See up to 4 Types of Whales from 3 Departure Locations!

Southern Resident Killer Whales: J, K, and L Pods

Who Are the Southern Resident Killer Whales?

In recent years, the story of the Southern Residents has come to the forefront, making both national and international headlines.  Their preferred prey, chinook salmon, are currently endangered in our local waters.  As a result, this specific population of orcas is also currently listed as endangered.  This shortage of food has led to a decline of the salmon-eating J, K, and L pods over recent decades while their mammal-eating counterparts in the region are thriving.  In fact, while just 74 individuals remain in all of the Southern Resident population, the number of mammal-eating orcas in the Salish Sea numbers approximately 400-500 animals, with nearly 80 calves being born since 2012 thanks to an abundance of seals, sea lions, and porpoises in the area for them to feed on.  In addition to declining in population, J, K, and L pod whales are now spending most of their time foraging in the open ocean instead of local inland waters, a dramatic shift from decades past and a reflection of Washington and Canada's decreasing salmon numbers.  

Governor's Orca Recovery Task Force

On March 14, 2018, Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee assembled a task force to look into solutions that might benefit the Southern Residents and increase the salmon population.  After several meetings throughout the state, final recommendations were presented to the Governor in November 2018 and include a wide variety of options.  Some examples of suggestions include restoring salmon habitat, reducing pollution through stormwater runoff, and encouraging safe boating practices for all vessels around the whales.

You can read the full list of recommendations here. 

What Happens Next?

Beginning in 2019, the state legislature will review the potential actions that have been proposed and make decisions about which policies to enact in Washington state.  

Island Adventures, along with all members of the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA), remain dedicated to educating and inspiring the public through responsible tourism.  We continue to work closely with researchers and law enforcement to develop sustainable whale watching guidelines not just for Southern Residents, but for all whales in the Salish Sea.  These guidelines include operating slowly around whales, viewing from respectful distances, and limiting the number of whale watching boats with any one group of whales at a time. Scientists and enforcement agencies agree that PWWA vessels serve as excellent examples of how to safely view whales in the wild.  

What You Can Do to Help

Helping Southern Residents can seem like a daunting task, but there are many things that you can do to benefit the whales of J, K, and L pod.  

  • Reduce - Look for items with less packaging to minimize waste and buy local products that aren't shipped long distances. 
  • Reuse - Use items that can be used multiple times, like reusable totes instead of plastic bags
  • Recycle - If an item can't be reused, be sure to separate things like glass, plastic, and cardboard from your trash for recycling.  
  • Skip Hazardous Chemicals - Pledge to limit the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and other dangerous chemicals that are washed into local waterways. 
  • Go Whale Watching with Island Adventures - Island Adventures donates a portion of every ticket sold toward salmon restoration and whale research charities. 

For the latest updates on J, K, and L pod, visit Center for Whale Research's website or even better, support their work by becoming a member!

Center for Whale Research

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