Everyday actions for endangered orcas

It has been an eventful Orca Action Month 2019! Over the past few weeks we have seen some promising developments: the birth of a new calf, J56, and new measures to protect Canada’s marine waters from plastic pollution—two pieces of good news for endangered Southern Resident orcas. So how can we keep up the positive momentum? From our end, Georgia Strait Alliance will continue to advocate for the protection of this fragile population—there is so much more to do. You can also do your part by taking one, two or all of the 76 actions that can help reverse the decline of Southern Residents. The best chance the orcas have for recovery is if we take these actions all year long, and support greater action by government and industry to make changes that will benefit these whales for the long run.


Take these actions 12 months a year—and share them with your friends and family—so we can all positively impact the recovery of this iconic population year-round:
  1. Be Whale Wise: stay at least 400m from all orcas when on the water, as required by law.
  2. Pet waste can cause harmful bacteria to enter the ocean. Be an ocean-friendly dog owner and compost your dog waste or participate in your municipality’s pet waste program.
  3. Eat chocolate for a cause! Enjoy Denman Island Chocolate’s new Orca Bar and support GSA’s work on Southern Resident Orcas.
  4. Say no to farmed salmon that is unsustainably raised in open-net pens and always ask where your salmon comes from.
  5. DIY: prevent toxic chemicals from entering the ocean by making your own laundry soap.
  6. Check out the Whale Trail for a zero impact whale watching experience.
  7. Visit a package-free store like Nada Grocery in Vancouver and minimize waste that could end up in the ocean.
  8. Write a letter to your political representatives and let them know why Southern Resident orca conservation is important.
  9. Learn more about Southern Resident orcas by visiting your local marine education centre. Check out the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea and the Beatty Biodiversity Museum.
  10. Grow your own food: the beginning of June is a great time to start gardening. Growing your own food reduces the environmental footprint of your diet and helps promote a healthy environment.
  11. Participate in a shoreline cleanup and prevent waste from entering the ocean.
  12. Host an ocean-themed movie night: check out Mission Blue to learn more about the importance of ocean conservation.
  13. Take transit and reduce the impact of your commute.
  14. Organize or attend a rally: get the attention of decision-makers by raising your voice in support of Southern Resident orcas.
  15. Join Georgia Strait Alliance’s Orca Action Team for more on how you can make a difference!
  16. Build your own rain garden to help minimize the impact of stormwater on the ocean.
  17. Carry a reusable water bottle and hot drink mug and reduce the single-use plastics you use.
  18. DIY: make your own shampoo and prevent toxic chemicals from going down your drain and entering the ocean.
  19. Entertain in an ocean-friendly way and host a zero-waste potluck.
  20. Wondering what to serve at your zero-waste potluck? Make sure to purchase sustainable seafood from your local fishmonger, like the Daily Catch.
  21. Make sure to always use reusable cloth shopping bags, which have a smaller footprint than single-use and reusable plastic bags.
  22. Turn your zero-waste potluck into a movie night and watch an oldie-but-a-goodie: No Impact Man and be inspired to minimize your footprint.
  23. At your potluck, or anytime, get creative! Statement-making art pieces, such as those made out of recycled material are a great way to increase awareness of Southern Resident orcas.
  24. Participate in conservation-based research and submit your sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises to the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network.
  25. If your car needs a clean, visit a self-serve or tunnel carwash instead of washing your vehicle on your driveway–this will prevent toxic cleaning products from entering the ocean.
  26. June is a beautiful month to get back into the habit of self-powered and ocean-friendly transportation like walking and cycling!
  27. Become a member of your local Streamkeepers organization and help protect salmon. Chinook salmon make up over 80% of the Southern Resident orca diet.
  28. Get into nature and explore B.C.’s coast and the Salish Sea – book a trip with a responsible ecotourism company like Spirit of the West!
  29. Conserve fresh water. Warming weather is a reminder to use freshwater sparingly – salmon need all they can get to reach their spawning grounds.
  30. Buy an orca pin – it’s a win-win: show your love for endangered Southern Residents and support Georgia Strait Alliance!
  31. Go single-use plastic-free for a day, week or longer. One of the best ways to realize how reliant we are on plastic is to try and stop using it. You may be surprised by how much plastic you use. Awareness is the first step towards minimizing your use of single-use plastics.
  32. Advocate for better wastewater treatment. What goes down our drains ends up in the ocean and eventually as toxic contamination in the bodies of endangered Southern Resident orcas. Advancing wastewater treatment for the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant is an effective way to prevent this from happening. Get started here!
