Mourning the Loss of Kenneth C. Balcomb III, Winner of the 2006 Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award

A message from Seattle Aquarium President & CEO Robert W. Davidson

We at the Seattle Aquarium were greatly saddened to learn of the recent passing of Ken Balcomb: scientist, world-renowned orca expert, and founder and longtime leader of the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island.

Ken was a fierce and tireless advocate for whales—specifically, our region’s iconic and endangered southern resident orcas. His pioneering orca photo-identification survey, launched nearly 50 years ago in 1976, is the longest-running study of this important population. The survey has greatly influenced management practices and provided invaluable information about the orcas and what they need—not only to survive, but to thrive once again. 

Kenneth C. Balcomb III
Remembering Kenneth C. Balcomb III, November 11, 1940–December 15, 2022.

In recognition of Ken’s tremendous contributions to orca conservation research, he was honored with our Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award in 2006. He was also a speaker at our Sound Conversations speaker series in 2013 and, over the years, generously shared his incredible orca photographs with us in support of our shared conservation mission. 

Ken Balcomb was an ally and partner to the Seattle Aquarium. He leaves a beautiful legacy of advocates, including his son Kelley Balcomb-Bartok and the board and staff of the Center for Whale Research, who will carry his vital work forward to protect the southern resident orcas. Our deep condolences go to his family, loved ones, colleagues and community.

Support the Seattle Aquarium

Your support connects people to the ocean in a way not otherwise possible and inspires bold action to care for animals and protect our shared marine environment.