listed as endangered in 2005.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.


New health insurance plans available November 1 through Washington Healthplanfinder

 (Photo courtesy WAHBE)
Sponsored

Fall means the onset of the cold and flu season.