Orca action month is coming!

Orca breaching in Puget Sound


Every year organizations across Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia unite to raise awareness on the challenges facing our beloved orcas. June kicks off Orca Action Month and we are excited that the Aquarium will be holding our own Orca Awareness Celebration as part of the festivities.

As many of our readers know, our southern resident orcas have found themselves at the center of sad news as of late. The Aquarium and state lawmakers made orca recovery a top priority during this year’s legislative session and we continue to help raise awareness among our visitors and community about actions we can all take to help.

As part of the ramp up for this important month, the Aquarium will be sharing a series of interactive infographics that shed light on some of the challenges facing our struggling southern residents. We will also be highlighting orca-related events like our upcoming Sound Conversations lecture series that will feature our special guest Jason Colby, the author of Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator, on May 23, and the Orca Action Month kick-off festival on June 2.


Who are our southern resident orcas?


The Salish Sea is home to several different types of orcas, and one of the easiest ways we distinguish between the different types is by the food they eat. Different subgroups of orcas have evolved to have unique diets.

Resident orcas eat only fish, and in Washington that means a salmon-heavy diet. Resident orcas in the Salish Sea consist of two subgroups, our southern and northern resident orcas (we will be exploring more about these populations in later blog posts). Transient orcas are orcas that eat marine mammals like seals and dolphins, and offshore orcas are thought to eat sharks and a variety of fish species (researchers know the least about this subgroup).

All orcas depend on an abundance of prey, clean water and quiet locations where they can forage for food. They also depend on each other and live in tight family groups. Unfortunately, our southern resident orcas have seen their numbers dwindle to just 75 members. Hover over any of the dots in the family tree graphic below to view each whale’s name, identification number and how they are related to one another.



Family tree data compiled from Ford et al., 2000 and Ford et al., 2011, updated with recent births and deaths.


Both male and female orcas live with their families their entire lives, and older females tend to lead their pods. Female orcas live longer than males and mothers will often help feed their sons well into adulthood.

Check out our full infographic to learn more about our southern resident orcas!


Orca bills pass the house!


Jay Inslee signs orca bills

We are excited to report that the new orca protection legislation we have been keeping you up to date on has become law! Governor Inslee recently signed five pieces of legislation to better protect our endangered southern resident orca population. We have more work to do but this is a great victory for our local orcas and Puget Sound. A big thank you to our state lawmakers for their leadership on this issue.

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