Orca whale jumping out of the water
Killer Whale (Orca) (Orcinus orca)

Killer Whales and Boats:
Information and Guidelines
Washington's Vessel Regulation Protecting Southern Resident Killer Whales
Be Whale Wise Guidelines
The Whale Trail
Killer Whale Information & Fact Sheets
Washington's Orcas are Hungry
WDFW Status Review
Orca Network
Center for Whale Research
State and Federal Policies & Management
Washington State Laws and Regulations
[ RCW 77.15.740 ]
Federal Recovery Plan
NOAA West Coast Region Orca Website
WA Dept. of Ecology - Protecting Orca Whales from Extinction

Southern Resident Killer Whales

An icon of the Pacific Northwest, southern resident killer whales live in Washington's Puget Sound and British Columbia's Strait of Georgia from late spring through fall. During the rest of the year, they range along the Pacific Coast from northern California to southeast Alaska, spending much of their time off Washington's coastal waters.

The whales, also known as orcas, are classified as endangered species by the U.S. and Canadian federal governments, as well as Washington state. However, despite their protected status, the population has declined since 1995.

Primary threats to the whales are a lack of prey, toxic contaminants, and disturbance from noise and vessel traffic. To help address these challenges, the Governor and state Legislature have taken a number of actions, including:

Executive order

In March 2018, the Governor signed Executive Order 18-02 directing WDFW and other state agencies to take several immediate actions to benefit southern resident killer whales. The order also established a task force to develop a long-term plan for orca recovery and sustainability. Learn more about killer whale recovery efforts.

Funding for orca recovery

During the 2018 legislative session, WDFW and other state agencies were provided about $3 million to support new and ongoing orca recovery efforts, such as reducing the presence of toxic contaminants in Puget Sound, and increasing hatchery production of chinook salmon and other prey species.

Vessel regulations

Regulations requiring boaters to steer clear of killer whales were established in 2008.

Voluntary "no-go" zone

State and wildlife managers are asking anglers and boaters to avoid an area along the west side of San Juan Island, where killer whales frequently forage and socialize. This action is needed to provide the whales with a quiet area to feed.