I first saw a wild orca in the waters of southern Alaska, in 2008. My heart stopped. My eyes watered. No photo I took could recreate the immense emotion I felt while I observed them. Since 2008, I've wondered about their mysterious presence, their colossal size, beauty, power, grace, social phenomena, and extreme intelligence.
I now reside in Seattle, Wash. Seattle is the only urban city with a resident orca population. In the cool, clean waters of the Puget Sound and Salish Sea, J, K, and L pods (our Southern Resident Killer Whales) swim, hunt, and socialize freely. However, many do not realize just eighty Southern Resident orcas remain.
"As of spring 2014, the SRKW population totaled 80 individuals ( J Pod = 25, K Pod = 19, L Pod = 36). The size of all three Southern Resident pods was reduced in number from 1965-75 as a result of whale captures for marine park exhibition. At least 13 whales were killed during these captures, while 45 whales were delivered to marine parks around the world. Today, only Lolita (Tokitae) remains alive in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium. Annual SRKW population updates occur on July 1 and December 31 each year." (Center For Whale Research, learn more at CFWR on Facebook.)