On February 14, 2023, the City Council of Bainbridge Island, Washington, signed a non-binding Proclamation declaring the rights of the Southern Resident Orcas, which 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.” The Proclamation also recognizes that “Nature and all living beings…and the ecosystems upon which they depend, are recognized as possessing inherent rights, including to exist, flourish, evolve, regenerate, recover, and be restored.”
The Proclamation also describes the City of Bainbridge Island’s support for action by local, state, federal and tribal governments that secure and effectuate the inherent rights of the Southern Resident Orcas.
This Proclamation follows similar proclamations in Washington State by the cities of Port Townsend, Gig Harbor, and Langley in December 2022, and Jefferson County and San Juan County in January and February 2023.
The campaign to recognize the rights of the Southern Resident Orca is led by the Earth Law Center (ELC) and partner, Legal Rights for the Salish Sea (LRSS), to protect and recover their population and the ecosystems on which they depend. The long-term goal is State level recognition of the population’s inherent rights. The campaign was launched in 2018 and in 2022 ELC created a template resolution that serves as the basis for the subsequent local-level proclamations.