In memory of Ken Balcomb

Submitted by the Center for Whale Research.

With profound sadness, the Center for Whale Research announces the passing of our beloved founder and longtime leader Kenneth C. Balcomb.

Ken’s family and loved ones surrounded him in his final hours on December 15, 2022. He was 82 years old.

Ken was a pioneer and legend in the whale world. But more importantly, he was the North Star, a guiding light. Over half a century of whale research and advocacy, he lit a path for tens of thousands to follow. He was a scientist with a deep-rooted love and connection to the whales and their ocean habitat. He inspired others to appreciate both as much as he did.

Ken spent much of his career detailing and documenting the lives of the Southern Resident Orca population in the Pacific Northwest’s Salish Sea. His groundbreaking Orca Survey study determined that the Resident orcas needed more food abundance in a healthy habitat to survive. He continually heralded his message to the world: “No fish, No Blackfish.” [No Chinook salmon, No Southern Resident orcas].

The Center for Whale Research’s Southern Residents orca research began in 1976; it is the longest study of this population. 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.” The CWR board of directors and staff are dedicated to continuing Ken Balcomb’s life’s work.

Thank you, Ken. We will carry you in our hearts forever.

A Memory Board has been created on our website. We respectfully welcome you to share your messages and memories of Ken: