The No. 1 threat to these endangered orcas is lack of wild Chinook (King) salmon, as they each need 20 a day to stay healthy. This large, fatty fish is their main food supply, and they’ve been overfished, together with lost spawning habitat, including access to important upstream rivers now blocked by dams.

So, to save these orcas, we’re going to need a reliable supply of Chinook, and Coho, which will take a combination of actions, from a fishing quota – a share of the catch allocated to these orcas, to other measures such as restricting fishing, especially in their identified feeding areas, known as critical habitat.

Key also, is ensuring that more wild salmon can successfully spawn and grow their populations, through a vast program of habitat creation and restoration, together with dam removals to bring back access to hundreds of miles of previous salmon spawning grounds in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

In addition to this, we’re going to need solutions for wastewater treatment, point-source pollution, and run-off to restrict toxic chemicals from entering our waterways and getting into the marine food web.

The rate of overall change in the Salish Sea ecosystem, much of it in the last 50 years – climate change, overfishing, new toxins in the marine environment, together with habitat degradation— is all just happening far too fast in evolutionary terms, and it’s just not feasible for these orcas to keep pace with it.

There isn’t a magic bullet, and none of these actions are quick solutions, but it’s going to take a combination of measures to improve and enhance the entire ecosystem to give these endangered orcas a chance to survive and thrive.  

Fortunately, ecosystems are able to make amazing recoveries and Monterey Bay is a good example of this – today one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, but this is all quite recent. Change started here with just one woman’s personal mission to protect a small piece of shoreline, and an endangered marine mammal clinging to survival. Here’s a 15 min TEDx to learn more about this story, which shows us that there is always hope when enough people are willing to try to make a difference.

We need your help.