Here at Orca Action Network, it isn’t hard to figure out what our flagship species is. We love killer whales, whether they are in human care or out in the wild. To love something is to be concerned for its wellbeing, so we at OAN are huge supporters of killer whale conservation.

Killer whales as a species are considered Data Deficient by the IUCN, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t in any trouble! Orcas have many distinct “breeds” called ecotypes, and within each ecotype are distinct pods and populations. Each ecotype is genetically unique, and different populations even have different diets, behaviors, and dialects; even if they share the same habitat! These diverse kinds of whales are so unique that some scientists believe they should be considered different subspecies. And some of them are in a lot of trouble.

One example of an ecotype is the Resident group of fish-eating orcas found in the Pacific Ocean. There is a resident population known as the Southern Residents, which lives off the coast of Washington State and southern British Columbia. These whales are federally listed as Endangered, with a little over 80 animals left in the entire population. The Northern Residents, similar to the Southern Residents, are federally listed as Threatened. The biggest threats faced by these animals are salmon decline, ocean pollution, and boat activity.

We still have time to help the Residents, but it is too late for some populations. The Hebridean orcas of Scotland and the Chugach Transients of Alaska are no longer reproducing any calves. The Hebrideans have only 8 whales left in their pod, and likely stopped reproducing due to a buildup of toxins in their bodies. The Chugach orcas were rendered infertile by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

It is incredibly important that we do everything we can to help our oceans heal. The fate of the Hebridean and Chugach whales is heartbreaking, and it is crucial that we do all we can to prevent this from happening again. Here are some ways that you can help support orca conservation.

  • The best thing to do is find a reputable research organization that you like, and donate to them! The Center for Whale Research and Vancouver Aquarium are great groups to support if you want to help the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales. And don’t forget the SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute!
  • Another great thing to do is to work sustainability into your lifestyle. Avoid using plastic bags at grocery stores, avoid products with plastic microbeads, and eat sustainable seafood using ! These things all help protect our oceans and, by extension, the whales that live in them.
  • Spread the word! Share this page with friends and family, and post it on social media. If we can get lots of people involved, we will be able to make a huge impact on protecting our oceans.

Thank you for your interest in orca conservation. We hope you have a whale of a day!