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Center for

Orca Survey Since 1976

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

Not ONE, but TWO New Babies in L Pod!

L94 and new calf L127

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L119 with new calf L126

Update: On July 3, 2023, Center for Whale Research researchers obtained photos and drone footage that confirmed that new calf L127 is female, and the next day obtained photos confirming that L126 is male.


Media Release: Center for Whale Research

Date: June 30, 2023

Not ONE but TWO New Babies in L Pod!


The Center for Whale Research (CWR) can confirm two new calves in the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population: L126 (mother L119) and L127 (mother L94). CWR researchers encountered the two calves during a survey of a group of whales containing members of J pod and the L12 subgroup in the Strait of Georgia on June 30, 2023.


L126 is L119’s first calf, while L127 is L94’s third. We estimate that both calves are at least two months old, and neither shows any immediate signs of illness or abnormality.


Both calves were very active and social while we observed them. The sex of the calves is still unknown, but CWR staff will attempt to get additional images of both calves in the coming days.


These are the first calves born in L pod since 2021 and the first calves born in the L12 subgroup since 2018. The first year is challenging for young whales, but we hope that both calves and their mothers can survive and thrive well into the future.

Bigg’s killer whale females maintain close relationships with their adult sons, while daughters disperse

New BIGGS killer whale research:


 Post-reproductive mother T60 and her adult son T60C.


Post-reproductive mother T100 traveling with her adult son T100C and daughter T100E.

Drawing upon an impressive dataset spanning nearly half a century of observations collected on Bigg’s killer whales by CWR, DFO, and numerous other Canadian and American organizations, researchers explored how the social bond between mother and offspring change with age and sex of the offspring.

Read the full blog and complete study ⇢


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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.


47 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 


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.

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