  33. Be an ocean-friendly pet owner: never flush cat litter down the drain and make sure to use eco-friendly cat litter that is sustainably produced to prevent harmful bacteria and diseases from impacting wildlife downstream. Learn more about eco-friendly pet waste practices here.
  34. Next time you need to make a retail purchase, check out a thrift store or second-hand website. Reducing the number of new items we are buying reduces the need for manufacturing, shipping and packaging.
  35. DIY: make your own lip balm and store it in a glass container. Here’s a great recipe you can try!
  36. Keep your vehicle maintained. If you have to drive, ensure your vehicle is well maintained. A well-tuned engine pollutes less. Always dispose of fluids and batteries responsibly, check out your local waste and recycling facilities for more information.
  37. Watch the Clean Bin Project, an eye-opening documentary about a couple that embarks on a waste-free life, for your next ocean-friendly movie night.
  38. Shop local: buying items produced close to home means less pollution from packaging and shipping, both of which have an impact on Southern Resident orcas.
  39. Wear clothes made from natural fibers. Microplastics from synthetic fabrics like polyester are sloughed in the laundry machine and end up in the ocean.
  40. Engage your local retailers in conversations about what they are doing to tackle the issue of single-use plastics. Retailers are more motivated to make changes when asked by their customer base.
  41. Reuse. If you found yourself in a situation where single-use plastics were unavoidable, ask yourself how you can reuse those items to reduce the need for similar items in the future.
  42. Refuse. If you find yourself in a situation where single-use plastics are unavoidable, try and limit yourself to transparent items. Plastics that are opaque or coloured are much more difficult to recycle and often end up in a landfill.
  43. DIY: make your own toothpaste. Many kinds of toothpaste contain small particles of plastic meant to exfoliate as you brush. These can easily end up in the ocean. Making your own plastic-free version is healthier for you and the Salish Sea!
  44. Did you know a single head of lettuce takes 25 years to breakdown in a landfill? Composting is one way to reduce the waste you produce, but eliminating food waste is even better!
  45. Make your vote count. In October 2019, there will be a federal election. It’s important that you get out and vote, and lend your support to platforms that support ocean-friendly initiatives.
  46. Be an ocean-friendly pet owner: buy ocean-friendly pet food. Fish is a common ingredient in dog food, so make sure that the seafood in your pet’s food comes from a sustainable source. Many pet food products containing sustainable seafood will be labeled with an eco-certification logo like Ocean Wise.
  47. DIY: make your own ocean-friendly dog treats! If your dog can tolerate these simple ingredients, try making this zero-waste treat recipe, it’s a great way to reduce the need for plastic packaging that could end up in the ocean.
  48. Share the story of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. Storytelling is a powerful way to convey the importance of protecting nature. Share your favourite thing about Southern Residents with someone who may not know about why they are endangered and inspire them to take action!
  49. Ocean-themed movie night: check out Racing Extinction to learn more about the issues of endangered species and mass extinction.
  50. Organize a rally and advocate for Southern Resident orca protection in your community. Taking collective action is a great way to bring this issue to the attention of your local representatives.
  51. DIY: making your own all-purpose cleaner is a great way to prevent harmful household chemicals from flowing down your drain and into the ocean. Check out this recipe to learn how.
  52. Give ocean-friendly gifts! Gift one of the DIY recipes or sustainable products from this list or give the gift of an experience instead of buying something new. This is an eco-friendly way to reduce the impact commercial product manufacturing and packaging.
  53. Conserve electricity. Reduce your carbon footprint and the impact of climate change on the ocean by unplugging anything you are not currently using and only using lighting when necessary.
  54. Symbolically adopt a Southern Resident orca and support the conservation-based research conducted by Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard and the Coastal Ocean Research Institute’s Marine Mammal Research Program.
  55. Rent clothes instead of buying new! This is a great way to refresh your wardrobe and reduce the need for manufacturing new clothing, a process that uses a significant amount of water and energy.
  56. Create a direct link between you and the food you eat by joining a Community-supported agriculture program (CSA). You will receive a regular supply of fresh, sustainable, seasonal produce from local farmers. CSAs are a healthy way to support local agriculture and minimize the impact of food production on the ocean.
  57. Say no to plastic straws, which can end up in the ocean and harm marine wildlife like Southern Resident orcas. If you do not need a straw, skip the straw section next time you are shopping and remember to tell your server you don’t need a straw when ordering at a restaurant.
