Southern Resident Connections
Southern Resident killer whales are icons of a vibrant but struggling marine ecosystem. Join us in exploring the ecological connections that tie this system together, and the ways we are protecting and working to recover the whales we care so much about.
This series highlights the threads connecting Southern Residents' health, well-being, and chances for successful recovery. Southern Residents are connected to other species in the ecosystem, such as salmon; components of the ecosystem, including terrestrial and aquatic habitats; and all of us—our everyday choices for recreation, yard care, transportation, and many other actions have profound impacts on the species and the ecosystems.
You'll hear from scientists, recovery managers, fish biologists, and others who are working to understand and address the risks to the whales. Some of the efforts they will highlight will be familiar, and others are emerging. We will explain both the challenges we face and the progress we are making.
Southern Residents Work Harder For Prey, But Catch Fewer Fish, New Research Finds
Resident killer whales such as the Southern Residents set themselves apart from other killer whales by behavior more than appearance. They prey on salmon rather than marine mammals, travel and forage in larger groups, and follow the leadership of older females in family group.
Learn more about how researchers compared foraging of two resident killer whale populations.
Sharper Picture of Salmon in the Ocean Resets Threshold for Fishing Limits
New research examines how Chinook salmon from West Coast rivers travel through the ocean. It shows that endangered Southern Resident killer whales do not have access to as many salmon prey as previously thought. That does not mean the number dropped, but that it has always been lower than estimated.
Learn more about how there are fewer Chinook salmon in endangered whale habitat than previously thought.
Coordinated Response Protected Southern Residents From Sunken Ship Leaking Oil
What do you do when endangered Southern Resident killer whales are headed toward an oil spill?
That was the question NOAA Fisheries, along with federal, state, and local partners, wrestled with this summer. Endangered killer whales were spotted in the Strait of Juan de Fuca headed toward the San Juan Islands, where a fishing vessel had gone down and was leaking fuel. After determining that the crew was safe, the oil spill response team focused on protecting the environment, the iconic Southern Resident killer whales, and other precious resources.
NOAA Fisheries and partners diverted endangered whales from potential harm. Learn more
New Voluntary Slowdown for Commercial Ships Aims to Quiet the Sound for Endangered Killer Whales
A a new program called Quiet Sound aims to better understand and reduce the effects of large commercial vessels on the whales in Washington state.
Learn more about the efforts tp reduce human-caused underwater noise
Intern Spotlight: Students Analyze Connection Between Skagit River Dams, Chinook Salmon, and Southern Resident Orcas
Alexa Haucke and Jenna Callan interned with the Protected Resources Division of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region under the Hollings Preparation Program.
Learn more about Alexa Haucke and Jenna Callan
Springer (A73) is Back! Now a Mother of Two Calves
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Springer’s successful rescue, the Northern Resident killer whale was spotted in British Columbia waters with her two calves.
Learn more about Springer and her calves
Status Review Finds Endangered Killer Whales Still Face High Risk of Extinction
Learn more about the conclusions from the 5-year review
Lost Whale L47 Reflects the Plight of Endangered Southern Resident Whales
Learn more about L47 and her disappearance
Increased Hatchery Production Aims to Boost Chinook Salmon for Endangered Killer Whales
State, tribal, and federal hatcheries seek to increase Chinook by 4–5 percent.
Amended Plan Leaves More Salmon for Endangered Killer Whales in Low Return Years
Fisheries do not jeopardize continued existence of Southern Resident orcas.
Higher Vessel Speeds Offset Salmon Abundance for Endangered Orcas, Reducing Chance of Catching Prey
Researchers also find echosounder signals from boats alter killer whale diving behavior.
Expanded Critical Habitat Signals Much of West Coast Contributes to Recovery of Endangered Killer Whales
Coastal waters to 200 meters provide water quality, prey, and passage for orcas.
NOAA Fisheries Joins Orca Action Month with Events Throughout June
Ask questions of killer whale scientists and author of new book on orcas.
Limiting Chinook Fishing in Low-Return Years to Help Killer Whales: What Do You Think?
Council suggests limiting or adjusting fishing impacts when forecasts fall too low.
Diversity of Fish Species Support Killer Whale Diet Throughout the Year
Chinook play a major role as Southern Resident Prey across all seasons.
As Killer Whale Tales Goes Virtual, its Reach Extends Around the World
A teacher engages students with the wonder of the Southern Residents.
Diverse Threats Imperil Northeast Pacific Killer Whales, Including Southern Residents
Vessel strikes may be an “underappreciated but important threat” to endangered orcas.
The Mystery of the Missing DTAG: Biologists Narrow Search for Tag as Time Runs Short
Scientists climb mountains and ride ferries to pick up radio signals from the lost tag.
The Mystery of the Missing DTAG: Biologists Search for Lost Tag with Vital Killer Whale Data
International teams race against time to save overnight record of killer whale behavior.
No-Impact Whale Watching: The Whale Trail Builds Knowledge of Whales and Support for Recovery
More than 100 West Coast sites from Canada to California feature whale watching from shore.
Fishery Council Seeks Input on Protecting Prey for Endangered Killer Whales
Options include abundance thresholds for Chinook salmon or updating salmon targets.
What is Nearshore Habitat and Why Does it Matter to Orcas?
Restoration focuses on valuable shoreline habitat where juvenile fish grow.
Sound Strategy: Hunting with the Southern Residents, Part 2
Southern Resident killer whales tell one salmon from another with sound.
Sound Strategy: Hunting with the Southern Residents, Part 1
Researchers study the foraging behavior of the Southern Resident killer whales to inform management of the endangered population.
L41 is Missing. What Does This Mean for the Southern Residents?
Researchers discuss L41’s broad genetic influence on the population and inbreeding risk for the Southern Resident killer whales.
Researchers Probe Orca Poop for Microplastics: Part 2
Chemicals in plastics could hurt the Southern Residents.
Researchers Probe Orca Poop for Microplastics: Part 1
What are microplastics and why are researchers looking for them in whale feces?
Killer Whale Recovery Begins With Salmon Habitat, and That Begins With You
Leadership message by Barry Thom, Regional Administrator, West Coast Region
West Coast Salmon Fishing and Southern Residents: Part 2
Participating in setting salmon seasons—learn how to take part.
West Coast Salmon Fishing and Southern Residents: Part 1
West Coast salmon fisheries catch a small share, leaving prey for Southern Residents.