and immediately sign onto an effort to obtain state/federal protection for this population of killer whales.
The southern resident orca population has declined from 99 whales to 83 animals since 1994. Recent biopsy samples from J-pod whales have determined that this stock of genetically-distinct killer whale are heavily contaminated with polychlorinated-biphenyls (PCBs) and other toxins. While PCBs have been illegal in the US since 1978, this toxin stays in the benthic environment and accumulates within the muscle tissues of predators which feed on bottom-fish and other contaminated prey. Orcas, the pinnacle predator in the northwest marine environment, accumulate these toxins in their blubber and pass them to their unborn young across the placenta. This may explain the increased observed mortality among recent orca whale babies.
Canadian researcher Peter Ross recently observed that, "... contaminant levels may be high enough in some of the marine mammals inhabiting this coastal region of Canada to affect reproduction, immune function and endocrine function and that the killer whale population may be at particular risk." Sources are non-point (meaning they are difficult to ascertain) but the level of contamination in these whales exceed acceptable levels (by human standards) by as much as 500%.
Alarmingly, these orcas are so full of contamination that if a dead whale were beach-cast in the province of British Columbia, it would be classified as "toxic waste" and could not be touched by anyone without a federal license. It is suspected that the southern resident orcas harbor twice as much contaminants as Quebec's St. Lawrence Beluga whale population.
Since this stock of orca is genetically distinct, these whales will not breed with northern resident whales or transient orcas (a lesser-studied popualtion that is feared to be even more contaminated than the southern residents). Current predictions for th survival of some southern-resident sub-pods are even more dire: according to Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research, ""Even if L pod loses no more members," Balcomb says, "they’re due for a crash--and that’s even if all the reproducing females had babies now."
In the final analysis, what this means is that there is a chance our next generation will not see resident orca whales in Washington waters.
Action is now needed. Please support Project SeaWolf and take this important, small step to protect the integrity of our resident orca whale population immediately.