On Friday, the Washington State House of Representatives passed three of 19th District Representative Rep. Brian Blake’s measures aimed at protecting orcas, celebrating clams, and increasing commercial fishing.
HB 1580 passed the House on a 78-20 vote. The bill reduces noise and disturbance from vessels to give Southern Resident Orcas space and quiet as they struggle to find food and survive.
Noise and harassment from vessels interfere with the whales’ ability to communicate with each other and to find prey. A “go slow” bubble around the iconic marine mammals, and an increase in distance between vessels and whales, will reduce noise immediately surrounding the orcas and will lessen disturbance that affects foraging and communication.
Along with Blake’s bill, the House passed a measure to reduce threats to the killer whales by investing in oil spill prevention, and another one to increases habitat for Chinook salmon – the primary food source for orcas.
HB 1061 passed the House on a unanimous vote, designating the Pacific Razor Clam as Washington’s official state clam.
In 2014, the Legislature named the Olympia Oyster (Ostrea lurida) the official state oyster in a separate bill from Blake.
HB 1062 also passed the House unanimously to expand access to commercial fishing opportunities by reducing the amount of capital necessary to get started.
Currently, banks can’t lend against the value of a license, which can be quite expensive.
In an example, a report from Blake states that a new commercial fishing permit might cost $110,000, and a new fishing boat might cost $200,000. Since current law allows the bank to issue loans only on the value of the boat, not the license, if the loan is at 65 percent of loan-to-value, it would amount to $130,000. So a commercial fisher would need about $180,000 up front just to enter the market.
Blake’s three bills are now in the Senate for further consideration.