Orcas, also known as Killer Whales, are some of the most iconic marine mammals of the Pacific Northwest, particularly in the Salish Sea. There are two types of orcas that frequent the waters in and around the Pacific Northwest – transients (often called Brigg’s Orcas) and residents. There are two distinct resident populations in the Pacific Northwest – the Northern Residents and the Southern Residents. The Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) calls the Puget Sound home for the summer and fall months and unlike their northern counterparts and transient cousins, the SRKWs are endangered and as of July 2021, there are only 74 individuals in the three pods.
These iconic marine mammals are vital to the ecological and cultural ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest, which is why this year’s Orca Recovery Day is so important. This event is the sixth annual one on Saturday, October 14th, 2023. The goal for the day is to help restore habitats critical for orcas’ survival, like the rivers and creeks that salmon return home to every year, and learn more about the Southern Residents. For those in Western Washington, the organization Better Ground has compiled a list of events happening around Puget Sound organized by county and there are plenty happening this Saturday. A good portion of the events are centered around invasive weed removals in riparian areas that provide vital habitats to salmon but other types include tree planting, a native plant giveaway, salmon sightings, a movie night on San Juan Island, and even an educational street fair in Mukilteo!
If there aren’t any events that you are able to attend, there are ways to still get involved both on Saturday and the rest of the year. First, spend time learning about orcas, other marine mammals, the many ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, and how everything is often intertwined. The Orca Network has a site dedicated to Orca Action Month that has events and resources for learning more about orcas. There are plenty of podcasts, books, documentaries, and other forms of media about orcas as well, like SeaDoc Society’s podcast Pod of Orcas: Saving Our Seas and the documentary Blackfish.
Second, volunteer to help with salmon habitat restoration projects and become a steward for the salmon. A significant problem for resident orcas is the declining salmon population and by helping the salmon in and around the Pacific Northwest, you can directly help the orcas in the Salish Sea. Third, there are so many wonderful organizations that directly and indirectly support orcas, like the Orca Conservancy and the Sacred Lands Conservancy. This work of restoring habitats and saving the orcas is vast and on-going. There are so many ways to be involved and people of all abilities and backgrounds can help make a difference all year round!
There are, of course, so many other ways to help orcas and the other animals of the Pacific Northwest all year round. Orca Recovery Day is a great way to get involved with your local community and neighbors to come together and make a difference. How will you be spending this year’s Orca Recovery Day?