Encountering orcas while swimming across Juan de Fuca Strait

I’ve been thinking about orcas a lot these days. Not just because of my fear of swimming into a pod in the Strait of Juan de Fuca or Fisher Channel (Great Bear Rain Forest) this year – it’s more because I recently heard that our local orcas are at risk.

The David Suzuki Foundation recently called for an emergency order to protect a group of 76 Pacific West Coast orcas that live in the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound). The population is at its lowest count it has been in decades with no surviving calves produced since 2015.

Not too long ago I reached out to a sister swimmer, Rama DelaRosa. She swam around Salt Spring Island last year and while doing so, had an orca swim beside her. She is a water protector and has been posting about the plight of the orcas. From her I learned that the transient orcas that travel through the local waterway are not at risk. The residents however, 3 small pods (J, K & L), are all highly endangered. She will be swimming around Salt Spring Island again this year to raise funds to help protect them.

The orcas in the local water way are often referred to as urban orcas, which I find ridiculous. It is not our water way, it is theirs, and we have built or cities around their home. All the orcas have done is to continue to swim in the waters they have been in for generations.

According to Suzuki the three biggest threats to these beautiful whales are 1) under water noise, 2) contaminants and 3) chinook salmon, their preferred food. You can learn more the issues related to the orcas and the demand for an emergency order to protect them here.

After learning about the local orcas from Rama I am not as afraid as I once one. I am not wishing for an encounter however I know that if an encounter does happen it will be a rare one.

If you are interested in learning more about Rama DelaRosa’s upcoming swim to protect the orcas you can do so here.




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