More Endangered Orcas in the Pacific Northwest Predicted to Die Soon

Following an already tragic year for critically endangered orcas living in the Pacific Northwest, experts now believe more are starving and won’t make it through the spring.

These orcas, who are otherwise known as the southern resident killer whales, live in three distinct pods (J,K and L) that travel through Puget Sound, the Straight of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca during the summer months before migrating to open ocean in the winter.

Despite their popularity, they’re also highly endangered and they’re quickly approaching the point of no return. Even with a small baby boom in recent years they’ve continued to suffer heartbreaking losses that have made their extinction an increasingly likely scenario.

Today, with just 74 individuals left, their population is the lowest it’s been in 35 years. Unfortunately, things aren’t getting any better for them. According to the Center for Whale Research, which keeps an official census of these orcas, two more are in poor condition and aren’t expected to survive much longer.

“I am confident we are going to lose them sometime before summer,” Ken Balcomb, founding director of the Center for Whale Research, told the Seattle Times.

Recent drone images taken of J17, a 42-year-old female, show she has “peanut head,” or a misshapen head that’s caused by starvation, while K25, a 27-year-old male, is also suffering from a lack of food following the loss of his mother in 2017 who would have otherwise helped him survive.

While these two may not have been individually in the spotlight, they’re closely tied to the heartbreaking losses their family has continued to suffer. Over the summer, J17′s daughter drew international attention to their plight after carrying her deceased calf for 17 days in what scientists called an unprecedented display of mourning. Now, she’s facing losing her mother.

Although these orcas continue to face a host of threats ranging from boat noise to pollution, one of their biggest problems now is a lack of their main food source: Chinook salmon, which is also endangered.

While actions have been taken in both the U.S. and Canada to help them, their advocates have continued to argue that we’re not going far enough and are still pushing to breach four deadbeat dams along the Snake River to restore salmon runs.

This is something that could be started now without further study or delay by using the 2002 Lower Snake River Environmental Impact Statement, which concluded dam breaching is the best way to help recover salmon on the Snake River, which produces half of the salmon found in the Columbia Basin.

What remains to be seen is whether or not officials will act to get this done, or if we’re going to have to watch these orcas disappear one by one until they’re gone forever and regret having wasted an opportunity to save them.


You can help by signing and sharing the petition calling on officials in Washington to take immediate action to breach the four lower Snake River dams.

For more on efforts to help them in the U.S., check out the Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon InitiativeOrca NetworkCenter for Whale Research, Dam Sense and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Photo credit: Getty Images


Tabot T
Tabot T5 months ago

Thanks for sharing!

Mark D
Mark Donner6 months ago

Breach the goddamn dams. And get rid of the criminal politicians who are against that.

Mely Lu
Mely Lu6 months ago

signed. thanks for sharing

Jessica C
Jessica C6 months ago


rita uljee
rita uljee6 months ago

signed and what a horrible expectation this is!

Shae Lee
Shae Lee6 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Chad A
Chad Anderson6 months ago

Thank you.

Lindsay K
Lindsay K6 months ago

This is tragic! Many thanks for sharing

JinnySITEISSUES L6 months ago

Unacceptable and disturbing. Action completed on August 15th. If members of Care2 really care about the survival of other species please sign the petition. Thanks for sharing.

Brandy S
Brandy S6 months ago

Thank you for the post, petition signed.