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.

Recent Major Press

SRKW Miscarriages Linked to Low Salmon Numbers. New technologies are allowing scientists to determine sooner and more accurately when SKRWs are pregnant, thus allowing for more precise research about the causes of miscarriage and infant mortality. Hormonal analysis of fecal samples, as well as drone photography are now being employed to unobtrusively monitor pregnancy in the whales. These methods have allowed the researchers to link miscarriages with low salmon supply, confirming the hypothesis that low prey abundance is partially responsible for the population’s failure to rebound. July 20, 2016

BC to Release Young Chinooks. The Canadian government has approved a plan to release 200,000 young Chinook salmon into the Sooke River to boost prey supply for the endangered SRKWs and to provide more fish for anglers. The South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition, which raised the funds for the project through grants and donations, hopes to increase to 2 million salmon per year eventually. June 27, 2016

US Plan for Salmon Not Sufficient. The U.S. District Court of Oregon ruled that the federal government’s plan for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon violates the federal Engendered Species Act. The ruling ordered a new opinion and NEPA analysis by 2018. Stronger protection efforts for salmon will also have an impact on the SRKWs, which are dependent on these salmon for most of their food supply. May 5, 2016

Klamath River Dam Removal Proposed. Conservation groups are hoping that the removal of four dams on the Klamath River will have a positive impact on salmon populations that are critical for SRKW survival. The project is estimated to increase salmon numbers by over 80%, in a critical area for feeding between the Sacramento and Columbia Rivers. The removal of the dams should be completed by 2020 and will be one of the largest river restoration projects in the US. April 7, 2016

SRKWs Eat 98% Chinooks. New research based on analysis of orca fecal samples shows that chinook salmon make up 98% of the diets of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. This study provides further evidence of the crucial connection between salmon populations and the health of the SRKWs. January 10, 2016 (Courtesy of Salish Sea News)

New WA Program to Recover Chinooks. The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound Partnership have announced a $44.3 million funding program to restore Chinook salmon habitat and bring the species back from the edge of extinction. The money will be distributed in grants to organizations in 28 counties, spanning 128 projects. The projects will focus on removing barriers to salmon migration, improving salmon habitat, and protecting pristine areas that are crucial for spawning, and feeding. Dec. 9, 2015