Southern Resident Orca Population Declines

Orcas in the Salish Sea (photograph courtesy of Center for Whale Research)

The Southern Resident Orca population has declined, according to the latest census by the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island.

The count of the Southern Resident population found that as of July 1, there were 73 individuals.

The Center says that between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022, there were three deaths in two of the pods.

The Orcas lost were K21, K44, and L89.

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During that same time period with J37 and K20 giving birth.

Both calves appeared healthy in recent observations.

The Center for Whale Research says this year’s count found the lowest number of Orcas in L pod since the study began in 1976, with just 32 individuals.

K pod is at its lowest number in the last two decades, at 16 individuals.

With no mortalities and a single birth, J pod now totals 25 individuals.

The Orcas known as the Southern Residents are a large extended family, or clan, comprised of J, K, and L pods.

In the 1960s and 1970 the population of the three pods was devestated by the capture of 45 Orcas for marine parks around the world.

Thirteen orcas were killed during attempts to capture them.

Only a single member of the Southern Residents that were caught is still alive in captivity.