Although found throughout the world,
orcas in the US Pacific are three distinct types -- the offshore orcas
(who eat marine mammals); the transient orcas (who stay closer inshore
but who also primarily eat marine mammals); and the resident orcas (who
primarily eat fish).
In the US Pacific northwest and
southern coastal British Columbia ("BC"), Canada, there are the northern
residents and the southern residents. These two genetically distinct
populations are further subdivided into pods, which are family groups.
The southern residents - J, K and L pods - are the focus of this campaign.
Male and female orcas spend their
entire lives in their mother's pod. Male orcas can live into their 50's,
and females well into their 80's.
In Washington and southwest Canadian
waters, the orcas we most often see are the southern resident pods J,
K and L. They sense their environment both by echolocation, which allows
them to bounce soundwaves off of underwater objects in order to detect
them, and by complex vocalizations between pod members. Each pod has
its own identifiable dialect. Point your browser here
to hear orca sounds!
Chinook salmon are a mainstay in
the resident orca diet. Click here
to learn more about chinook salmon.
Southern residents have lower population
numbers than the northern residents, most likely because of greater
threats from past live -captures, toxic poisoning and human disturbance.
to find out more about the Puget Sound marine environment.
Though both populations of whales
were hunted as recently as the 1940's to 1960's, southern residents
were the primary focus. The Center for Whale Research estimates that
thirty-six orca whales were captured for marine theme parks. Survivors
were sent to amusement parks such as Sea World and the Miami Seaquarium.
All captives died well before their natural lifespan, except one. Lolita
is the only living captive orca from the northwest. She languishes at
Miami Seaquarium in the smallest performing orca pool in the US. Her
rehabilitation and return to the southern resident population could
greatly improve the health of her home pod.
Find out more about Lolita and what
you can do to help, at the Orca
Conservancy. For information about orca science go to the Center
for Whale Research and the Orca
To contact advocacy groups working
for orca protection go to the Orca
Conservancy, the Puget
Sound Chapter of the American Cetacean Society and the Whale