Southern Resident killer whales are a unique population of orcas that ranges in the Salish Sea and along the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada. They range in three pods known as J, K and L from California to Alaska in pursuit of fish, primarily adult Pacific salmon. In the late-1990s, Southern Resident killer whales experienced a dramatic decline. The combination of a precarious food supply and threats from pollution, vessel traffic, and noise continues to jeopardize their survival. As a result, they are federally listed as endangered.
Population size of Southern Resident killer whales each year between 1973 and 2023, based on the annual July census, conducted by the Center for Whale Research. The Southern Resident Killer Whale population in Puget Sound is comprised of three pods: J, K, and L pods.
The status of the Southern Resident killer whale population remains fragile. In 2010, the Partnership’s baseline reference, the census reported 86 individuals. Every year since then the population size has been smaller, except in 2011.
Annual Census as reported to National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by the Center for Whale Research