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Not Too Late To Save Critically Endangered Orcas Say State Leaders And Feds

Posted by | March 15, 2018

The Pacific Northwest’s beloved orcas will not survive unless humans do more to ensure adequate food and cleaner, quieter waters. That was one of the messages at a crowded signing ceremony in Seattle convened by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

The population of genetically-distinct resident orcas has dwindled to a critically low level. Deaths outpace births. Only 76 remain as of the last count.

“This is a dangerously low number for a species that is already endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act,” Jeff Parsons of the Puget Sound Partnership said at a legislative hearing in Olympia earlier this month.

”We’re at a critical juncture with orcas and we need to act now if we’re to save the species,” added Bruce Wishart, a Sierra Club lobbyist.

Southern Resident Population

The resident killer whales face three main threats topped by lack of prey. Their favorite food is Chinook salmon, which is also dwindling. Then there’s disturbance from vessels and underwater noise. A third threat is toxic pollution in the water and marine food chain.

“If they’re not getting enough food, they’re going to use their blubber where contaminants can often be stored,” said Lynne Barre, the federal orca recovery coordinator at NOAA Fisheries. . “But once they’re using that blubber and they circulate, it can cause immune dysfunction and that may be affecting reproduction as well.”

Continue reading in KLCC

Originally written by Tom Banse

Graphic Credit: NOAA

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