Sandy Buckley
Southern Resident killer whales

Southern Resident killer whales

Southern Resident killer whales are an iconic species in the Pacific Northwest. They hold great cultural, environmental and economic importance to the region, and particularly in the San Juan Islands. But, these whales are highly endangered and face a plethora of threats and challenges as they struggle to survive. In January 2019 a new calf brought the population up to 75 individuals, with a number of other females believed to be pregnant there is hope that our combined efforts can bring this population back from the brink. 

The San Juan MRC has long been involved with efforts to conserve and protect the Southern Residents that call the inland waters around San Juan County home during the spring, summer and fall. The page details some of our current efforts. 

Photo: MERS

The Whale Warning Flag

The historical core habitat of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale is located in the heart of the Salish Sea in San Juan County.

The Whale Warning flag is used by boaters and land stations to alert others that whales are in the vicinity. It is a cue (like a diver-down flag) that boaters must slow down, be prepared to change course and Be Whale Wise.

Know The Zone!

In 2018 the MRC extended the Voluntary No-Go Zone on the west side of San Juan Island down to Cattle Point. This Voluntary No-Go Zone is part of the Marine Stewardship Area.

This Voluntary No-Go Zone encompasses historically sensitive foraging and resting areas for the endangered Southern Resident killer whale. 

The zone extends 1/4 mile offshore from Mitchel Point to Cattle Point, with a 1/2 mile buffer around Lime Kiln Point State Park. 

The zone is in place throughout the year for all boats, at all times, and is recognized by the Pacific Whale Watch Association and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

During 2018, kayaks launching from the San Juan County Park within the Voluntary No-Go Zone operate under a special use permit issued by the County Park. This requires that kayaks participate in the Kayak Education and Leadership Program (K.E.L.P). This program was developed in 2010 by County Parks, The Whale Museum, and the kayak industry.

To learn more about the Marine Stewardship area see:

Community Workshop

In December 2018 we held our second SRKW community workshop in Friday Harbor. 

The workshop was attended by 62 individuals. The purpose of the workshop was to update and engage community members in meaningful dialogue around the efforts to support SRKW recovery underway since the first community workshop held in October 2017. Presentations and discussions focused on state, local, and individual efforts.

Download Final Report


Links to the 2017 workshop report and survey results are below:

2017 workshop report

2017 survey results

Southern Resident killer whales