By Mellow DeTray
During the Feb. 23, 2023 City Council Meeting, Des Moines resident Lloyd Lytle asked Council to support a proclamation in honor of the rights of Southern Resident Orcas. Just two weeks later, an official proclamation was issued.
The Southern Resident Orcas are a group of smaller orcas native to the North Pacific Ocean. Their number has dwindled to only 73 members in the wild, despite being protected since they were labeled as endangered by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2005. Their population now has become critically endangered.
These orcas, which eat exclusively fish, play an important role in the ecosystem of our waterways, as well as being an indicator of ocean health. They are adversely affected by noise and toxic contaminants in the water, as well as scarcity of their primary food source, chinook salmon.
Orcas have unique personalities, displaying affection, playfulness, and even grief. In 2018, a female member of the Southern Resident Orcas made headlines as she refused to abandon her stillborn calf, carrying it with her for 17 days.
The Lummi Nation, native people to this area, have been instrumental in the movement to protect the rights of Orcas. They consider orcas to be “our relatives under the water”. Raynell Morris, Lummi Matriarch, said that it is a sacred obligation to heal and protect our whale relatives.
The Rights of Orcas recognised in the Des Moines Proclamation include “the right to life, autonomy, culture, free and safe passage, adequate food supply from naturally occurring sources, and freedom from conditions causing physical, emotional, or mental harm, including a habitat degraded by noise, pollution, and contamination”.
Des Moines joins a growing number of cities and counties issuing such proclamations, in a movement that is working toward statewide protective action. Local resolutions and proclamations are an effective tool in the move to State action. Organizers hope to have a state bill addressing this issue by 2024.
Here’s the full proclamation:
Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. She has volunteered at many local establishments over the years, including the Burien Library, Burien Actors Theatre, and Hot Feet Fitness. After working for ten years at Burien Community Center, she moved on to teaching fitness classes and to work the front desk of a Burien yoga studio. For many years Mellow kept a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.