Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
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...

Endangered Species Day – 2017

Today we’re recognizing the 12th annual Endangered Species Day, a day to celebrate saving imperiled species founded by our colleagues at the Endangered Species Coalition.   We’d like to highlight one of the most important species we work with in the US, the only endangered orca population in US waters – the Southern Resident orcas of the Pacific Northwest.

The Southern Residents are a unique community of orcas recognized as a “Distinct Population Segment” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The worldwide population of Orcinus orca (orcas) is still considered one species, although researchers and policy-makers now know that there are different kinds of orcas, called ecotypes, and some believe that these distinctions mean there are different species, or subspecies, of orcas. 

The recognition of the Southern Residents as a distinct population is vital to defining these different types of orcas, and allows them to be listed under the ESA and given specific protections.  Although they were listed in 2005 with 88 members in the population, today there are just 78 of these unique orcas left in the wild.  The most significant recognized threats include prey depletion, contamination from pollutants, and vessel impacts from noise and harassment.

The purpose of the ESA is to recover at-risk species and preserve the ecosystems upon which they depend.  The unique provision in the ESA that recognizes the importance of habitat is key to helping listed species recover, and provides a way to protect the homes of endangered species by designating critical habitat.  Much of WDC’s work follows this model as well, as we endeavor to create safe homes for whales and dolphins by protecting their habitat, and our efforts for ecosystem recovery in the Pacific Northwest are a large part of the work we do to recover the Southern Resident orca community.

To protect the full range of the Southern Residents, from Washington to California, we are advocating for an expansion of their critical habitat, in addition to our work on dam removal and river restoration to support healthy salmon runs – an important source of prey – for the Southern Residents.  Our work to protect orcas is made possible by generous support from The Jessica Rekos Foundation, and from you – read more about the Southern Residents and how we work to protect them on our website.

 Endangered Species Day provides an opportunity for people to learn about endangered species and the importance of protecting them and their habitats.  The threats to the Southern Residents are scary and intimidating, and will require multiple stakeholders working together, but there is still hope to save the Southern Residents.  Conservation acts under the ESA have been successful in preventing extinction for 99% of the species listed, and data shows that species with designated critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as species without. 

We will continue to celebrate the Southern Residents and increase public awareness about their plight in the upcoming Orca Awareness Month, and continue our work to protect and recover this unique community of orcas.  Join events across the Northwest in June, or host your own Orca Month event wherever you are, and help us save the Southern Resident orcas.  Thank you for helping us ensure that the Southern Residents will survive for generations to come.

Adopt an Orca today and you can help us save the Southern Residents.