Spotting the local orcas - J, K and L pods - as they swim past the San Juan Islands is a high point for many residents and visitors. The concern about the viability of the 75 members of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population has risen sharply with the death of J-35's neonate and with the emaciated condition of J-50.
Newborn orca calf J55 with family off San Juan Island, WA on Tuesday, January 19, 2016. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
While NOAA works on immediate action to help three-year-old J-50, what can you do to help ensure the SRKWs continue to live in the Salish Sea?
Pollution is one of the factors in the precarious situation the orcas find themselves in. NOAA posted a list of actions that can be done at work and home to help. The list includes disposing of unneeded medication at a drug take back program. In Friday Harbor, medication can be dropped off at a box at the Sheriff's Office and at Friday Harbor Drug Store. Other tips include using professional car washes, reducing transportation impacts and more.
The lack of chinook, the three pods preferred food is another factor. San Juan County Environmental Resources Manager Kendra Smith urges people to not eat Chinook (also called King, tyee, blackmouth) but to eat other types of salmon. Read more about the seven species of Pacific Salmon here.
Pink (Also called humpies,)
Sockeye (redfish, red, or blue-black)
Chum (dog, calico)
Steelhead (steelhead trout, coastal rainbow trout, silver trout, salmon trout, ironhead, or steelie)
Cutthroat (sea-run cutthroat trout, coastal cutthroat trout, red-throated throated trout, sea trout, and blueback trout)
Vessel noise is the third factor in the SRKWs demise. Numerous scientific studies have shown that vessel noise disrupts the orca's ability to use echolocation to find its prey. Land-based whale watching is an alternative way to enjoy viewing the endangered orcas.
If you have a suggestion for NOAA, you can email them at KillerWhale.Help@noaa.gov
Governor Jay Inslee's Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force will be issuing a draft report in October and a final report in November. You can email them here https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/srkwtfpubliccomment
Learn more about the SRKWs by viewing a story map.