Oceanwide Science Institute

Killer whale monitoring

The southern resident killer whales (SRKW) represent the smallest of four resident killer whale communities occurring in the eastern North Pacific Ocean.  It is the only killer whale population listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  Unlike other resident communities, the SRKW is only one clan that consists of 3 pods (J, K, L) with several matrilines within each pod.  There are approximately 77 individuals that make up this small population.  SRKW have been well-studied in their summer range, the protected inland waters of Washington State and southern British Columbia, over the past 35 years because of their consistent occurrence there during the months between July and September. However, on average the whales occur in inland waters less than half of the days each year, with only limited information being available on their distribution outside this area, particularly during the winter and spring.  To further examine the occurrence and distribution of SRKW in the coastal waters off Washington, Oregon and California, an acoustic monitoring program was launched in 2006 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in partnership with OSI.  As part of this effort, Ecological Acoustic Recorders are being deployed for 6-12 month periods to listen for the calls of SRKW animals.  This work is helping to provide valuable new insights into the spatial and temporal occurrence of SRKW outside of their well-established summer range.


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Hanson, M.B., Emmons, C.K., Nystuen, J.A. and Lammers, M.O. (2009) “Using moored passive acoustic recorders to assess seasonal occurrence and movements of southern resident killer whales in the coastal waters of Washington State.” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 125, 2589.

Emmons, C.K., Hanson, B.M., Holt, M.M., Noren, D.P. and Lammers, M.O. (2011) “Monitoring southern resident killer whale behavior on the outer coast of Washington using passive acoustics.” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 129, 2608

Hanson, B, Emmons, C., Ward, E., Nystuen, J. and Lammers, M.O. (2013) “Assessing the coastal occurrence of endangered killer whales using autonomous passive acoustic recorders.” Acoust. Soc. Am. 134:3486-3495. DOWNLOAD PDF

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Present & past EAR locations: