Center for
Orca Survey since 1976

The Center for Whale Research (CWR) is dedicated to the study and conservation of the Southern Resident killer whale (orca) population in the Pacific Northwest.

Possible new calf in K Pod

The Center for Whale Research (CWR) is aware of a video posted by the YouTube channel, The Guide’s Forecast, taken off Pacific City on April 28, of members of K pod, including what appears to be a very young calf associating with K20. This calf would be the first viable baby born into K pod since K44 in 2011.


CWR plans to document the calf during our photographic surveys so that we can assess its health, confirm the identity of its mother, and assign it an alphanumeric designation. 

The mortality rate for young calves is very high, but we are pulling for this little whale and hope to see it soon.

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The above photo is a screenshot from the video taken by The Guide’s Forecast showing a possible new calf in K Pod.

See full video

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February 19, the Center for Whale Research's (CWR) founder and senior scientist, Ken Balcomb, was featured on CBS Saturday Morning. The internationally-broadcast story focuses on Ken's half-century-long dedication to the Southern Resident orcas and their survival needs, and CWR's recent commitment to Chinook salmon habitat restoration along Washington State's Elwha River.


We are pleased that CBS's Michelle Miller captured the essence of Ken’s passion and life's work. Every person who knows him or has worked with him understands his devotion to the Southern Residents. We are grateful to CBS Saturday Morning for sharing Ken's life story.

“This river had the biggest salmon that was in the Pacific Northwest; they were up to 125 pounds . . . they fed a food chain. And the whales were part of it. So, now that the dams have been removed, the [Elwha River] is starting to come back, and we want to celebrate it. And let the world know, that that's how to do it: RECOVER THE ECOSYSTEM.”

– Ken Balcomb speaking with CBS Saturday Morning's Michelle Miller


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Action: Center for Whale Research purchased a 45-acre ranch along Washington State's Elwha River, taking a BIG leap in conservation to preserve Chinook salmon habitat.

In October 2020, CWR added an ecosystem approach to saving the Southern Resident orcas by buying a ranch bordering both sides of the Elwha River, in a stretch of the mainstream river where a majority of the remnant native Chinook salmon now spawn. Balcomb BIG SALMON Ranch is smack in the middle of the recovering Elwha Valley habitat


The salmon abundance from the Elwha River ecosystem, flowing into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, can provide a healthy food source for the Southern Resident orcas and a sustainable, nearshore artisanal fishery in the Strait.

Watch Sealife Productions’ Florian Graner’s new twelve-minute video Elwha River Salmon Recovery, a story about the Elwha salmon since Washington State removed the river’s two dams in 2012 and 2014. The wildlife documentary producer and marine biologist provides an update on the now thriving Elwha River ecosystem. The video offers an objective take on where salmon recovery is presently and what’s still to come. And it’s as educational as it is informative. The film footage of salmon species at different stages of their lives is riveting—Chinook/King salmon, in particular. 

Together we CAN help
Become a CWR Member or make a DONATION

The Center for Whale Research has been studying these amazing whales since 1976, but our work is far from over. We need your help to continue our studies and to speak out on the Southern Resident orcas behalf.


46 years of RESEARCH

Every year for over four decades, we have collected detailed demographic data on the Southern Resident killer whale population, recording all observed births and deaths. We have also gathered detailed information on the behavior and ecology of these animals, including information on where the animals are in geographic location and time, and their social behavior and foraging patterns. This dataset has provided ground-breaking insight into killer whale biology and ecology that we hope will help to inform management decisions to conserve this vulnerable and now endangered population.

On the water


An Encounter refers to any time we observe killer whales (orcas), from one of our research boats or land, where at least one individual is identified and photographed. Typically, 2-4 staff are involved in an encounter. Once we come into contact with whales (i.e., within a distance of identifying individuals by sight), we have begun our encounter. During an encounter, our primary goal is to photograph every individual present from both the left and right sides.   

Orca Survey


185 S. First St., Friday Harbor, San Juan Island WA 


Thurs-Sunday 10:00 to 4:00 pm

Become immersed in the world of whales through our interactive displays. Watch amazing videos and listen to the whales vocalize underwater. See big screen video footage of the whales in the wild as experienced from our research boats. Come meet the naturalists and researchers, they'll share their knowledge of the magnificent whales of the Salish Sea.