EDITORIAL | Whales’ benefits continue to grow

Langley’s love of whales for a number of years now has spurred an event called “Welcome the Whales,” which occurs again this weekend thanks to the organizational efforts of the Whidbey-based Orca Network and numerous other groups.

“Welcome the Whales” now is the culmination of Earth & Ocean Month, which has organized numerous events in April, thanks also to Goosefoot, the Citizens Climate Lobby, SEA (Service, Education and Adventure), South Whidbey Tilth, Whidbey EcoNet, Whidbey Geodome Project, Whidbey Watershed Stewards and the WSU / Island County Waste Wise program. The events have been publicized in this newspaper and can be found online at www.whidbeyearthday.org.

Due the totality and quality of the activities, from scientific to children’s education and just plain fun, the number of people involved both in producing and observing the events has grown impressively. It’s much more than the short, creative, Welcome the Whales Parade that started it all. It’s now a cumulative major attraction teaching about climate, whales’ importance as an indicator species for climate change and pollution, and other environmental values. Earth Day, April 22, is the center around which all these activities spin, keeping involved islanders hopping the entire month.

The climax occurs at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20 with the Welcome the Whales Festival & Parade.

Our gray whales, for decades virtually ignored during their springtime visit to Whidbey waters, are also turning into a financial boost, warming the hearts of all chamber of commerce members and anyone who wants help paying taxes.

The parade and various events attract people who spend money in Langley and surrounding areas, and now the Mystic Sea, in its first year of offering whale watching tours from Langley Marina, is generating cash.

At last week’s Port of South Whidbey meeting it was reported that more than 600 people took a tour in March and the port gets $1 a head for each passenger. That’s not much, but consider those 600 people shopping downtown, perhaps brought there by the Langley Main Street Association’s golf cart service. That’s a huge boost to business and generator of sales taxes to help the city function without asking its residents for more.

Whales now provide South Whidbey education, entertainment and a financial boost. It’s definitely time to celebrate. Be there Saturday and listen for the whale bell to ring.


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