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caption: Newborn orca calf J59 swimming next to its mother J37, March 1, 2022.
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Newborn orca calf J59 swimming next to its mother J37, March 1, 2022.
Credit: Dave Ellifrit / Center for Whale Research

See an orca in Puget Sound — stay away

Today may mark the start of the southern-resident orca watching season, but Washington wildlife officials are asking everyone to stay away from the region's endangered whales.

"The southern residents do really poorly with a lot of boats around," said Julie Watson with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It affects their ability to find food, and so we're asking the public to voluntarily give them a little bit more space so that especially these vulnerable whales can bounce back."

In addition to asking recreational boaters to stay away, Fish and Wildlife officials want whale watching tour boats to stay half a nautical mile from 13 vulnerable orcas.

These orcas were just categorized as "vulnerable" by the Sealife Response Rehabilitation and Research Group. They have poor health. And one is pregnant.

There are 74 southern resident orcas left. Boats are not allowed to approach them outside of the summer months.

More updates in KUOW's Today So Far Blog!