Earth Law for the Southern Resident Orcas and Salish Sea

UPDATE: Partners in Pender Island, British Columbia, Canada have filed a petition with the North and South Pender Island Trustees to recognize the Rights of the Southern Resident Orcas! You can see the whole starting on page 425.

Despite being protected under multiple environmental statutes including the Endangered Species Act, action to recover the Southern Resident Killer Whales have been inadequate and slow. We need a solution that allow the species to recover, while restoring the health of the Salish Sea and allowing humans to live in harmony with the ecosystem. The solution is Earth Law.   

Both San Francisco and Malibu passed resolutions in 2014 on the rights of whales and dolphins, and over 20 countries now recognize the Rights of Nature (species and ecosystems) in law and/or through judicial decisions.                                     

what you can do

ELC is a part of a broad coalition of community groups, indigenous people’s, scientists, lawyers and NGOs working to recognize the Rights of the Southern Resident Orcas.

1) Sign and share the petition in support of the declaration. Let us know you shared it! Would you like to volunteer in the coalition? Email Michelle Bender

2) Present the declaration to your city council. You can either pass this declaration as a resolution or ordinance or use it as the foundation for your own Rights of Nature law or policy. Our partners have presented a petition to the Pender Trust Council!

Email a letter with the declaration to your council members, and follow up with phone calls. Ask for a meeting to discuss a new resolution or ordinance. Ask others to email letters of support as well. Here is a talking point sheet and FAQ to assist you.

3) Does your community have the right to local lawmaking by initiative? Engage in direct democracy by drafting and passing a law that recognizes the Rights of the Southern Resident Orcas, the Salish Sea, and other ecosystems. Need help getting started? Contact us today!

4) Mobilize your friends and gain support, bring this declaration to events and gatherings.

Do you have an event you are bringing this discussion to? Email the coalition and we can share with our channels!

5) Send a letter to your representatives- urging them to recognize the Rights of the Southern Resident Orcas. You can find your representatives here. Here is a sample letter you can use.

6) Look for opportunities to advocate for the Rights of the Southern Resident Orcas, and speak on behalf of the Orca. You can write letters to or attend the meetings of agencies and committees, such as the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife and their management boards, the WA Coastal Marine Advisory Committee and the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Make sure the Orca is included in management decisions, such as salmon fishery allocations!

Earth Law Center is partnering with Legal Rights for the Salish Sea (Gig Harbor community group), Pender Ocean Defenders, Elizabeth Dunne, PETA and the Nonhuman Rights Project to seek rights recognition for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population and the Salish Sea.

What will legal rights for the Orca mean? You can find out in our first Puget Sound Blog

Do you live in the Salish Sea Area? Contact us today if you think ELC can help your community or to join our team of 100+ volunteers please email Ocean Rights Manager Michelle Bender at