Whidbey nonprofits and organizations are teaming up to educate members of the public on how they can do their part to help endangered orcas.
Orca Recovery Day is Oct. 15. This year will be the fifth annual celebration of the regional event, coordinated by the Whidbey Island Conservation District and its partners throughout the Puget Sound area.
Allison Rinard, community engagement manager for the conservation district, said as Chinook salmon populations decline due to habitat loss, climate change and increased pollution, Southern Resident orcas suffer from the increasing scarcity of their primary food source.
Hope remains for orcas, however; Rinard said salmon runs increased during the pandemic, which bodes well for the local orca pod. Residents of the Puget Sound region can capitalize on this positive turn of events by taking action to preserve the environment, such as planting native trees and shrubs, cleaning up trash on roads and beaches, expanding green space by their homes or offices or donating to organizations working to preserve marine habitats.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Rinard wrote in an email. “With all of us working together, there’s still time to save our orcas.”
Whidbey residents can learn more about how to aid Southern Resident orcas at a number of educational events taking place on Orca Recovery Day and at other times throughout the month.
At 9:30 a.m. Oct. 13, Washington State Parks is collaborating with the Coupeville library to put on a special Ranger Reads program highlighting orcas and their environments.
The Coupeville library maintains rain gardens that manage stormwater to make it safer and cleaner for orcas and other marine life. At another event taking place at the Coupeville library, participants can help the Whidbey Island Conservation District to rejuvenate the library’s rain garden and add pollinator habitat while learning about sustainable gardening practices from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 15.
Another rain garden work party will take place from 12 to 2 p.m. Oct. 15 at Greenbank Farm. Then from 2 to 4 p.m., master gardeners will give a presentation on sustainable gardening practice called “Orca and Salmon Health Start Uphill.” Throughout the afternoon, WSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers will be available to answer gardening questions.
Those interested in volunteering can also join Northwest Straits Foundation and Island County Marine Resources Committee from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 15 at 200 Cornet Bay Road on North Whidbey to remove weeds and spread mulch on the shoreline. Volunteers will have the opportunity to go on a walking tour of the restoration sites at Cornet Bay to learn about how restoration efforts benefit orcas.
Then, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. the same day, Lisa Kaufman from Northwest Straits Foundation will lead an educational walk from the Cornet Bay restoration site to Hoypus Point, where the foundation and the marine resources committee are removing 350 feet of shoreline armor to restore nearshore processes to benefit forage fish, salmon and orcas.
On the South End, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Oct. 15, folks can visit the Langley Whale Center to pledge to assist with recovery efforts before joining the Orca Network for a cleanup at Double Bluff Beach.
History will come to life from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Orca Recovery Day at the Island County Historical Museum, where 15 participants ages 16 and older may take part in a workshop on southern resident orca captures in the 1960s and 70s. Participants will hear a presentation from Orca Network President Howard Garrett and can participate in painting and writing exercises with artist Jeanne Dodds and writer Miranda Mellis.
From 3:30 to 5 p.m. Oct. 15 at Fort Casey State Park, Whidbey residents can observe the NOAA Marine Debris Survey Program in action. Volunteers with Sound Water Stewards, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and WSU Extension will collect data for the survey while hosting an information booth for visitors. This event will feature hands-on, family friendly activities and a tank of live barnacles.
Later in the month, the Blue Fox Drive-In will host the Orca Network for an event on orcas and salmon, featuring activities for all ages, information booths and a documentary screening.
More information about events can be found online at www.whidbeycd.org/events.