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County Council Awards Inherent Rights to Orca Whales

In a 4-3 vote, the Pierce County Council adopted a resolution proclaiming Rights of the Southern Resident Orcas in Pierce County. The rights of these orcas include the right to life, autonomy, culture, free and safe passage, and adequate food supply.

Rights also include the freedom from conditions causing physical, emotional, or mental harm, which includes a habitat degraded by noise, pollution, and contamination.

The resolution also urges action by state, federal, and tribal governments to secure the rights of the Southern Resident orcas and of the ecosystems upon which they depend. Only 3 or 4 jurisdictions have taken this action so far.

The community of Southern Residents live in Puget Sound and were listed as an endangered species in November 2005. Despite legal protections, this orca population has declined and they are now critically endangered. Just over 70 Southern Resident orcas are left in the wild.

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