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:
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.
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.