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They desperately need our


Southern Resident killer whales are

gravely endangered

What's at STAKE

support our research today DONATE

We are blessed to share the Salish Sea with the Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcas), an endangered species of astounding grace, beauty, and intelligence. For 43 years, we have conducted essential research that has informed policy and management decisions to keep these Orcas healthy. However, as wild salmon runs - the primary food source of these Orcas - have declined, so too has the whales’ survival rate declined.

Only 76 Southern Resident Killer Whales remain today.

Please support our essential work to ensure the best policy and management actions are made to recover this beloved and iconic endangered species.


ensures we can work to protect and recover the Orca populations today.

To systematically monitor the health of the Southern Residents' fragile population we need to raise money to conduct on-the-water encounters every month of the year throughout the whales’ range, as weather permits. Additionally, we can increase education efforts focused on protecting the whales' primary food source – wild salmon.
Please make your tax-deductible donation to support our important work today!

Your generous donation to the Center for Whale Research will ensure that our expert staff can do everything possible to help recover our endangered friends. With your financial support, we will continue to:


Public Outreach & Education

Staff Scientists

year-round on-the-water whale surveys & health assessments

Center for Whale Research activities

Data Analysis

Research vessel moorage, maintenance, gas


  • Continue our research & monitoring of the whales to year-round to better document and assess their health, population dynamics, behavior and changing use of habitat, even as their range is shifting.

  • Take a 3-river system approach to the Columbia, Skagit and Fraser Rivers that provide the key wild salmon food source for the whales, by collaborating with organizations and scientists to enhance wild salmon runs and provide the whale component that is otherwise incomplete without us.

  • Inform decision-makers about the whale's ecosystem needs and health changes based on our scientific research and on-water observations.

  • Be the voice for the whales, as we have been for the past four decades, by continuing to engage the media, educating schools and community groups, and raising public awareness through regular updates to our website and social media.

  • Collaborate with state and federal partners, non-profit whale and salmon advocacy organizations and lawyers to ensure they have the most current information as we work to feed, recover and protect the whales.

“Learning about these whales you see that they have family.  They have love, they have happy and they have hungry.”

– KEN BALCOMB, Center for Whale Research Senior Scientist

42 years of  WHALE


For over four decades, the Center for Whale Research has been conducting annual photo-ID (photo-Identification) studies of Southern Resident killer whales — generating unprecedented baseline information on population dynamics, demography, social structure, and individual life histories. Thanks to this research, more detail is known about Southern Resident killer whales than any other group of marine mammals in the world.  A non-profit, 501(c) 3 organization, our overarching mission is to facilitate conservation through non-invasive study.

Where the money GOES

key priorities


ORCA SURVEY  –  an annual census


In 1976 Ken Balcomb launched Orca Survey, a photo-ID census to determine the status of the newly defined population known as the Southern Resident killer whales. Through these early studies, it was determined that whale populations were much smaller than previously thought—a stunning revelation that brought about the end of whale captures in the U.S. and Canada. Today, detailed information on population status and trends collected by the Center for Whale Research continues to be crucial to Southern Resident killer whale recovery and conservation.



Dr. Michael Bigg's studies in the 1970's discovered that whales could be identified individually based on fin shape, scars, and “saddle patches”— the whitish-gray area on a whale’s back.

Dave Ellifrit speaking to students about Orca ID at an Advanced Orca Naturalist training session.


The Center for Whale Research has generated a treasure trove of knowledge over its 42-year history, and that knowledge needs to be shared and translated into action. In 2013 we launched our CWR membership program, creating an opportunity for Orca enthusiasts to engage. Our Orca education and outreach efforts include naturalist training, collaboration with educators to include teaching modules in class, science education through storytelling and classroom presentations across the Pacific Northwest. But there is much more work to do. With an increasingly engaged and informed public and the power of social media, in 2017 we have an unprecedented opportunity to reach and inspire people everywhere.

“I can't just sit around and count these whales to death.”


“If I could wave a magic wand I would make sure these whales are fed.”


donor FAQs


How will you use my donation?

By helping the Center for Whale Research meet its financial needs, we will be able to continue our on-water research and health monitoring year-round. This is essential, as the J Pod continues to be present in its critical habitat in the San Juan Islands year-round. Your support will allow Center scientists to more accurately document the shifting baselines occurring in the whales’ population, behavior, health and habitat use. Importantly, we can take our understanding of the whales’ needs directly to policymakers and officials who depend on science to make informed management decisions, like targeted salmon restoration actions, to ensure the recovery of these iconic whales.

What else can I do to help the whales?

We work hard to speak on behalf of the Southern Resident Killer Whales but they need your voice, too. Please contact your local elected representatives about the need for salmon recovery through changes in fisheries management, river restoration, cleanup of toxins and other pollutants, and removal of outdated and costly dams throughout the whales’ range. Under current practices wild salmon and whales are headed for extinction. Also, get involved in “boots on the ground and hands in the dirt” habitat restoration efforts in your area; remember, every action makes a small but important difference. Your personal engagement will help us convey the urgency of this dire situation.

How can I learn more about the Southern Resident Orcas?

As part of our Education and Outreach priority, we update the content of our website and social media constantly.

Stay in touch with us. You will be informed at every turn. And please become an Ambassador for this fragile community. They need all our help. Together we can affect positive change.

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