Seeing orcas in their natural environment is a peak experience that we passionately share with our passengers. As part of your whale watching tour, our captains and marine naturalists provide information about the orcas lives, habitat, history, culture, biology and the challenges faced by this endangered southern resident orca population. Providing education is a fundamental component of our conservation efforts with the hope that we inspire others to engage in and support habitat recovery for the whales and other wildlife.
In addition, we support a variety of research and conservation organizations. Our support includes donations from our company, donations made by individuals within our company, as well as involvement and service working with the organizations on a variety of projects.
Since orcas sit at the top of the food chain, they are considered an apex predator; therefore, everything in their environment has the potential to affect their survivability. Habitat restoration is HUGE for these mammals, but even more so for their food source: Chinook Salmon. Southern Resident Orcas feed on about 90% Chinook salmon in the summer months (May-September). They need to consume about 300-400 lbs of this salmon per day (depending on their weight) to stay in maximum fitness. These whales can travel 100 miles a day, so they need that caloric intake! This means, with a population of 81 individuals, they need to consume a little less than 579,000 Chinook Salmon per year just to survive. Restoring the Chinook Salmon for these orcas is perhaps the most important thing we humans need to do in order to insure their survival.
Here are some things you can do to help:
Know the facts, know the science, and know how your actions impact the environment. For example, if buy the Atlantic Salmon, you’re almost certainly supporting the fish farming industry, which poses a very harmful threat to the survival of native salmon.
Seafood Watch recommendations show you which seafood items are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives,” and which ones you should “Avoid.”
We need to keep our water as clean as possible. This means keeping a close eye on what goes down the drain and on your lawn. Reducing the amount of pollutants and excess nutrients in our water will help restore salmon and orca habitat. And, if you have to wash your car- do it at a car wash where the water is recycled, not in your driveway! Also, don’t dispose of used medications down the drain. Many of the compounds in medications won’t break down in the treatment process, and ends up in the ocean bio-accumulating up tropic levels.
If you are in a community that supports salmon habitat, get involved to find out what is being done to restore their habitat. Are there efforts to restore streams and rivers? If nothing is being done, make noise! Create a group that’s dedicated to helping restore salmon habitat.
Vote smart, or even contact your local government: If government has enough pressure to make a change, they will have to follow through.
If you have the financial means, consider donating to organizations like The Center for Whale Research, Wild Orca, The Orca Network, Long Live the Kings (salmon that is) and many other organizations like these.
Go to WildOrca.org and buy a $5 bumper sticker that you can put anywhere to raise awareness about the need to conserve salmon in order to save the orcas. Who knows, maybe someone will see that and make a change themselves.
Network on social media. Never underestimate the power of social media to get word out about important matters!
In the end, it’s all about the small changes we make in our daily lives. By bettering our environment, we are bettering the habitat for salmon, and for our southern resident orcas. It’s all about what you can do, within your means to make a small difference. Something as simple as using reusable bags when you grocery shop, or using a “green” product to clean with – the smallest action can make a BIG difference in the long run.
These suggestions are courtesy of our biologist and marine naturalist, Heather MacIntyre.