Imperiled Southern Resident Orcas Listed as Endangered by State of Oregon   - Oceana USA

Imperiled Southern Resident Orcas Listed as Endangered by State of Oregon  

Listing Will Provide New Protections for Southern Residents in Oregon State Waters

Press Release Date: February 16, 2024

Location: Hillsboro, OR


Ashley Blacow | email: | tel: Ashley Blacow

Today the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to list Southern Resident orcas, a distinct population of orcas found only in the Pacific Northwest, as endangered under Oregon’s Endangered Species Act. Only 75 individuals remain in this genetically distinct population. The Commission’s determination was based on the population’s low numbers, reproductive challenges, declines in Chinook salmon—their primary food source—and displacement from ocean noise and impacts from ocean pollution.    

“Southern Resident orcas are on the brink of extinction, and we applaud the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission for its decision to help prevent these unique animals from being lost forever,” said Tara Brock, Pacific counsel for Oceana. “If we can rebuild salmon numbers and reduce ocean pollution and noise, Southern Residents stand a fighting chance to inhabit our waters for generations to come.”    

Unlike other orca populations in the Pacific that prey on marine mammals or sharks, Southern Resident orcas are specialized salmon hunters. Chinook salmon make up 80% of their diet and Chinook are in steep decline due to dams, loss of habitat, and fishing pressure. Two-thirds of Southern Resident orcas’ pregnancies failed between 2008 and 2014 because mothers were not getting enough salmon. In addition, many females in the population are nearing the age where they will no longer be able to reproduce. This is compounded by the fact that only 60% of baby orcas survive their first few years of life, and those chances decline when the calves are unable to receive enough nutrition. 

While Southern Resident orcas have been federally listed as endangered since 2005, the new Oregon listing will require the state to consider measures to help Southern Resident orcas including increasing salmon abundance, new measures to prevent oil spills, limits on pollutants in state waters, and guidelines on vessel traffic.   

Oregon waters are an important migratory corridor for Southern Residents as they move between foraging areas to the north and south. See a map of Southern Resident orca critical habitat here.

Learn more about Oceana’s efforts to recover Southern Resident orcas here   

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 300 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit to learn more.