Greg Ruggerone and his team recently published research they believe shows a connection between pink salmon and the decline of Southern Resident killer whales. The endangered orcas primarily eat Chinook salmon and Ruggerone believes pink salmon are somehow interfering with the whales' ability to forage.
Josh McInnes studies transient killer whales, a group of orcas that has rebounded from dwindling numbers. They differ from the fish-eating Southern Resident killer whales because they eat marine mammals. McInnes discusses reasons for their comeback and why he still has hope for the Southern Residents.
Jeff Hogan is the Founder of Killer Whale Tales, a program that visits schools to teach kids about the plight of killer whales and what we can do to help them. Hogan hopes the kids will not only change their own behavior to be better stewards of the environment, but also change the behavior of their parents.
David Bain is Chief Scientist with the Orca Conservancy and a leading expert on how vessel noise affects the behavior of the Southern Resident killer whales. He is a critic of the proposed ban on whale watching of the SRKW, arguing it may not only be unnecessary but also harmful.
Jim Waddell is a former engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He has become an outspoken advocate for breaching the 4 lower Snake River dams in order to restore Chinook salmon runs for the Southern Resident killer whales.
Mike Ford is the Director of Conservation Biology at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. He and his team about about to start sequencing the genomes of the Southern Resident killer whales. Could their affinity for salmon and distaste for other food be linked to their genes?
Dr. Holly Fearnbach with SR3 (Sealife Response, Rehabilitation & Research) uses aerial photogrammetry to document the health trends of the Southern Resident killer whales. Her photos recently diagnoses another orca, K25, as declining in condition. They have also shown at least three new pregnancies, one in each of the J, K and L Pods.
Sam Wasser is the Director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington. He is a poop expert. His studies of Southern Resident killer whale scat has given scientists unprecedented knowledge of their health, such as how stress hormones affect miscarriages. He's using the same focus on poop to help curb the illegal trafficking of ivory.
Dr. Joe Gaydos is a veterinarian and scientist with SeaDoc Society. He worked closely on an intervention to save J50, the sickly and starving young Southern Resident killer whale who recently died. Dr. Gaydos is currently compiling a health database for the Southern Resident orcas in order to inform both policy surrounding the whales as well as any future efforts focused on individual survival. Dr. Gaydos also sits on Governor Inslee's Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force.
Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) sits on the task force created by Governor Inslee to save the Southern Resident killer whales from extinction. He says the whales have faced the same challenges for decades while those in charge did nothing, but he's more hopeful these days thanks to public outcry. He says "extinction is not an option."
Ken Balcomb has been identifying and studying the Southern Resident killer whales for decades with the Center for Whale Research. After J50's death, he says it's past time that action takes the place of politics. The orcas are down to just 75 with very few reproducing. He hopes he does not see the end of them in his lifetime, but believes it's a real possibility.
The last orca calf to be live captured in Puget Sound in a rescue effort to save her life was Springer, an orphan who liked to swim near boats. She was captured and returned to her family group. The same equipment used in that intervention will be used if officials capture the ailing J50 for rehabilitation. Also called "Scarlet", the near-death Southern Resident orca calf continues to decline despite efforts to dart her with antibiotics. If captured, the plan is to diagnose and treat her with the hope of returning her to the JPod.
Dr. Martin Haulena is at the center of a historic effort to save a sickly killer whale. He is the head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium who shot ailing Southern Resident orca calf J50 "Scarlet" with antibiotics on two occasions. Dr. Haulena talks about his worry for her survival and how she might forever change the way humans intervene in the future of wildlife.