Featured Image Credit: NOAA
By: Sarah Sharkey
Southern resident orcas are facing many threats, and while the population has already dwindled to only 76 individuals, a combination of factors has scientists predicting that we could lose what is left of these animals within 100 years.
They are lacking food and quiet waters in which to live. Their primary food source has always been Chinook salmon, but in recent years the Chinook populations have been declining in dismal numbers. These orcas are not like other killer “transient” whales that have no problem feeding on seals and other small mammals. According to Seattle branch chief of the Protected Resources Division of NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region, Lynne Barre, the resident whales are unwilling to switch food sources because “It seems to be cultural, this is what they learned from their mothers, they live in tight family groups and it makes them unique and very special, but it might be a downfall as well.”
In addition to a lack of food, these whales are faced with noisy homes. The shipping traffic around their homes can be deafening underwater, which is extremely problematic as these whales use echolocation (sound) to hunt and communicate.
This combination of factors does not bode well for the whales. We need to act now and attempt to restore food and quiet to the home of these majestic creatures.
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