Washington governor slams military testing impact on orcas

The planned military exercises include testing torpedoes, firing projectiles at seven times the speed of sound, piloting mine-detecting undersea drones, deploying underwater sonar and exploding bombs up to 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) in waters from northern California to Alaska.

Chinook salmon decimated, southern resident orcas are residents no more

Summer is synonymous with seeing whales in the Pacific Northwest, but visits from the locally-beloved southern resident orcas are becoming few and far between. Experts say the dramatic absence is likely directly tied to tanking salmon returns in the Fraser River, which were historically abundant. 

Another endangered southern resident orca missing and feared dead, scientists say

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. -- Scientists worry another endangered Southern Resident killer whale may be dead.The orca whale known as L41 was not seen in an encounter with his pod on Jan. 24, scientists with the Center for Whale Research said.He hasn't been spotted by the group since August, and because of his advanced age, scientists worry he may be dead."Given his age and that he looked a little thin in our January 2019 encounter, we fear he may be gone and consider him missing unless he shows up unexpectedly in an upcoming encounter," scientists with CWR said.

Drone footage offers scientists new perspective in understanding killer whale behavior

SEATTLE - Drone technology is now offering scientists a new perspective on killer whale behavior and help endangered southern residents.Scientists at the University of British Columbia are using aerial drones to get a rare glimpse at the whale's eating habits while underwater.The footage will help them determine if endangered southern residents are getting enough Chinook salmon to meet nutritional needs.Researchers say comparing northern residents to southern residents is an important step to understanding foraging habits.“We’re studying northern residents, that unlike southern, appear to be healthy, generally better body condition, a larger population size,” researcher Sarah Fortune explained. “And we're looking at their feeding behavior and the prey that they have available in habitats, and we're comparing that to the smaller population of southern residents that show poor body condition.”This is the first time researchers are using drones to record behavior and prey fields at the same time.

Ferries slowing down to save endangered orcas

PUGET SOUND, Wash. -- Some ferry trips across the Puget Sound could take a little longer than usual but it's for a good cause: They're slowing down and steering clear of whales in the water.Responsible for the most sailings by a single industry in the Puget Sound, there's no denying the noise impact Washington State ferries have on the endangered southern resident orcas.

Tracking whales from the ferry? There's an app for that

SEATTLE -- New technology could help ships and ferries navigate around whales in Washington, reducing the chances of a deadly ship strike.This week, Washington State Ferries will be the first to use the WhaleReport Alert System throughout Puget Sound, which will alert captains to credible whale sightings in the area.Vessels are one of the main threats to the critically endangered southern resident orcas, both in terms of disturbance and the potential for a catastrophic ship strike.In 2016, an 18-year-old orca male known as DoubeStuf, or J34, died from blunt force trauma injuries due to a ship strike, according to the necropsy.This summer, a ferry hit and likely killed a young humpback whale in Elliott Bay.