As she carried her dead calf day after day, for more than 1,000 miles Tahlequah the mother orca opened the eyes and hearts of people around the world last summer. Her journey raised uncomfortable questions about why the calf died and why her extended family is struggling to survive.
The Seattle Times will continue to explore and expose the plight of the southern resident killer whales, among the most-enduring symbols of our region. We’ll examine the role we have played in their decline, what we can do about it and why it matters.
Orcas thrive in a land to the north. Why are Puget Sound’s dying?
Published November 11, 2018 | Read story »
How a generation of killer whales was taken from Puget Sound
Published December 13, 2018 | Read story »
HUNGER: The decline of salmon adds to the struggle of Puget Sound’s orcas
Published February 24, 2019 | Read story »
THE ROAR BELOW: How our noise is hurting orcas’ search for salmon
Published May 19, 2019 | Read story »
CHASING A MEMORY: In California, orcas and salmon have become so scarce people have forgotten what once was. Will the Northwest be next?
Published September 29, 2019 | Read story »
We have a lot of reporting planned, and we want you to be part of the conversation. Here’s how you can join us:
• Text the word ORCA to 206-429-4613 or enter your cellphone number here:
↓ MORE COVERAGE ↓
Namu the orca sparked whale fever in 1965 Seattle — and a local band planned to cash in
Namu, displayed on Seattle's waterfront, sparked worldwide interest in killer whales. As for the pop-music single? "I know I didn’t make any money, but it was fun," said the studio owner. He said he got the idea after he heard a recording of the orca singing.
New orca protections in Canada include fishing reductions and sanctuaries closed to vessel traffic
Canada has adopted a suite of measures intended to improve orcas' access to food by reducing commercial and recreational fishing for chinook salmon and quieting vessel noise. Some of the policies go further than laws just adopted by Washington state.
Gov. Inslee signs range of bills aimed at helping orcas
The legislation grew out of recommendations made by Inslee's orca recovery task force last November. Researchers say the orcas are on the brink of extinction due mostly to a lack of their preferred prey, chinook salmon.
Breaching Snake River dams could save salmon and orcas, but destroy livelihoods
Folks whose jobs depend on four federal dams in southeastern Washington say that pleas to breach the dams are forcing them to speak out in defense of their economy and their way of life.
Scientists identify another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon
Researchers suspect that huge runs of pink salmon, which have boomed under conservation efforts and changes in ocean conditions in the past two decades, might interfere with southern resident orcas' ability to hunt their preferred prey, Chinook salmon.
After 20 years and $1 billion spent on Washington state salmon programs, fish still declining, new report says
The 2018 State of the Salmon report by the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office paints a sobering picture.
Sculpting a killer whale: The process behind making an orca infographic
Seattle Times graphic artist Emily M. Eng takes you through the process of making a 3-D model of an orca so we could better explain the animals in an ongoing series about them.
FAQ: A primer on the endangered southern resident killer whales
Where do they live? What do they eat? What can we do to help them? Seattle Times environment reporter Lynda Mapes answers common questions about the region's orcas.
A mother orca’s dead calf and the grief felt around the world
The orca Tahlequah, also known as J35, has now carried her dead calf for a ninth day. Experts say grief is driving her, but others urge caution about projecting human emotions on animals.
Controversy heats up over removal of Lower Snake River dams as orcas suffer losses
Orca champions have joined forces with dam busters, bringing new energy to an old fight to take down the Lower Snake River dams.
Puget Sound orca Lolita to remain captive at Miami Seaquarium, court rules
The Lummi Nation wants to retire Lolita to a sea pen in the Sound, where she would be fed chinook and be in her home waters again, and in acoustic contact with her family.
Another local orca is ailing — but at least three whales are pregnant
The southern resident killer whales have struggled to reproduce over the past several years, and lost three members just this year.
EPA ices Washington state’s effort to regulate hot water in Columbia, Snake rivers
The EPA had issued draft permits to the state Ecology department for review, but yanked them last week -- effectively stopping the state's effort to regulate water quality at the federal dams.
After 17 days and 1,000 miles, mother orca Tahlequah drops dead calf, frolics with pod
Tahlequah, the mother orca whale whose plight captivated people around the world, is no longer carrying her calf.
Struggling orcas heavily rely on urban chinook from Seattle-area rivers, new analysis shows
Southern-resident orcas depend on a wide diversity of chinook-salmon runs throughout a big geographic range, according to the analysis by NOAA Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
As orcas struggle, angry speakers rebuke NOAA: ‘We will not be silent’
Attendees criticized NOAA for coordinating the now-canceled rescue effort of the orca J50 with SeaWorld, the entertainment park that had for decades profited from capturing the animals for use in its aquariums.
Concern over endangered orcas blows up approval of Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada
The Canadian government has recently moved to nationalize the expansion of the controversial pipeline. But the ruling Thursday by the Federal Court of Appeals is requiring the government to assess the project's possible impact on southern-resident killer whales, which use transboundary waters of the Salish Sea.
Environmentalists sue federal government in Seattle to protect endangered orcas
The lawsuit alleges that the government had agreed in February 2015 that expanding the protection zone for the orcas was "warranted," but has since failed to take action, putting the orcas at greater risk of extinction.
Will we now commit to saving the Northwest’s orcas? A task force forms
Scientists say saving the southern resident orcas is going to take a variety of solutions, from quieting vessel noise to fishing cutbacks, to restraint on development in what habitat remains for salmon and even breaching the lower Snake River dams.
Sick orca gets shot of antibiotics as rescuers prepare feeding attempt
Researchers will next determine whether to proceed with feeding, depending on conditions and location of the whales.
Dosed salmon, clipped fins, a ‘dinner bell’: How far is too far in helping starving orca?
An emergency plan aims to medicate and feed J50, a struggling young southern resident killer whale scientists fear may not have long to live.
‘I have not slept in days’: Readers react to Tahlequah, the mother orca clinging to her dead calf
We asked you how this story was affecting you and what questions you had about orcas in the Puget Sound. More than 1,000 readers responded, flooding our comment sections and inboxes with tales of how Tahlequah's story has impacted them.