Puget Sound Kings: Orca Survival

Photo: John Durban/Oregon State University

Our friend, writer, and Patagonia Ambassador Dylan Tomine weighs in on the current state of affairs surrounding Puget Sound’s killer whales.

Our southern resident killer whales, the local, salmon-eating orcas, are starving to death. Literally. And my last post, about the small size of the king salmon we boated this summer, and how we ate them, has me thinking a lot about the whales we see on a fairly regular basis around our home waters. There are currently 75 SRKWs left. Not seventy-five thousand. Not seventy-five hundred. Seventy. Five. Period. They haven’t had a live birth in three years. And the nation was transfixed last month by the story of a mourning mother whale who carried her stillborn baby for 17 days and a thousand miles. Heartbreaking, to say the least.

These whales mean a lot to me personally. Like me, they are salmon fisherman, with a strong preference for the fatty flesh of large Chinook salmon. I’ve fished around them, watched them, and once, spent a night in a tent on the west shore of San Juan Island, listening to them breathe as they slept not more than 100 feet away. But more than any personal connection, the southern resident killer whales, as the apex predator of our Salish Sea, are the canary-in-the-coal-mine of our local waters.

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