Northwest News

Both orca babies alive, all 3 southern resident pods spotted

How to bring southern resident killer whales back from the brink of extinction

NOAA Fisheries biologists talk about southern resident killer whales, a species that makes its home around the San Juan Islands in Washington state.
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NOAA Fisheries biologists talk about southern resident killer whales, a species that makes its home around the San Juan Islands in Washington state.

Researchers have documented that both babies in the southern resident killer whale pods are still alive.

The Seattle Times reports researchers with the Center for Whale Research, which tracks the southern resident population, photographed both babies Sunday, alive and seemingly well.

That was welcome news in a population of endangered orcas that dropped to just 73 this month, with three adults missing and presumed dead. The southern resident population is the lowest since the end of the live capture era in Washington waters in 1976.

The whales have been on the outer coast all summer, including an unprecedented two-month absence from their summer habitat in the inner Salish Sea, including the San Juan Islands. Spring and summer chinook salmon runs have been so low the whales have not bothered to come.

Orca calves have a 50 percent chance of surviving their first year.

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