Over the past few months, we’ve talked a lot about different bills that are working their way through the State Legislature in Olympia. There are so many important things being considered during this legislative session, and I’m proud of the work that my colleagues and I have done so far.
This week, I want to discuss an incredibly important bill that we are working on – SB537, which would help to protect our Southern Resident Killer Whales.
SB537 has already passed the State Senate, and we are currently working on it in the People’s House. It would require that recreational and commercial boats follow the same regulations that whale watching boats are required to follow – namely, maintaining a distance of at least 1,000 yards from any Southern Resident Killer Whales.
This is an important step to take to protect the beautiful creatures who call our shores home. We know from generations of experience living alongside these Killer Whales – and from a 2022 Report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife – that bringing our boats and ships too close to the Southern Residents can have incredibly harmful effects.
The 1,000-yard buffer is the best way we can support their survival. We have observed that these Orca are heavily impacted by noise and disturbance. Female Killer Whales will stop hunting and feeding their babies when there is too much noise in the surrounding water, instead taking the time to move and try to find a quiet place to nurse and hunt.
With 1,000 yards between our ships and these whales, the noise is found to be less impactful on their habits and mannerisms. This is a clear step that we should take in order to protect our seafaring neighbors, and I am proud to support this legislation.
An important point to mention as this bill is considered – tribal and commercial harvest fishing vessels will be exempt while harvesting, as it would be dangerous for the fishing boats and whales if abrupt action needed to be taken while gear is in the water.
It will take a strong 40th team – and I am glad to have my colleagues from the 40th alongside me in Olympia for this important mission – to save our Southern Resident Killer Whales, and I am confident we will have real bipartisan support as this makes its way to Governor Inslee’s desk.
Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday.
“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy”
Rep. Debra Lekanoff
Our Sacred Obligation
Last month, we talked about the virtual screening of Our Sacred Obligation, hosted by Children of the Setting Sun. It was a beautiful time – highlighting Our Sacred Obligation, which covers the ongoing movement to restore salmon to abundance.
This week, I am happy to let you know that we had an incredible event with state legislators and Washington’s tribal leaders discussing the need to ensure our salmon population is sustainable.
I was proud to host this event for and with Children of the Setting Sun, and happy to join Children of the Setting Sun President Darrell Hillaire and Governors Office on Indian affairs with tribal chairs to educate our legislators on the intertwined values of salmon into our traditional laws and decision making in our governance and daily lives.
The documentary screening included perspectives from Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe Chairwoman Frances Charles, as well as Nisqually Chairman Willie Frank, Squaxin Chairman Kris Peters, and Lummi Nation Chairman Anthony Hillaire. Additional Lummi Nation Council leaders included Lisa Wilson, Jim Washington and former Lummi Nation Chairman Darrell Hillaire. Hillaire went on to found CSSP, a production company focused on telling stories from tribal perspectives. “Our Sacred Obligation” is the latest in a portfolio of films that feature Native and Indigenous perspectives.
Conversations of sovereignty, culture, salmon, and governmental relationships are intertwined together, these matters are meaningful to all of us and allow us to engage in important conversations that fill our hearts and minds and strengthen relationships with our tribal leaders.
If you’d like to check out the screening and speakers at the event, click here.
This is an incredibly important mission we are on, and I am grateful that there are so many other people who are similarly passionate about supporting our salmon population, and taking the necessary steps to help them thrive.
Here is a quick write-up about the film:
“Our Sacred Obligation recounts the history of the Yurok Tribe’s struggle against the colonization of the Klamath River, which has sustained them since time immemorial. A land reclamation project and a series of dams have brought the Klamath River salmon populations to the brink of extinction. But the Yurok are fighting back. Supported by their ancestors and the recent success of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe on the Elwha River, the Yurok are using their sovereign treaty rights to fulfill their sacred obligation to bring down the dams and restore the river.
For more information about the Salmon People Project, please visit salmonpeopleproject.org.”
This past week, I was able to take the time and meet with so many incredible individuals. I’m always grateful to those who spend a moment or two with me, discussing what is important to them, and how we can best move forward.
I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of the great meetings I was able to have this week – thank you to everyone who said hello!
First, Whatcom County Commissioner Kaylee Galloway and Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu joined me in my office this week. It was a pleasure to sit down with them and discuss the great work we are doing to support or communities.
Next, I would like to wish a happy Tulip Festival to everyone in the Skagit! I was honored to have the official Tulip Festival Ambassadors visit my office this week – they were so professional, and an absolute delight to meet!
I’d also like to shoutout Donna and Tim for sharing their good work on saving the Southern Resident Killer Whales! We are lucky to stand side by side as we continue working every day on this important issue. Thank you for your work!
Finally, thank you to Sauk Suaittle Police Chief Sherman Pruitt, and Langley Chief of Police Tavier Wasser for taking the time to provide guidance on public safety and important matters in our northern lands. It was wonderful to see you!
Once again, I would like to express my thanks to everyone who took the time to speak with me. I am so grateful to have you involved in this important process, and am glad to have had a chance to listen and learn from each of your experiences.