Our Resident Killer Whales Owe Much to Ken Balcomb

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When it comes to knowledge of the only identified resident population of killer whales in the U.S., no one can top Ken Balcomb – nor can anyone top his dedication to a unique and threatened species. He has received many honors in his career, but I can imagine that this one Sunday (10/13/13) in the small town of Friday Harbor, Washington, will be among the more meaningful.

Friday Harbor Film Festival will be honoring long time Orca researcher Ken Balcomb as our “Local Hero” at the Sunday night award ceremony, along with awarding the “Audience Choice” for favorite film of the entire event followed by a special screening of that film. (Friday Harbor Film Festival)
What may make this award special for him is that two of the films in the festival, Blackfish and Keiko – The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy, illustrate the profound changes we have made in our understanding of these animals, and much of that can be traced back to his work.

Thirty-seven Years of Research
For almost four decades, the Center for Whale Research (CWR) has conducted an annual photo-identification study of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population that frequents the inland waters of Washington State and lower British Columbia.
Since their initiation, these studies have provided unprecedented baseline information on population dynamics and demography, social structure, and individual life histories. More is known, in fact, about this population of killer whales than about any other group of marine mammals in the world.

Today our mission remains the same: to conduct benign studies of regional killer whales (orcas) for the purpose of conserving populations and informing both the government and the public of their ecosystem needs.
CWR is a non-profit [IRS 501(c)(3)] corporation registered with the Attorney General in Washington State. CWR funding historically has come from government contracts, other non-profit organizations, and charitable public contributions. Like many organizations these days, CWR is faced with government funding cutbacks. As our funding from government agencies declines each year, we must look to the public for more support. In 2013, we face dramatic reductions in our funding. This change may seriously effect our ability to monitor and protect not only the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, but all killer whales in this area. We need your support, now more than ever.

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