I’ve never been lucky enough to see an orca in the wild. But I’m still dazzled and thrilled just knowing that such magnificent creatures are out there, swimming freely in our Salish Sea. To me they symbolic of our little part of the world, a feeling enhanced by growing up around the art of the Coastal Salish people, which often incorporates them.
A joint research project between the Vancouver Aquarium and NOAA Fisheries is studying the Northern and Southern Resident Populations to track the health of our orcas, using drones to capture high quality images. Drones can take photos from much closer than helicopters or planes without disturbing the animals.
The scientists use the photos to make measurements, which they can then compare from season-to-season and year-to-year. This tells them if the orcas are getting enough to eat, if they are pregnant, and so on. The health of the orcas is closely tied to the health of salmon runs since, unlike orcas in other parts of the world, ours primarily feed on salmon.
This year the orcas are looking better, and five calves have been born in the last year. This baby boom is encouraging, because the orca population in the Salish Sea is endangered. There are only 81 individuals remaining in the Southern Resident Population, and that’s with the addition of the new calves.
If you’re interested in seeing more pictures and learning about the study you can go to this link on the NOAA Fisheries site.