Nora Nickum has been working at the Seattle Aquarium as the Ocean Policy Manager since late 2018 after supporting the Governor’s Orca Task Force as project manager in its first year. Nora grew up in the Seattle area where she spent her summers joyfully waiting on the shores of the Salish Sea for orcas to pass by. But she has watched their decline over the years.
The Seattle Aquarium’s mission is to inspire conservation of the marine environment, and orca and salmon recovery are among their top priorities in terms of policy, education, and outreach. They actively advocate for both state and federal policies in order to help orca and salmon recovery by addressing all the threats these animals face.
Nora emphasized the importance of vessel regulations in the interim while we work to rejuvenate salmon populations and clean up toxic pollution. Reducing vessel noise and presence would give orcas a quiet, more expansive space to better forage for the dwindling salmon population they depend on. Additionally, as their food sources dwindle, orcas have to rely more and more on energy from their stored blubber where toxic pollutants have accumulated over time. Ultimately, returning abundant salmon populations will be key to orca survival. She stated that “We need to keep our eyes on the number one issue: there’s not enough quality food for them. But we need to address all the other things too and see how they’re linked”
Nora underlined the need for us to take collective action to help in orca recovery, saying that “raising your voice is a fundamental thing to do.” We must do everything we can to continue to show our elected officials that recovery actions must be expanded in scale and accelerated “if we’re going to help these orcs recover before it’s too late.”