The Southern Resident Orcas

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Update: The Southern Resident orcas and 294,715 marine mammal species are at risk of dangerous exercises performed by the US Navy. These Navy exercises include: testing torpedoes, firing projectiles from a gun into the sea at seven times the speed of sound, piloting mine-detecting undersea drones, deploying underwater sonar and exploding up to 1,000 pound bombs at sea. This testing will begin in November, 2020, and will now run for seven years from Northern California to Alaska, including the Salish Sea, since getting approval from NOAA. This approval did come with several precautionary measures for the Navy to adhere to in order to minimize impact on marine animals. Governor Jay Inslee additionally asked that the Navy decrease their sonar exposure, limit the amount of impulsive sound and monitor the effects of training and testing of unmanned systems on the environment. However, we should still be concerned with the US Navy implementing exercises around such protected marine mammals and our beloved, critically endangered Southern Resident orcas; we must keep calling and writing, voicing our concerns of the serious risk of these orcas going extinct, as one of the main issues of these planned exercises. The fight isn't over, but with collective action and persistent effort, we can win for these voiceless beings.

Scroll to the bottom of this blog post to contact Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Maria Cantwell to prevent the Navy's testing on thousands of marine mammals.

If you know anything about orcas, you know they're one special apex predator; they rule the seas. Something you might not have known, however, is that there are 10 different ecotypes! An ecotype is a distinct form or race of a plant or animal species occupying a particular habitat. For orcas in the North Pacific, those ecotypes are:

1. Transients -- only eats marine mammals.

2. Offshores -- consumes sharks, fish, and squid.

3. Residents -- solely eats fish.

These different ecotypes have evolved to fill a different ecological niche in order to coexist with one another. This post will cover the plight of the Southern Resident Orcas.

The Southern Residents are extremely special to people's hearts, the environment, and to science. Scientists have learned so much about these residents and their social structure/matriarchy, shedding light on their life history patterns and possibly how other ecotypes and pods behave. But there's one big problem: the Southern Residents are starving.


Chinook/King salmon constitutes 80% of the Southern Residents' diets. Unfortunately, commercial fishing efforts and the continued existence of the lower four Snake River dams is threatening the extinction of the salmon and the 72-73 remaining Southern Resident orcas. The lower four Snake River dams prevent thousands of salmon from spawning up river and kills 8 million smolts (juvenile salmon) each year. With 40% of Chinook runs locally extinct in the Pacific Northwest, the Snake River is one of the last and largest areas we need to protect for wild salmon.

As per,

"It will take approximately 6 months to breach the first two dams and have a free flowing river for salmon (not including channelization work, agricultural work, etc.) Once breached, it’ll take 14 to 18 months for adult salmon to be in the Pacific Coast. In parallel, it takes 3 to 10 years for salmon with hatcheries.

These four dams are losing money each year, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has to borrow $1.6 billion from the federal government (taxpayers’ money) over the next 2 years just to maintain the four lower Snake River dams. It would only cost $340 million to breach all four dams. If we breach the four lower Snake River dams this year, Eastern Washington would gain $200-300 million in economic benefits every year and an average of 3,000 jobs annually would be created."