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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...

Southern Resident orca population is missing two members

We are saddened to learn that two members of the Southern Resident orca population in the Pacific Northwest are unaccounted for this year and are presumed dead.  Two members of L pod, Lulu and Indigo, have not been seen with their families this summer.  The annual census of this population, which started in the mid-70’s, has been able to get a complete head count of Southern Residents every year due to their small population size and proximity to a heavily populated coastal area in the summer. 

Southern Residents are highly social and form very close family groups, with both males and females staying with their mother their entire lives.  This population ranges as far south as central California during the winter months but returns to the inland waters of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands every summer.  Large salmon runs this year have kept the orcas close to San Juan Island in Haro Strait, one of their favorite feeding grounds. 

 Orcas are threatened by declining numbers of their favorite food, Chinook salmon; by toxins like DDT in the water, which accumulate up the food chain until they stops at orcas, a top level predator; and by increasing amounts of vessel traffic and noise in the ocean.  The Southern Resident population suffered a sharp decline in the late 1990’s when Chinook salmon levels crashed.  L pod, the largest of the three Southern Resident pods, has continued to decline since then, while J & K pods have seen slight increases.  Last year, two more members of L pod, Grace and Baba, were missing and have not been seen since.

 The loss of 4 members of L pod over the past 2 years brings the population total to only 78 members, the lowest it has been in almost 20 years.  Unfortunately, because whales die at sea and their bodies are rarely found, we will likely never know what happened to them.  But we can increase conservation efforts to protect their habitat and their prey, and try to get that population number going back up.