The government across the way from Vancouver Island has launched a new website to track the recovery of southern resident killer whales.
The site follows Washington state’s progress on 49 recovery recommendations made by its southern resident killer whale task force.
Two years of work went into crafting those 49 proposals, which centre around increasing the orcas’ food supply, decreasing disturbance by boats, reducing pollution and addressing impacts from climate change and human population growth. Visitors to the website can see whether each recommendation is underway, inactive or has been completed.
The online resource pulls from a long list of studies and experts to give readers everything they need to know about southern resident killer whales. It then lays out how the whales are being impacted by declining chinook salmon stocks, boat and sonar noise, oil spills, acidifying oceans and the consequences of a warming climate shifting normal snowmelt patterns.
“With fewer salmon to eat, southern residents are hungry. As they lose weight, they process more of the metals and toxins stored in their bodies, which increases their chances of disease and neurological problems,” according to the website. “More acidic ocean water spreads out underwater noise making it harder for orcas to find food.”
The site aims to bring attention to the southern resident population being at its lowest level in more than 30 years. Washington state is aiming to increase the number of whales by 10 in the next decade.
“It’s important that we save southern resident orcas,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “If they go extinct, we would suffer an unacceptable loss to our environment, economy and culture. These animals have been sacred to countless generations of people residing here.”
Among the many partners involved in the recovery efforts are the Canadian groups: Georgia Strait Alliance, Marine Education and Research Society, and Straitwatch.
The website (https://www.orca.wa.gov/) includes a link that lets users listen to live hydrophones (underwater microphones), including ones right across from Greater Victoria, that are trying to record orca calls, clicks and whistles.
Another section gives citizens ways they can get involved in the whale recovery efforts.
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