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Washington researchers say local orca missing, presumed dead

In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, an endangered female orca leaps from the water while breaching in Puget Sound west of Seattle, Wash. With just 73 whales left, the fragile population of endangered Puget Sound orcas is at a 30-year low. Washington state lawmakers are pitching a number of measures to save them from extinction. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, an endangered female orca leaps from the water while breaching in Puget Sound west of Seattle, Wash. With just 73 whales left, the fragile population of endangered Puget Sound orcas is at a 30-year low. Washington state lawmakers are pitching a number of measures to save them from extinction. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. – Researchers say an adult male orca is missing and presumed dead as resident killer whales struggle with a dearth of salmon in the Salish Sea.

More than 50 Southern Resident killer whales returned to inland waters on June 11, nearly two months since they had last been seen in the area. Researchers say that’s an unusually long break, but it makes sense given the decline in chinook salmon returning to British Columbia’s Fraser River.

Conspicuously absent was a 23-year-old male known as L92. L92 was last seen by Center for Whale Research staff last November, but he was not observed when other members of his whale family, L pod, were seen off the coast early this year.

With his loss, the population of Southern Resident orcas is down to 75, the lowest it’s been in more than three decades.


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