In February, 2016, the National Marine Fisheries Service singled out the Southern Resident Killer Whales as one of the eight species most at risk of extinction in their “Species in the Spotlight: Survive to Thrive” report to congress. The Southern Resident population is threatened primarily by lack of food due to declining chinook salmon runs; toxic pollution and other contaminants; climate change; noise and disturbance. The whale protection zone Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance is advocating for would give the population more quiet time for hunting, communications, and rest.

Major Recent Press

Effects of Climate Change on Krill. Research on krill larva has shown that increased levels of carbon dioxide dissolved in water can prevent krill eggs from hatching. This finding is a troubling suggestion that increased levels of CO2 in ocean water, particularly in the Antarctic, one of the fastest warming parts of the planet, may have serious repercussions for the marine food chains that rely on krill. If current carbon emissions remain steady, the Antarctic could see a 20-70% reduction in the krill population by 2100. Oct. 29, 2015

Concerns Mount over Whale Deaths in Gulf of Alaska. Warm waters off British Columbia and in the Gulf of Alaska may be responsible for the death of 30 whales in 2015. This “unusual mortality event”, which represents a threefold increase over the standard mortality rate of whales in the region, is likely due to predation, starvation, or disease, possibly resulting from the unusually warm waters in the North Pacific, which may be altering prey behavior or contributing to algal blooms that produce deadly toxins. Research is ongoing to determine the cause of these whale deaths. August 24, 2015

Climate Change Flooding App Developed. A new app has been developed to model potential flood scenarios for the Seattle area based on current global warming trends. The app uses data about sea level rise combined with potential flooding from the Snohomish River to model what flood levels would look like in various carbon emission scenarios, as well as with different flood levels. The app can be accessed at (Courtesy of Salish Sea News)

Key Documents

Climate Change, Evidence & Causes (an overview from the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences) makes clear what is well-established and where understanding is still developing. It echoes and builds upon the long history of climate-related work from both national academies, as well as on the newest climate-change assessment from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It touches on current areas of active debate and ongoing research, such as the link between ocean heat content and the rate of warming. February 27, 2014

Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Washington State: Technical Summaries for Decision Makers summarizes existing knowledge about the likely effects of climate change on Washington State and the Pacific Northwest, with an emphasis on research since 2007. This “State of Knowledge” report provides technical summaries detailing observed and projected changes for Washington’s climate, water resources, forests, species and ecosystems, coasts and ocean, infrastructure, agriculture, and human health in an easy-to-read summary format designed to complement the foundational literature from which it draws. The report also describes climate change adaptation activities underway across the state and data resources available to support local adaptation efforts. Prepared for the Washington State Department of Ecology. 2013

Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action, Washington State’s Strategic Response. Washington State’s Strategic Response to the developing problem of ocean acidification. Today’s ocean acidification is important not only for the amount of change that has occurred thus far but also for how quickly it is happening. The current rate of acidification is nearly ten times faster than any time in the past 50 million years, outpacing the ocean’s capacity to restore oceanic pH and carbonate chemistry. The rapid pace of change also gives marine organisms, marine ecosystems, and humans less time to adapt, evolve, or otherwise adjust to the changing circumstances. November 2012


Impacts of Climate Change on Ecosystem Structure. A paper published in the Journal of Bioscience has collected information about the physiological impact of ocean acidification and hypoxia on marine invertebrates and the cumulative impact of these effects on animal behavior and ecosystem structure along the west coast of North America. This work serves as an indicator of the changes that Southern Residents Killer Whales may experience as the top predator of the Salish Sea marine ecosystem. January 11, 2016

Threats from Energy Projects. New research published in the journal PLOS One outlines the various environmental threats posed by increased marine vessel traffic from energy-related development projects in the Salish Sea. The study considers the cumulative effects of these threats on various species (including the SRKWs) with financial and cultural significance to Coast Salish First Nations, and evaluates the challenges of managing risk in ecosystems spanning multiple governments. Dec. 21, 2015