Speaking Up for Ocean Health: 2023 Priorities in the Washington Legislature

Photo of the Washington State Capitol building with the words Let's speak up for ocean health and checkmarks for reducing plastic pollution, protecting salmon habitat, advancing orca recovery, protecting the Salish Sea, and supporting environmental justice.

As the Washington state legislative session begins, the Seattle Aquarium is working with partners to advance science-based policies and funding that will protect ocean health. Read on to learn about some of our top priorities for 2023—and how you can take action, too!

Reducing plastic pollution

Waste, including harmful plastics, accumulates in the ocean and on our shorelines, putting marine wildlife at risk. Single-use packaging represents a particularly significant environmental problem—very little of it is recycled. Packaging producers are best placed to change that by switching to readily available alternatives. We are advocating for bills that will incentivize producers to make such changes; modernize and transform our recycling system; and reduce sources of plastic pollution and waste.

The Washington Recycling and Packaging (WRAP) Act (SB 5154/HB 1131) will:

  • Make producers of packaging and paper products responsible for the full life cycle of their products and incentivize them to redesign packaging to be reusable, compostable or recyclable.
  • Ensure all Washington residents with garbage collection services also have access to recycling services.
  • Remove confusion about what is recyclable and what is not, through a harmonized statewide list—and ensure that what we put in our recycling bins will actually be turned into something new.

HB 1085 will:

  • Require bottle refill stations wherever a drinking fountain is required in all new buildings.
  • Eliminate small, hard-to-recycle plastic packaging for personal care products (like mini shampoo bottles and soap wrappers) in lodging establishments, in favor of bulk refillable dispensers or non-plastic packaging.
  • Ban foam-filled floats for docks to reduce a major source of plastic pollution in lakes and marine waters. 

We are also supporting a bill called Right to Repair, which would enable small businesses to repair personal electronic devices like cell phones so people can keep using them instead of buying new ones. This will help limit the need for new materials that may be sourced through harmful practices like seabed mining.

Protecting salmon and nearshore habitat

Salmon are keystone species and critical for Washington ecosystems and communities, as well as for the survival of the endangered southern resident orcas. We are supporting several policies and budget items to recover salmon and protect their habitat, including:

  • Filling data gaps about marine shoreline conditions through regular aerial and on-the-water surveys, which will enable strategic, targeted recovery actions to benefit salmon, orcas and the marine food web (SB 5104).
  • Increasing investments in salmon habitat restoration, including a $41M state investment in the Duckabush River Estuary Restoration project.

Advancing endangered southern resident orca recovery

This small population of orcas is at risk due to lack of prey, pollution and disturbance from vessels. To help ensure the recovery of this iconic and important species, we are supporting:

  • Implementing the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s (WDFW’s) science-based recommendations to give endangered orcas a 1,000-yard buffer from all small vessels so they can forage more successfully (HB 1145/SB 5371).
  • Quiet Sound program funding to reduce underwater noise and other impacts from large commercial vessels on endangered southern resident orcas ($350k/year).
  • Funding for improving oil spill response preparedness in the San Juan Islands and reducing risks to southern resident orcas from oil spills.

Protecting the health and biodiversity of the Salish Sea

We are supporting WDFW’s $47.6M Restoring Washington’s Biodiversity funding package, including $850,000 per biennium to support pinto abalone recovery.

Working with partners and advancing environmental justice

As a member of the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), we also support the other EPC and Partnership Agenda items including investing Climate Commitment Act revenue strategically and equitably and requiring local governments to incorporate climate resilience into comprehensive plans (HB 1181/SB 5203).

Raise your voice!

  • If you live in Washington state, speak up about your priorities for ocean and environmental health. Learn how to email your elected officials or call the toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 (TTY for hearing impaired: 800-833-6388) between 8am and 7pm, Monday through Friday, to leave a message for all three of your legislators at once.
  • Share your WA legislative district with us so we can reach out to you about supporting targeted policy actions where your legislator could cast a key vote.
  • Sign up to receive occasional action alerts on ocean-related policy issues.
  • Write a letter to the editor to share your view on a bill or budget item that you find particularly important. Download our guide if you need help getting started.
  • Discover additional ways you can help the marine environment by visiting our Take Action page.

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