Aug. 2, 2013

Where are the whales?

It’s a question those of us in the whale watch community off southern Vancouver Island usually ask every morning from May through September. Often, the answer to the question is something like “On the west side of San Juan Island” or “swimming past Victoria” or “near the mouth of the Fraser River by Vancouver, BC.”

The 80-plus members of the southern resident community of killer whales can travel up to 100 miles a day, and without any of the animals being tagged it’s visual spotting that finds them on a day-to-day basis.

This year, however, the question, “Where are the whales?” has taken on a different meaning in the whale watch community. It’s not just a curious question among hopeful whale watchers trying to track the movements of J-, K- and L-Pods. It’s a sadder, more anxious question this year because, quite simply, the whales aren’t here.

Why? And what does it mean? Marine naturalist and blogger Monika Wieland offers some informative—and disturbing—thoughts on the very uncertain future for this beloved population of killer whales.

Monika’s full blog, originally published on July 27, 2013, can be found at

Even if the southern resident whales show up off southern Vancouver Island today or tomorrow, this problem is not going away anytime soon. Decades of research show they are in trouble and need our help.

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Get involved with a marine conservation group
  • Become a member of the Center for Whale Research and support their ongoing studies of southern resident killer whales
  • Ask your MP or congressman what their jurisdiction is doing to enhance and protect chinook salmon stocks
  • Get involved in local salmon habitat restoration projects
  • Purchase seafood from healthy, sustainable fisheries