Area killer whales considered for Endangered List

Killer, or orca whale, can be seen at times off the coast of Oregon. Photo by Dan Lewer/OSU Marine Mammal Institute.

April 28, 2023 — The Commission accepted a petition to list the Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) Distinct Population Segment (DPS) as Endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.

Acceptance of the petition initiates the rule-making process that will include an assessment of the biological status of SRKW in Oregon by ODFW and consultation with affected agencies, tribes, organizations, and the public. An actual decision on listing SRKW will not be made until a future Commission meeting. The petition was made by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

SRKW use coastal waters off Oregon, Washington and California and currently number just 73 individuals in three pods. Some key factors behind SRKW’s decline are scarcity of prey (primarily Chinook), high levels of contaminants from pollution, disturbance from vessels/sound and inbreeding. This population is already listed on the federal ESA.