Save the orcas of Puget Sound

By on November 21, 2018 with 0 Comments

Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington convened a task force to recommend steps to save critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. These orcas live in family groups in Puget Sound, and they and their habitat have been under threat for decades. Between the late 1960s and early 1970s, many were captured for use in zoos and aquariums, and those who remained in the wild have faced other challenges. Hydroelectric and flood control dams, for example, were erected along rivers feeding into the Sound, blocking the passage of salmon, on which the orcas feed.

There are now only 74 members of this beautiful and distinctive population of black-and-white whales alive, and their future is in jeopardy.

Last week, the task force released its recommendations. To our disappointment, there was an immediate focus on halting whale watching and pursuing Congressional action to kill seals and sea lions who also eat salmon. The task force decided to put off actions that most conservation groups and environmentalists agree can actually work, like closing some of the outdated and unused dams that block upstream passage for salmon. This was the solution most broadly supported in public comments to the task force, but the task force merely recommended their future study.

Sea lions too have come under attack in recent years. The federal government granted lethal take permits to Oregon and Washington, after rationalizing that sea lions are killing salmon and that killing them will in turn help the fish survive.

The salmon crisis cannot be blamed on seals and sea lions. The biggest problems are the dams and blocked stream passages that threaten the ability of salmon to travel upstream and reproduce.

The task force’s recommendations have drawn criticism from within. Ken Balcomb, a member of the task force who has also studied killer whales for decades, declared in a statement that he was “embarrassed for the conveners and participants of Orca Task Force who had to endure blatant and ill-informed political manipulation of a process launched with the good intention of doing something bold to help recover the Southern Resident Killer Whales.”

“Honesty was crushed by politics and vested interests, even within agencies whose responsibility it is to manage natural resources sustainably,” Balcomb added. Dan Paul, Washington senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States, was appointed to one of the work groups that focused on prey resources. He expressed disappointment that the task force majority recommended lethal actions that, in the end, are not likely to make much difference.

It is simpler to suggest killing a natural predator or halting an ecotourism activity than to take politically fraught actions such as removing outdated dams, restricting water withdrawals by farms and cities or allocating more funding to opening blocked culverts and silted streams. But the fundamental fact remains. Pointing fingers at easy targets like sea lions won’t save the salmon when the main threats to their survival are not adequately addressed.

There is no question that the orcas of Puget Sound need help, and fast. Females in one of the pods, named J-pod, have recently suffered reproductive failure. Few calves are born and most don’t live long enough to reproduce. Not long ago, millions around the world mourned when the calf of orca Tahlequah, J-35, died at birth, though for 17 days, the grieving mother continued to try to keep him afloat.

At the same time Scarlet, or J-20, a three-and-a-half- year-old orca, was showing signs of starvation. She eventually disappeared from the pod in September despite attempts by researchers to provide her with food and medication.

Killing sea lions to help orcas is not a humane nor sustainable solution, nor is halting whale watching, which, responsibly conducted, educates the public on conservation. We urge Gov. Inslee to reject these recommendations and start over, with a laser-like focus on the politically complex but commonsense changes that will improve the orcas’ habitat and open blocked passages for their natural salmon prey. There’s still time to save these whales, and the world is watching.

New Vietnam law mandates humane treatment of farm animals

By on November 20, 2018 with 0 Comments
New Vietnam law mandates humane treatment of farm animals

One of the biggest obstacles Humane Society International faces is the frequent lack of comprehensive animal welfare laws within some of the countries in which we work. While we don’t let this stop us from pushing forward with the means and tools available to us, . . . 

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HSUS Animal Rescue Team helping animals affected by California wildfires

By on November 19, 2018 with 0 Comments
HSUS Animal Rescue Team helping animals affected by California wildfires

Devastating fires are raging across California, in a terrible scene that has gripped the attention of the entire nation. There are more than 80 people confirmed dead, and countless more missing and displaced from their homes. As we’ve seen in many prior disaster scenarios, thousands . . . 

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Breaking news: House votes to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves

By on November 16, 2018 with 22 Comments
Breaking news: House votes to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves

In a shameless move that puts at risk one of America’s most valued and iconic native carnivores, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the continental United States. The bill, which passed today by a . . . 

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Alex the chimpanzee makes a long journey home

By on November 15, 2018 with 1 Comment
Alex the chimpanzee makes a long journey home

The Humane Society of the United States led a decades-long fight to end the use of chimpanzees in research. After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted on our petition to declare all chimpanzees as endangered in 2015, effectively ending such use, we supported the . . . 

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Urgent alert! Act now to stop major threat to wolves in Congress

By on November 14, 2018 with 9 Comments
Urgent alert! Act now to stop major threat to wolves in Congress

Congress will act this Friday on a bill that poses a terrible threat to wolves, and we urgently need your help to stop it. The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on the Manage our Wolves Act, H.R. 6784 – a bill that . . . 

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China should not lift 25-year ban on tiger and rhino parts trade

By on November 13, 2018 with 3 Comments
China should not lift 25-year ban on tiger and rhino parts trade

China has sent out conflicting messages over the past few weeks over its decision to lift a 1993 ban on the sale of tiger bones and rhino horns for medicinal use. Last month, its government formally rescinded the ban, and then earlier this week, a . . . 

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Ricky Gervais receives HSI’s first Cecil Award

By on November 12, 2018 with 6 Comments
Ricky Gervais receives HSI’s first Cecil Award

Three years ago, the American public roared in outrage upon learning of the killing of a beloved lion, Cecil, by an American trophy hunter. As terrible as that killing was, it was also a watershed moment for animal welfare – one that created a global . . . 

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HSUS, partners step in to help dogs rescued from a Louisiana puppy mill

By on November 9, 2018 with 1 Comment
HSUS, partners step in to help dogs rescued from a Louisiana puppy mill

Our work to tackle the puppy mill scourge is multifaceted and includes a range of tactics. We appeal to consumers to adopt animals from rescue groups and animal shelters, or to adopt from responsible breeders. We persuade pet stores to discontinue their reliance on puppy . . . 

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Second round of Spayathon for Puerto Rico will help 8,000 dogs and cats

By on November 8, 2018 with 1 Comment
Second round of Spayathon for Puerto Rico will help 8,000 dogs and cats

The Humane Society of the United States and its partners are back on the ground for the second round of Spayathon for Puerto Rico, an ambitious project that aims to provide free spay, neuter and vaccination services to 30,000 dogs and cats in the commonwealth . . . 

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