  58. Innovate! Do you have a creative solution that can help reverse the decline of Southern Resident orcas? Don’t let your idea go unheard. Let us know what you have in mind or participate in a program that can help you develop your idea like Sea Smart School in Metro Vancouver.
  59. Report marine mammal emergencies or incidents. If you see an orca or other marine mammal in distress, contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Marine Mammal Response Program at 1.800.465.4336 or on VHF radio channel 16 as soon as possible. The Response Program is responsible for taking timely, scientific action to assist distressed or deceased marine mammals on the B.C. coast.
  60. Refill, refill, refill! Plastic packaging can end up in the ocean in large pieces or toxic microplastics. Bring your reusable containers to a retailer who can supply you with personal care products and household staples like the Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and minimize your use of plastic.
  61. Recycle: if you have recyclable materials that require special handling or a quantity that exceeds the size of your curbside bin, visit a recycling depot to make sure your items avoid the landfill. Vancouver’s Zero Waste Centre is a great place to start!
  62. Ocean-themed movie night: watch End of the Line, a documentary about the devastating effect of overfishing and how consumers, corporations and governments can tackle the issue.
  63. Be an ocean-friendly pet owner: use less plastic. Treat and food packaging, waste bags and toys can all come with wasteful packaging. Take advantage of bulk pet food sections at your local retailers, or ask your pet store for more package-free options.
  64. Responsibly dispose of unused pharmaceuticals. Never flush medication down the drain, as pharmaceuticals that end up in waterways can cause damage by changing and environment’s chemistry. Return unused drugs to a pharmacy for responsible disposal.
  65. DIY: make your own natural deodorant with natural earth-friendly ingredients and store it in a glass container. Here’s a flexible recipe that you can tweak to meet your needs.
  66. Make a retirement plan for your boat! Abandoned and derelict vessels post environmental contamination and safety risks. Learn how to responsibly dispose of your vessel here.
  67. Reduce: overconsumption leads to excess and waste, which can mean more ocean pollution. Before your next shopping trip ask yourself: do you need or want that item? Saying no can be empowering!
  68. DIY: make your own glass and mirror cleaner out of natural ingredients instead of using sprays made of harmful chemicals that can end up in the ocean.
  69. Be a green boater. Are you using boating best practices for fueling, maintenance, waste disposal and marine wildlife viewing? Check out Georgia Strait Alliance’s Guide to Green Boating for ways you can minimize the impact from your vessel.
  70. Meet with your local representatives – bonus points for doing so outside! A face-to-face conversation with current government representatives is one of the most effective ways to communicate why Southern Resident orca protection matters.
  71. Protect yourself from the sun in an ocean-friendly way. Some sunscreens contain ingredients toxic to the marine environment. Make sure you are using natural mineral-based sunscreen – Canadian company Green Beaver makes some great options.
  72. Be an ocean-friendly pet owner: DIY your cat’s life! The Sierra Club has compiled a handy list of ways you can make your own cat-care products and minimize the environmental impact of cat ownership.
  73. Increase your ocean IQ with podcasts. Local marine-based series like Ocean Wise’s My Ocean and Future Ecologies are great places to learn about marine conservation.
  74. Follow a sustainable diet that goes beyond responsibly sourced seafood. The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health recently presented a diet that is healthy for people and the planet. The good news is that it is possible to enjoy the foods you love in a way that has a positive impact on the ocean!
  75. It is no secret that Southern Resident orcas do not have enough food to eat. Stocks of their primary prey, Chinook salmon, are dwindling. Salmon habitat restoration is one way to support stock recovery. Supporting your local restoration project, like the City of Surrey’s Salmon Habitat Restoration Program can help tackle this issue.
  76. Volunteer! Volunteers are the lifeblood of Georgia Strait Alliance and we wouldn’t be able to help preserve and protect our coastal waters and communities without you. We invite you to join us in our campaign to protect Southern Resident orcas!

Thank you for doing your part to protect Southern Residents and for celebrating Orca Action Month with us!  These whales are an important part of this place we call home, and together, we will ensure that they can continue to thrive in the Salish Sea.


Donate for Orcas Today!

Donating to an effective marine conservation organization like Georgia Strait Alliance makes a big difference to the health of orcas and their habitat. Your tax-deductible donation will help GSA advocate for meaningful action for orca recovery and share ways we can all do our part to protect orcas with more people like you.