Killer whales, also called orcas, are among Puget Sound’s most distinctive and charismatic inhabitants. They occupy an important niche at the top of the food web and support a multi-million dollar whale-watching industry.
A unique population of orcas lives in and around the Salish Sea, which includes Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia. Called the Southern Resident Killer Whales, the community once numbered around 200 whales. In the past decade, the population totaled fewer than 90 individuals.
While other orca populations prey heavily on marine mammals, resident pods primarily eat fish, relying on Chinook salmon for a large part of their diet.
In the late-1990s, Southern Resident Killer Whales experienced a dramatic decline in population size. As a consequence, they were listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2006.
Center for Whale Research
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Orcas in Puget Sound: Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership Tech Report 2007-01
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Northwest Region
Results Washington Orcas goal
J32 preliminary necropsy report
J-32 necropsy results from Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Satellite tagging project