Orca Populations Are Collapsing - Here's How You Can Help

For years, groups of orcas called pods residing in the waters off British Columbia, Washington State, and Oregon have been in decline.

For years, groups of orcas called pods residing in the waters off British Columbia, Washington State, and Oregon have been in decline. These pods are referred to as the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW).

SRKW is a unique sub-species of orca whales that have a unique language, diet, and culture. In the Fall, the SRKW can be seen swimming in the Salish Sea. But environmental issues facing the Salish Sea are causing populations of the SRKW to decline. It is critical that we coextist with orcas and other creatures on this planet. If we lose the animals of the world, it’s only a matter of time before we’re extinct too! Fortunately there are things you can do to help the orcas.

Protect salmon stocks by eating less salmon

The SRKW eat mostly salmon. About 85% of their diet is comprised of salmon. In a normal year, 16 million salmon pass through the mouth of the Columbia River. In 2016, that number dropped to just 2 million. With the salmon in decline, the SRKW are losing their primary food source.

Avoiding eating chinook salmon is the easiest way to help. The salmon are in decline mostly due to overfishing.

Avoid single-use plastics

Single-use plastics are a contributing factor to the decline of many marine species, including orcas. Like other species of whale, orcas are known to accidentally consume things like plastic bags, which can cause injury and even death. So opt for reusable bags and use refillable bottles, not single-use plastic ones.

Don’t visit marine wildlife parks

Historically, theme parks centered around marine wildlife have been incredibly problematic for whales. In recent years, efforts to protect captive whales have seen some success. But many of these whales originated in the wild. Removing orcas from their natural habitat reduces their ability to survive and thrive.

Additionally, the habitats these whales must live in are small and generally insufficient for meeting the needs of such a large, active creature. As a result, orca whales in captivity tend to live shorter, less healthy lives.

Host a beach cleanup

Plastic and other garbage that ends up in the world’s oceans periodically wash ashore, polluting what would otherwise be pristine beaches. If left alone, it’s likely that the plastic would be washed back out to sea. But we can take action! Cleaning up the beach is an excellent way to help reduce the amount of pollution in the oceans that may harm marine wildlife like Orcas.

Related: 10 benefits of cleaning up your local beach.

Fight climate change

Climate change is another significant factor for the decline of salmon. Hotter summers means higher water temperatures in the Pacific Northwest’s rivers. Unfortunately, the salmon cannot survive in waters these warm. Tackling climate change as an individual is tough, but taking even small steps, like driving less and conserving energy, can have a hugely positive impact!

Support responsible river damming

Dams are also a major issue facing the salmon. Dams simply block the standard migration routes of these salmon. To add insult to injury, many of these dams are abandoned and no longer in use. Four obsolete dams along the Snake River alone result in 2 million salmon deaths. Without plentiful food, the orcas suffer.

Make your voice heard on this issue. Reach out to local officials about these dams. Ask that obsolete, unused dams be removed.

Grab a coextinction item


To raise awareness for the declining orcas in the Pacific Northwest, we’re partnering up with a documentary series called Coextinction. Coextinction seeks to capture the story of extraordinary people fighting to save the Southern Resident Killer Whales.

For every purchase of our Coextinction collaboration tee, we will donate $5 to fund the completion of this documentary. Together, we can raise awareness of this issue and save the orcas.

Everything you do helps

Make no mistake, every positive action you take helps, whether it’s eating a bit less salmon, being mindful of your single-use plastics, and trying to reduce your total carbon footprint. Taking these actions can help protect orcas as well as other species and ultimately, future generations of humans!

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