Pioneering whale researcher and advocate Ken Balcomb has died
A ‘Godfather’ of whale watching and conservation has died.
Ken Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, was 82. Balcomb kept track of the population of southern resident orcas starting in 1976. His pioneering photo-identification work provided individual profiles of all the whales in the three endangered pods – J, K and L.
He spoke with KNKX (formerly KPLU) in 2014 about a then-new federal report on the state of those whales, who he monitored constantly, through underwater microphones - that he could hear from speakers near his desk.
In his later years, Balcomb became a passionate advocate for salmon conservation and dam removal on the Lower Snake River. He said more than anything else, what the orcas need to survive is more food.
In earlier years, he documented the effects of navy sonar on orcas. During the Vietnam era, he was a commissioned US Navy pilot and oceanographic specialist.
He died surrounded by family at the Center for Whale Research’s Big Salmon Ranch above the Elwha River.