Wednesday, October 08, 2008

BC's Southern Resident Orcas Starving

The local population of killer whales might be starving to death. According to this Victoria Times-Colonist report, members of the three local pods of orcas are showing obvious signs of starvation. Salmon runs are down again this year, and orcas are desperately trying to find food. That desperation is forcing them in to unusual behaviour patterns. "A small group from L Pod have been traveling with J Pod all summer long, and twice J Pod has split into two completely separate groups, out of acoustic range from each other," said a researcher. "It's an indication that they are searching high and low and in every nook and cranny for fish."
This may explain why today eight leading environmental groups have launched a legal action against the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They allege that the DFO ignored a September 10 order to protect the whales under the federal government's Species at Risk Act. The DFO helps to enforce the Act, which protects species considered at risk.
There are about 87 southern resident whales in British Columbia waters and they are considered endangered.

1 comment:

  1. It is, sadly, very believable that the orcas could be suffering from lack of food. This summer, Bernie and I, our daughter Lila and friend Heather all volunteered for Straitwatch Cetus Research & Conservation Society. Several days this summer, we went out in a zodiac boat as volunteers making notes for biologists observing how the Whale-Watching boats are approaching the whales.
    All of the Whale-Watching businesses are well informed about the rules for viewing marine wildlife, particularly orcas. Most of the companies do their best to follow the rules. Straitwatch is given a small grant by Canada's federal government to report on whether the rules are being observed or broken. Unfortunately, the short form of the report is "Often."
    If you've tried to rock a baby to sleep or herd chickens while jet airplanes are zooming by a few hundred feet overhead, you might have some idea of what a summer day is like for a group of five to a hundred orcas being followed by boats with noisy engines. I'm not surprised to hear that many of them look thinner. It must be hard to find enough salmon to eat.
    Sure, most Whale-Watching businesses try to follow the rules about not crowding the whales. But from what I've seen, the rules aren't good enough to protect the whales. We need to avoid having dozens of powerboats from as far away as Vancouver and Seattle chasing the orcas.
    If you go on a marine wildlife viewing trip, choose a company that will show you birds, seals and other wild creatures that can be approached when it's not their breeding season. If your visitors want to go whale watching, instead you should take them out in a kayak near shore, to see shoreline wildlife instead. Then send your visitor to the IMAX theatre or buy them a DVD showing spectacular film of whales. The whales need more consideration from us, and more space.