October 25, 2021

Scientists are still following whales that swam through the Exxon Valdez oil spill

The Chugach Transients have not had a calf since the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in 1989. And scientists aren’t exactly sure why. (courtesy of Dan Olsen/North Gulf Oceanic Society).

Scientists in Homer and Seward have spent the last several decades tracking a population of mammal-eating killer whales called the Chugach Transients in the Gulf of Alaska.

There used to be 22 whales in the pod. But the year after they swam through the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, nine members died. Others went missing.

“And now there are seven of them remaining,” said Dan Olsen, a field biologist with the Homer-based North Gulf Oceanic Society.

Monitoring of the orca population has relied on funding from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, the group tasked with spending the $900 million civil settlement from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. This year, Olsen said, the council decided it will not continue funding the group’s research going forward.

To read the entire article published by