Sunday, October 26, 2008

B.C.'s Orcas Suffer Their Worst Die-off in a Decade

British Columbia's endangered population of orcas is facing its worse die-off in a decade.
Seven orcas from the local resident population are believed to have died in the last year. This lowers the number of resident orcas to 83. Historically, the number has been around 120, until it reached a low of 71 in 1973.
What is worrying is that two of the deaths are breeding-age females. Infant mortality among the three local pods is normally around 50%. As well, chinook salmon stocks, the orca's main food source, are disappearing and many biologists are fearful for the whales' survival.
Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research executive director said, "They need to eat and that means they need chinook salmon. We have to manage our wild salmon properly and that means for the benefit of the ecosystem and natural world, rather than jobs. It's going to be at least 20 years of nail-biting to see if they are going to make it."
Howard Garrett of the Orca Network also fears for the local pods' survival. He said, "This is a drastically steep drop-off and, if the conditions don't improve, meaning more chinook, we might see this for the next few years and this population can't stand that. It's hard to imagine they could disappear."


  1. Good piece. Where are we going and what are we doing about it? Thanks.

  2. John, thanks for posting this and the links. It's being referenced in my book Living Green: Making Good Choices About Nonrenewable Resources, due out in January 2010 from Rosen Publishing. (Check for many accessible books on science, health and ecology, including my own Processed Food: Recipe for Disaster.)
    As for what we can do about the whales, this summer four of our paddling group of friends volunteered with Straitwatch Cetus Research and Conservation Society. Go to to learn more about this group of biologists gathering data on how human activity is affecting the whales. Straitwatch needs volunteers to ride in a zodiac with a biologist and write notes. They also need funding, as they get only a modest federal government grant for collecting data.