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Southern resident killer whales, like this one off San Juan Island, Washington, have suffered a significant population decline in the late 1990s and are now listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. NOAA

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order this week to aid the recovery of critically endangered southern resident killer whales and the Chinook salmon they eat.

There are only 76 orcas left in Puget Sound, down from 98 in 1995. Their numbers have dipped due to pollution, underwater noise and disturbances from boat traffic, and lack of their favored prey. Recent deaths, particularly among calves, mothers and pregnant whales, appear to be driven by food scarcity.

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