A young Southern Resident killer whale leaping from the water.
Photo by Wild Orca.

It’s easy to get disheartened about saving an endangered species. There’s no shortage of scientific studies showing this unique community of whales is struggling for survival. A recent piece in Outside Magazine articulates the challenges well, but it’s hard to find any signs of hope when reading an article such as this, cataloging their tragic losses through malnutrition, ship strike and other human-related causes. Yet despite this, Wild Orca still has hope that time remains to turn the tide.

We know why these whales are heading to extinction, and importantly, we also know the solutions. Up to now, it’s the political will to tackle these difficult and sometimes controversial issues that’s failed them. But political climates can and do change, and so meaningful timely action is still possible, and therefore our hope remains.

Over the last few decades we’ve degraded and polluted our seas, we’ve extracted unsustainable quantities of fish, and we’ve demonized and exterminated so-called competitors—including killer whales. Yet when the persecution stops, and areas of refuge such as marine reserves or marine protected areas are established, ocean ecosystems have shown time and again their remarkable resilience to recover, and so hope remains.

An aerial view of the Lower Monumental Dam.
Photo courtesy of Bonneville Power Administration.

The Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River.

In the news just this week is renewed prospect for removing the four Snake River dams. This act would restore one of the most important river systems in the lower 48 for Chinook salmon—and these whales. When a dam blocking access to upstream habitat is removed—within as little as one season—spawning salmon can again find streams utilized by their ancestors. Scientists have been astonished at how quickly these river systems are able to recover, often decades ahead of expectations, and so hope remains.

Each and every day brings new opportunities to be a champion for these whales. It’s up to us to use our voice when theirs cannot be heard, and demand change and reparation. So now more than ever, we must continue to challenge current policies and practices that prevent these whales from raising healthy calves, so that our grandchildren might know theirs, while hope remains.