SEATTLE -- Three more of the critically endangered southern resident orcas have been declared dead by the Center for Whale Research.
The center said Tuesday that an orca from each pod is being declared dead after long absences from Washington waters.
The three whales are J17, K25 and L84. The health of J17, a 42-year-old female, had been in rapid decline.
J and K pods last visited Washington's inland waters a month ago. During that trip, J17 and K25 were not seen with their families.
Since then, Canadian authorities have spotted the three pods multiple times without seeing these three individual orcas.
The Center for Whale Research's Ken Balcomb has been in charge of the census count of this unique population for more than four decades. Because of the orcas' unprecedented absence in Washington's inland waters this year, Balcomb said it is the first time he has had to rely on outside experts to declare orcas dead.
The deaths bring the current population of southern resident orcas to 73.