The Southern Residents

The Southern Resident killer whales are a genetically distinct population of orcas in the Pacific Northwest. This unique population is on the verge of extinction with only 74 remaining individuals worldwide. One of the major issues is that the multiple threats—including lack of prey, pollution and vessel noise—that afflict the Southern Residents interact together, creating synergistic effects. 

Many people are often surprised to learn that there are three different types of orcas within the range of the Salish Sea: resident, Bigg’s and offshore killer whales. Each one of these ‘ecotypes’— individuals or groups of individuals that share ecological adaptations—have completely different dialects and hunting behaviours, and they do not intermingle nor interbreed. 

It’s important to note that there isn’t a single solution for the recovery of the Southern Residents. We must participate in multiple areas of focus including research, legislation, community outreach and education, in addition to supporting ongoing projects and initiatives. 

Read more about killer whale genetics and evolution and why it matters for conservation here.

This article is from issue


2024 Jun