Orca Fund

The Story Behind the Fund

In 2017, a salmon farming net-pen near Puget Sound’s Cypress Island collapsed and spilled over 300,000 invasive Atlantic salmon infected with an exotic virus into Puget Sound, threatening native salmon throughout Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, and compromising the primary food source of the region’s iconic and beleaguered Southern Resident Orcas. As a result of legal action initiated by the Wild Fish Conservancy, Cooke Aquaculture, the owner of the net pens, agreed to create a mitigation fund exceeding $1 million to support projects designed to improve the water quality and/or aquatic habitat of Puget Sound. The funds were placed with the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment to disburse as grants to qualifying projects via a process that parallels our Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund. Corresponding to receipt of mitigation payments, the Rose Foundation plans to disburse the grants in three annual funding rounds. This upcoming funding cycle will be the third and final round and will be by invitation only.

Purpose of Fund

The Fund’s general purpose is to support projects designed to improve the water quality and/or aquatic habitat of Puget Sound. In selecting projects, the Rose Foundation has elected to focus the funding toward efforts related to the protection of the endangered Southern Resident Orcas (SRO), the only endangered population of orcas in the United States. Although the SRO’s historic range extends from central California to southeast Alaska, their home waters center in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, and threats to salmon and aquatic habitat in these waters create immense pressure on this region’s beleaguered and culturally vital icon.

If your organization is thinking about proposing water quality-related work in Puget Sound, we urge you to consider applying to our Puget Sound Stewardship & Mitigation Fund instead.


  • This fund will be by invitation only.
  • Organizations will be invited to the process in early September.
  • The due date for proposals for invited organizations will be 10/31/23


Project Focus

We will be reviewing projects that: 

  • Contribute to ongoing studies to create current individual health assessments and long-term health monitoring of the Southern Resident Orca (SRO) Distinct Population segment.
  • Use noninvasive methods to collect and analyze biological samples to assess proximate health parameters (i.e. stress hormones, nutrition hormones, pregnancy hormones, toxicant levels, and other environmental factors like microplastics)
  • Collect behavioral data to assess critical habitat use throughout the SRO’s range (i.e. important areas for resting, foraging, socializing).
  • Contribute to a better understanding of SRO food sources and promote a stronger wild food web to sustain SROs.


Projects are considered especially competitive if they do one or more of the following:

  • Advance the knowledge and conservation of endangered Southern Resident Orcas with a primary focus on research projects to monitor the physiological health of the SRO Distinct Population Segment and further the understanding of the limiting factors that contribute to the population’s decline.
  • Proposes long-term monitoring of SRO health and related issues.
  • Articulate an outreach or educational component utilizing project data to advocate for policies or regulations that improve the health of Southern Resident Orcas.
  • Include the robust participation of community-based organizations.


Project Duration

  • Multi-year projects are allowed, with a maximum allowable overall project duration of 5 years. However, jointly funded projects that are larger scale or longer-term than the scope of this Orca grant should include a specific phase, which could be fully implemented with the maximum grant available in the current funding round.


Maximum Grant Size

  • For the current funding round, applications of any size up to $75,000 will be accepted.  As noted under Project Duration, applicants wishing to propose larger projects should clearly articulate a phase within the current funding round which could be fully implemented with funds received from Rose. As a general rule, applicants are discouraged from seeking a grant which exceeds 25% of their normal annual budget.
  • Per Rose policy, Universities are limited to a maximum 5% in general university overhead


Eligible Applicants

  • This fund will be by invitation only.
  • Applicants must be a US 501(c)3, fiscally-sponsored by a 501(c)3, a governmental or tribal entity, or a Canadian registered charitable organization. University applicants are limited to a maximum 5% general university overhead load, and university applicants are strongly encouraged to include a community-based partner in their project.
  • Projects must be centered on improving the water quality and/or aquatic habitat within the general SRO home range (Puget Sound, Salish Sea, ocean waters and straits from north of Vancouver Island to Central California). If research is conducted outside of the Puget Sound Area, the applicant must provide justification for the geographic location of the research and must demonstrate how this research will benefit the Southern Resident Orcas and their habitat in the Puget Sound, Salish Sea, and surrounding waters.



Please check all eligibility requirements for the Orca Fund before starting the online application. To apply, groups must complete the application process using our online grant application portal at http://www.rosefdn.org/onlineapplication

Please check all eligibility requirements before starting the online application. Click here to read the instructions on how to use our online system.



Tim Bell, PNW Program Associate

Jodene Isaacs, Mitigation Funds Director

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