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 theirpopularity, they’re also highly endangered and they’re quickly approaching the point of no return. Even with a smallbaby boom in recent years they’ve continued to sufferheartbreaking lossesthat 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 fromboat noiseto 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 the2002Lower 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 theSouthern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Initiative,Orca Network,Center for Whale Research, Dam Sense andWhale and Dolphin Conservation.

Photo credit: Getty Images


Mely Lu
Mely Lu8 days ago

signed. thanks for sharing

Jessica C
Jessica C9 days ago


rita uljee
rita uljee9 days ago

signed and what a horrible expectation this is!

Shae Lee
Shae Lee10 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Chad A
Chad A10 days ago

Thank you.

Lindsay K
Lindsay Kemp10 days ago

This is tragic! Many thanks for sharing


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 S10 days ago

Thank you for the post, petition signed.

Laura R
Laura R10 days ago

Signed, thanks.

Marija M
Marija M10 days ago

so very sad news...