Southern Resident Killer Whales

Southern ResidentsOn February 16, 2006 a group of Orca otherwise known as Killer Whales off the coast of Washington State and British Columbia were placed on the Endangered Species list. This species of Orca are called the Southern Resident Killer Whales. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s aquarium owners paid fishermen and other people to catch them to put on display for the paying public. In total nearly 70 Orca were taken from the Pacific waters. In August 1970 a mass capture from the L-25 pod took place. Seven juvenile Orca were put into slings and transferred to aquariums around the United States. During this ordeal five Orca lost their lives, one being a female mother trying to get to her baby. Due to the growing awareness of these captures those left dead had their stomachs slit open and filled with rocks. They were then tied to anchors and sunk in deeper waters.  Knowledge of their deaths, though, soon spread when three months later three bodies washed ashore on Whidbey Island. The Southern Resident Killer Whale community itself lost 48 of its members. After this last capture, in 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was passed by the US Congress; no institution, organization and/or person could harass or kill any marine mammal in US waters and in order to catch and display any marine mammal a special permit was needed.  By 1976 only 80 Southern Residents were left.

Today there are three pods that make up the Southern Resident Killer Whales. J pod is comprised of 25 individuals. Its oldest member is believed to be over 100 years of age, Granny, J-2.  K pod consists of 20 members and L pod has currently 40 members; they are the largest of the three groups.  The Southern Resident Killer Whales are the most researched and studied groups of all Orca species in the world. Most of what we know about Orca life spans, their incredible intelligence and their emotional capability has been obtained from these individuals. They can travel up to 100 miles a day and the males will stay with their mothers for life. Orca are highly social animals and depend primarily on their ability to communicate by a variation of clicks, whistles and pulsed calls.

blackberryA final recovery plan was put into place on January 24, 2008 thanks to a handful of concerned NGO’s. Threats to their existence and habitat continue, to this day, primarily consisting of depletion of prey, loss of habitat, ship collisions and oil spills. Education is the biggest ally these animals have. Making people aware of what is going on and doing everything that can be done to save them. To learn more about their recovery plan click here and visit our information page about marine mammals in captivity to learn more about captive Orca.