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K20, a 34-year-old female named Spock, was among the southern resident orcas visiting the San Juan Islands the past two days. // Photo: Monika Wieland Shields, Orca Behavior Institute.

Cumulative effects on southern resident killer whales and contaminants of emerging concern

The Salish Sea Science Roundtable series continues on February 6th with a look at the possible cumulative effects of emerging contaminants on endangered killer whale populations. The online session will be hosted by the Puget Sound Institute and facilitated by Joe Gaydos, chief scientist at the SeaDoc Society.

About the event:

Southern resident killer whales are struggling to avoid extinction. Lack of prey (i.e., Chinook salmon), noise and disturbances, and contaminants are three major stressors. An updated population model analyzed the cumulative effect of these stressors to help inform recovery efforts. On February 6th, as part of the Salish Sea Science Roundtable speakers series, Rob Williams from the Oceans Initiative will share recent model results that explore the population’s viability under different scenarios.

In parallel, Andy James of the UW Puget Sound Institute and Ruth Sofield of Western Washington University will share new research on the potential impacts of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) on the southern residents, with a focus on how this research may be integrated into Williams’ modeling. The findings stem from a collaboration between the University of Washington Tacoma, Western Washington University, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Puyallup Tribe.

CECs have gained prominence in recent years due to new analytical techniques that have identified trace but potentially significant amounts of chemicals in wastewater from sewage and agricultural runoff. These chemicals can range from pharmaceuticals to personal care products and synthetic hormones, and their effects on local wildlife are often unknown.

The event will be held online via Zoom on February 6th at 12:30 PM (PST). The Salish Sea Science Roundtable is produced by UW Puget Sound Institute, the Puget Sound Partnership’s Science Panel, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

While the event is free, registration is required to help prevent Zoom bombing. Once you register Zoom will email you your unique link to join. If you have trouble accessing your unique link, you can always re-register to join directly at or use the meeting ID: 915 0364 3403.