Southern residents and the hunt for food

Orca with head above the water


Summer is here, which means you should keep your eyes peeled for a variety of whale species that have been visiting Puget Sound. There have been many sightings of gray whales, humpbacks and orcas throughout the Salish Sea, and we encourage you to come down the Aquarium to learn more about these amazing creatures!

We recently shared a blog post explaining some of the characteristics that make our southern resident orcas so unique, as well as details on where they can be seen and why Chinook salmon are so important to their survival. We’ve also created some fun, interactive infographics about orcas that we encourage you to check out, and we hope you’ll stay tuned as we continue our work to strengthen the protections for our southern resident population.


The link between Chinook salmon and orcas


Healthy, thriving Chinook salmon populations are critical for the success of our southern resident orcas. As we shared in a previous post, Chinook have the highest calorie content per fish of any salmon species and give our local orcas the most energy for their effort. However, our Chinook salmon populations have been struggling, which has added to the troubles facing the southern residents.

Chinook, like all salmon, begin their life cycle in freshwater. Adult Chinook lay their eggs in streams and rivers and, once they hatch, begin the gradual journey out to the open ocean. When it comes time to reproduce, they trek back to the stream of their birth. One of the biggest challenges facing Chinook salmon (and, as a result, our orcas) is the loss of their traditional spawning grounds. Salmon need cold freshwater for their eggs to survive, and many rivers and streams that were historically Chinook habitat have been blocked by human activity. Check out the interactive map below that shows the traditional territory of the Chinook salmon and if these areas are still accessible.


Click here to view full infographic.


You can check the boxes next to the map to see the accessibility of these habitats over time. The number of accessible rivers and streams is declining and, as a result, so have Chinook salmon populations. Many factors can contribute to the decline in accessible habitat: Dams, deforestation and strains on water supplies all play major roles. If we’re going to help Chinook and our orcas succeed, we need to work collectively to protect and restore access to these fragile habitats.

Make sure you visit our interactive infographic that shares further information on challenges facing our Chinook salmon populations.


Learn about our local salmon


Join the Aquarium and volunteer naturalists to learn about the amazing salmon species of the Pacific Northwest at one of our upcoming Cedar River Salmon Journey events. Naturalists will share information about the epic journey salmon take as they migrate between freshwater and open ocean, and teach about steps we can all take to help preserve these important species.

Head to the Ballard Locks any time between 11am and 3pm on July 13, July 20, August 10, August 17, August 24, September 7 or September 14. We’ll also be hosting events along the Cedar River in October and will share details as the dates approach. Don’t miss these fun, free and family-friendly events!

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