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Orca community mourns death of legendary Washington whale researcher

Center for Whale Research founder and longtime leader Ken Balcomb died Dec. 15
Ken Balcomb, 82, founder and longtime leader of the Center for Whale Research died Dec. 15. (Courtesy Center for Whale Research)

Condolences and memories are pouring in for a pioneer and legend of the whale world.

The Center for Whale Research announced the death of founder and longtime leader Ken Balcomb with a web post Dec. 15.

Balcomb, 82, was surrounded by friends and loved ones in his final hours.

A scientist with a deep-rooted love and connection to the whales and their ocean habitat, Balcomb spent nearly 50 years in whale research and advocacy. He inspired others to appreciate both as much as he did, the Centre for Whale Research said in its post – an assertion supported in the flood of condolences.

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“I have known about Ken since I was very young. He inspired me to action my love for orcas and to join the fight when I grew older for the southern resident orcas. He has been a grandfather to the orcas and he has always kept his spirits up despite the challenges the orcas are facing,” one post reads.

Balcomb spent much of his career documenting the lives of the southern resident orca population in the Salish Sea. His groundbreaking orca survey study determined that the resident orcas needed more food abundance in a healthy habitat to survive.

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For over four decades, the Washington State non-profit Balcomb founded, Center for Whale Research, has conducted an annual photo-identification study of the Salish Sea’s southern resident killer whale population. It provides unprecedented baseline information about population dynamics and demography, health, social structure, and individual life histories of these orcas.

In the announcement of his death, the board of directors and staff committed to Balcomb’s life’s work.

“Ken’s goal was always for CWR’s research to continue for 150 years, provided there were whales to study. All of us at CWR share Ken’s vision and mission to preserve and protect the magnificent southern resident killer whales. He often said about the critically endangered southern residents: ‘I’m not going to count them to zero, at least not quietly.’”

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About the Author: Greater Victoria News Staff

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