Posted by: The ocean update | October 13, 2016

Orcas have returned to Puget Sound (Washington state, USA)

Orcas are returning to Puget Sound in search of chum salmon. Jill Hein/courtesy of Orca Network.

Orcas are returning to Puget Sound in search of chum salmon. Jill Hein/courtesy of Orca Network.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016. SEATTLE — They’re back.

The southern resident killer whales have returned to Puget Sound. The Orca Network and the Langley Whale Center members of the J pod and other whales were spotted earlier this week in Saratoga Passage between Whidbey Island and Camano Island.

Deborah Giles of the Center for Whale Research says the pods traditionally have moved from chinook salmon in the Fraser River in British Columbia to chum salmon in Puget Sound Rivers.

“Given the decline of Chinook salmon throughout the whales’ historical range, Puget Sound bound salmonid species have become that much more important to the whales from October through early spring,” she said.

Since the 2005 Federal listing of the Southern Resident Orcas under the Endangered Species Act, Orca Network has been assisting NOAA Fisheries and the Center for Whale Research to help track the orcas’ winter travels in Puget Sound and along the outer coast. According to Ken Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research, this orca community often can’t find enough salmon to survive. Less than half of the females within their reproductive years have brought healthy calves into the population in recent years. The first step is to help salmon spawn and survive to adulthood. “We have to consider the ecological solution here.”

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