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@leiren-young makes waves with our guests, and shares news about Orcas and oceans. Produced by Rayne Benu.

Historian Jason Colby on the History and Future of the Southern Resident Orcas

Jason Colby (@jasoncolby2) author of Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator on the history of humanity’s relationship with orcas – and his personal connection to the capture era.

“I refer to this sometimes as the unthinkable history of the Pacific North West.”

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The Killer Whale Who Changed the World….

Check out our YouTube playlist of videos related to this Podcast Episode:

Show Notes:

  • Jason on surprising everyone by deciding to step out of his usual lane as a historian to write about orcas.
  • His personal connection to the story. His dad was one of the people who caught orcas for Sealand of the Pacific in the 1970s.
  • The haunting history of early orca captures and Kandy’s story.
  • How the documentary Blackfish changed his father’s perspective on orcas in captivity.  
  • A deep dive into the story of marine biologist, Michael Bigg – the man who challenged almost  everything we thought we knew about “killer whales."
  • The discovery that orca society is matriarchal.
  • The history of humans vs. orcas in the Pacific North West and breaking out the machine guns in Campbell River.
  • The accidental capture of Namu, the first killer whale to be sold in human history.
  • Ted Griffin — the first person to swim with a killer whale.
  • Jason Colby on his childhood encounters with orcas.
  • How humans are killing the southern resident orcas.

Significant quotes

“In some ways it’s the book I was meant to write and need to write."

“I wanted this to be an academic book masquerading as a great beach read… I thought about titling this book .“Crazy Shit That Really Happened.”

“Its not until 1971 when there was any regulation in Washington State at all."

I refer to this sometimes as the unthinkable history of the Pacific North West.”

“Many of the orcas taken into captivity in the ’60s and early ’70s had old bullet wounds."

“We have very generational memories about our local ecologies.”

“It certainly was a possibility that killer whales could have done the way of basking sharks."

“Ted Griffin is one of the most controversial, fascinating characters in the history of the Northwest.”

“I had to reckon with my family’s responsibility in what is now a northwest tragedy."

“I don’t think I’ll do anything as meaningful or as personal again in my writing."

“I want people to understand that everyone lives in their own context and they live their lives forward . . . we don’t know how people are going to view our actions . . . I can imagine fifty years from now when we have an ocean without any fish . . . people will look back on us and say, “How could you have eaten salmon? . . . How could you have killed so many tuna for your sushi? What were you thinking? How could you do that?”

“The region that loves them is poisoning them and starving them."


  1. Marine theme park exposé highlights suffering of former Sealand orca Tilikum:
  2. Sealand of the Pacific:
  3. Why Tilikum, SeaWorld’s Killer Orca, Was Infamous:
  4. BC’s Pioneer Of Killer Whale Research:
  5. Era of the Orca Cowboys:
  6. From Machine Guns to Save-the-Whales:
  7. They Shoot Orcas, Don’t They? File this under weird BC history. The harpooning of Moby Doll:
  8. Sighting of rare giant basking shark in B.C. thrills scientists:
  9. PBS: Interview with Ted Griffin:
  10. YouTube: Breaching Basking Sharks | World’s Weirdest:
  11. YouTube: Ted Griffin taking a break while orca hunting in 1965:

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