New Washington State Orca Recovery Coordinator Named

Posted May 18, 2021 at 4:30 am by

From Wash­ing­ton State Recre­ation and Con­ser­va­tion Office

Con­tributed Photo/Washington State. Tara Galuska.

The Governor’s Salmon Recov­ery Office has named Olympia res­i­dent and long-time envi­ron­men­tal advo­cate Tara Galus­ka to coor­di­nate the state’s orca recov­ery efforts.

As orca recov­ery coor­di­na­tor, Galus­ka will be work­ing with part­ners to help imple­ment rec­om­men­da­tions of Gov. Jay Inslee’s South­ern Res­i­dent Killer Whale Task Force and track­ing accomplishments.

“I am very pas­sion­ate about this work and excit­ed that Wash­ing­ton has embraced orca recov­ery as a pri­or­i­ty,” Galus­ka said. “I know that there are many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who are equal­ly pas­sion­ate about these beau­ti­ful, icon­ic marine mam­mals, and I hope that togeth­er we can make a dif­fer­ence in the orcas’ pop­u­la­tion and health.”

South­ern Res­i­dent killer whales, or orcas, have decreased in num­bers from 98 in 1995 to 75 as of Feb­ru­ary, caus­ing them to be pro­tect­ed under the fed­er­al Endan­gered Species Act.

In 2018, Inslee cre­at­ed the South­ern Res­i­dent Killer Whale Task Force to look for ways to improve the plight of orcas.

The task force met for near­ly 2 years and rec­om­mend­ed 49 actions, many of which are being imple­ment­ed now indi­vid­u­al­ly by state agen­cies and oth­ers. There has been no per­son charged with coor­di­nat­ing the task force’s efforts until now.

“We’re thrilled to have Tara onboard,” said JT Austin, senior pol­i­cy advi­sor on nat­ur­al resources for the Gov­er­nor. “Tara has a proven track record of work­ing through com­plex issues and work­ing with dif­fer­ent groups to accom­plish goals. Her knowl­edge of salmon, the whale’s pri­ma­ry food source, and oth­er water issues will be invaluable.”

Galus­ka man­ages the Salmon Recov­ery Sec­tion of the Wash­ing­ton State Recre­ation and Con­ser­va­tion Office, which pro­vides $240 mil­lion to sev­en major salmon and ecosys­tem recov­ery pro­grams every bien­ni­um. Before that, she was an envi­ron­men­tal spe­cial­ist and plan­ner for two oth­er state nat­ur­al resource agen­cies, work­ing on water qual­i­ty studies.

Galus­ka has ded­i­cat­ed most of her career to salmon recov­ery and envi­ron­men­tal issues and has non­prof­it expe­ri­ence in out­reach and edu­ca­tion. She has been a whale watch­ing nat­u­ral­ist in the San Juan Islands; a pro­gram coor­di­na­tor aboard the
1913 wood­en sail­ing schooner, the Adven­turess; a field sem­i­nar instruc­tor in Olympic Nation­al Park; a man­ag­er and field biol­o­gist for a Cos­ta Rican con­ser­va­tion cen­ter; and a pub­lic pro­grams man­ag­er for the Lawrence Hall of Sci­ence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berkeley.

Galus­ka has a bach­e­lor of sci­ence degree in envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence, pol­i­cy, and man­age­ment from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley and a master’s degree in envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies from The Ever­green State College.

“We have so many tough chal­lenges ahead to increase the orca pop­u­la­tions,” Galus­ka said. “It will require all of us work­ing togeth­er to change their fate. I can’t imag­ine any more impor­tant work than sav­ing this beloved sym­bol of the spir­it of the Pacif­ic Northwest.”

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Categories: Animals, Nature, Wildlife

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