Southern resident killer whales are typically easy to spot in the Salish Sea at this time of year. This year, however, the whales are proving very difficult to find. In fact, researchers think they have disappeared from the area completely. Without a sighting in over 2 months, everyone is wondering where the whales have gone.
According to Michael Weiss, a researcher with the Center for Whale Research, “The lack of Southern Resident in the Salish Sea for the entirety of June reflects a fundamental shift in the behavior of this population. Dramatic changes in the distribution of Chinook salmon, particularly due to the ongoing decline of the Fraser River stocks, have increasingly forced these whales to abandon an area that was once their core habitat.”
Without a stable food source, the orcas are forced to leave their home in search of other food. The director of Whale Scout, Whitney Neugebauer, says, “the absence of Southern Residents tells us that the ecosystem is out of balance. We should be listening and responding appropriately. If the whales can’t make a living in our inland waters, we, too, are in trouble.”
Human activities have rendered the waters unsuitable, leaving the whales no choice but to leave in search of more hospitable environments. It will take drastic action for these whales to return to their home on a regular basis.