Orcas of the Salish Sea | WWF-Canada
	© Natalie Bowes / WWF-Canada

Orcas of the Salish Sea

Survival has become uncertain for the orcas of the Salish Sea. For years, pressures on these awe-inspiring whales — icons of the Pacific coast, culturally signficant to First Nations people and beloved by tourists — have been increasing. In 2016, five adult southern resident orcas and two infants, born in 2015, died. The population now stands at 78. The next two to three years will determine if the group will rebuild or continue to dwindle.

The orcas’ continuing existence is threatened by food shortages due to the decline of Chinook salmon, pollutants in their habitat, disturbance from human activity and underwater noise. Although they have been legally declared endangered in both Canada and the United States (their habitat crosses the border), there has been little reduction in these threats.

In fact, shipping and associated underwater noise is projected to grow significantly in coming years as the port of Vancouver expands on Roberts Bank and projects such as the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are built.


	© Alan Burger / WWF-Canada
The orcas of the Salish Sea are threatened with extinction and without action. We need your support to ensure the health and vitality of our oceans for orcas and other wildlife.

Three southern resident killer whales, British Columbia.
© Natalie Bowes / WWF-Canada

What WWF-Canada is doing: 

Since 2011, we have been working to support quiet oceans for marine species on the Pacific coast, including for orcas. 

We have convened workshops to bring together researchers, policy makers and industry to find solutions to underwater noise pollution. We have also been improving the monitoring of underwater noise and supporting mapping projects to understand where noise pollution impacts critical habitats for orca, humpback and fin whales. In addition, we continue to work with Industry programs such as the Port of Vancouver’s ECHO program and Green Marine to find practical solutions to reducing underwater noise pollution.

In summer 2016, the federal government released its proposed action plan for the recovery of southern resident killer whales. WWF-Canada responded by pushing for immediate actions to reduce threats to the orcas: regulation to ensure adequate supplies of Chinook salmon for them to eat, as well as ensuring levels of noise pollution from vessels and toxic contaminants would not increase and there would be quantifiable reductions to these threats. The final plan has yet to be released.