Ray Pfortner

9 Ways to Help Orcas Now

Simple actions you can take today to look out for the future of our orcas

Earlier this summer, we watched in disbelief as the orca mother, Tahlequah, carried her dead calf for 17 days. Puget Sound orcas are struggling. From disrupted habitats, food source shortages, and poor water quality, the impacts humans have had on our regions’ orcas are staggering. Forterra is working on a landscape scale to protect our waterways to save critical salmon habitat. You can support our work, and make small changes today that can have a big impact over time. Here are a few steps you can take to help the orcas now.


Be mindful what you put down the drain

Trash and other poorly disposed materials can lead to back-ups and pollute waterways. Here are the proper ways to deal with common household refuse:

  • Trash: Drains are not trashcans, and trash should never go in the sink or toilet. Throw it away—but only after confirming that it cannot be recycled instead.
  • Grease, oil, and fats: Instead of putting these down the drain, collect them in an old can or other disposable container. Throw the whole container in the garbage when it’s full.
  • Food scraps: Use a sink strainer to keep food from going down the drain and dispose of collected scraps in the compost.
  • Unused medications: Never flush your pharmaceuticals. The process used to treat most wastewater can’t break down all the compounds in medicines, and these can end up in waterways and ocean food chains. To safely dispose of unused medications, mix them with an undesirable substance (such as coffee grounds or kitty litter) and place the mixture inside a sealed bag before placing it in the garbage. Alternatively, drop your unused medications off at a local pharmacy or community drug take-back program for proper disposal.

Say no to plastic

Much of the garbage that ends up in the oceans is plastic, including billions of plastic drink bottles and plastic bags. Get in the habit of carrying reusable containers—reusable tote bags, water bottles, coffee cups, produce bags, and take-out containers are all great places to start!


Along with reducing plastic use, another way to minimize the amount of garbage you’re creating that can end up in the ocean is to make sure you’re recycling all possible waste. Learn about what can (and cannot) go in your city’s recycling and then follow those guidelines carefully. Every little bit counts, and you may be surprised at all the recyclable materials you’ve spent years throwing away! If you want to recycle in theory but struggle to do it consistently, try setting up recycling cans alongside trash cans around your house to encourage diligent sorting of all rubbish.

Choose natural home and cleaning products

The toxic ingredients contained in many everyday products can easily get into our groundwater and water bodies. Next time you’re running low on a chemical-filled cleaning product, consider natural options, biodegradable options, or even home-made alternatives! From dishwasher detergent to tile cleaners to laundry soap, there are simple and inexpensive recipes out there for almost any cleaning product you could want.

Recipes for natural cleaning products can be found here.

Put nothing but rain down storm drains

Be careful about what you put down outdoor drains, directly or indirectly. When drains are used as dumping grounds, contaminants and pollutants can easily enter our waterways, damaging or killing marine plants and animals and throwing off entire food chains. Here are some common materials treat with caution:

  • Chemicals and detergents: If you need to wash your car (or dog or patio furniture), don’t just do it in your driveway or yard where soaps and other chemicals can run off into storm drains. Instead, take your car to a car wash where they recycle or discard water properly. For at-home projects, use a large tub to collect the dirty water you create and carefully dispose of it down an appropriate drain.
  • Pesticides and fertilizers: Whatever you put on your yard will end up somewhere. Try to use natural products to treat your yard or outdoor space. Just as with household cleaners, a short search will yield many simple and effective alternatives to harmful chemicals.
  • Bits of plastic and litter: Anything tossed in the street or dumped down storm drains, no matter how small, can end up in our waterways. Dispose of all trash, food, beverages, and recyclables appropriately.

Consume responsibly

Being a mindful consumer can help orcas, too. Eat responsibly sourced and sustainable seafood, choose whale watching and other nature tour companies that have a commitment to conservation and education, and avoid businesses that practice unethical treatment towards orcas and other marine life.

Give whales their space

Always respect whales in their habitat. Federal regulations require that boaters stay a minimum of 200 yards away from whales and always keep whales’ paths clear. By getting too close, making too much noise, or approaching too fast you can disrupt orcas’ socialization, feeding habits, rest habits, and cause them unnecessarily stress. Trying to get just a little bit closer to get the perfect picture is never worth the potential damage.

Make your vote count and your voice heard

Vote and speak up for policy makers who care about orcas, salmon, and their habitats; speak out against those who don’t. Contact your representatives and encourage them to make choices that benefit these marine populations.

Give to support the orcas

Support organizations protecting orcas and salmon

With so many orcas struggling to get enough food, helping salmon flourish is an essential part of helping orcas. Forterra is working in a variety of locations to improve water quality and restore salmon habitats, directly benefiting orca populations. From efforts to remove the Chambers Dam to the restoration of the Cedar River, Forterra’s work is making a difference for Northwest orcas.

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While some of these effects may seem more significant than others, remember that anything impacting even the smallest marine life can send ripples up the food chain, damaging orcas and hurting their chances of survival. Your actions, big or small, make a difference. If you’d like to support Forterra’s work, please donate below. The orcas will thank you!