Sad orca news: What can you do to help?

Orcas swimming with rainbow in water mist
Photo credit: Center for Whale Research

 

You may have seen the sad news. It was recently reported that three more orcas are presumed to have been lost from our endangered southern resident population. The Center for Whale Research maintains the official population records for J, K and L pods and issued a statement on Aug. 6 announcing that the southern resident population had fallen to 73 whales. Researchers who monitor the southern residents have not seen Princess Angeline (J17), Scoter (K25) or Nyssa (L84) for an extended period and presume the whales have died. All three were struggling with malnutrition and this is heartbreaking news as we work to save this iconic species.

Princess Angeline was the matriarch of her pod and the mother of Tahlequah (J35) who made headlines while she pushed her deceased calf for 17 days last summer. Scoter and Nyssa were both males and were 28 and 29-years-old respectively. Nyssa was the last surviving member of his family matriline. You can view the matrilines of all three southern resident pods on one of our interactive orca infographics.

 
WHAT CAN WE ALL DO TO HELP?

 

It is difficult to watch these beautiful animals struggle and it is hard to not feel helpless as the population falls to its lowest level since the live capture era took place in the 1960s and 1970s. Though we’re sad, we can’t lose hope—collectively we can make a difference for our southern residents. But it will require real change.

We’ve shared how a shortage of prey and noise in the water can impact our orcas. We've also shared how you can call your legislators and share your support for new protections. Another thing we can all do for our orcas is limiting the pollution that enters our waterways. Orcas are apex predators, meaning they are at the top of the marine food chain. As you can see by the graphic below, toxics are eaten by the smallest of plankton and work their way up the food chain to the species at the top.

 

Orcas rely on fat stores to survive and toxics that bioaccumulate in their blubber over time hurt their chances of survival. The toxics also threaten the survival of their calves. If you would like to lean more about the pollution and its impact on our southern residents, please visit our interactive infographic that explains how southern residents are impacted by pollution.

 

The health of our Puget Sound is in our hands and here are five ways you can help keep pollution out of our waters and help orcas.

  1. Take steps in your home to reduce the number of contaminants by switching to natural household cleaning and beauty products that don't contain microplastics or other harmful chemicals.
  2. Limit carwashes and when you do wash, use self-serve or tunnel washes instead of your driveway to keep soap out of storm drains.
  3. Keep maintenance up to date on your car to prevent oil drips and harmful metals like copper dust from brakes from entering our stormwater.
  4. Use reusable grocery bags and mesh produce bags for shopping, invest in reusable water bottles and use eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws and utensils.
  5. Be a conscious consumer and support companies who are showing leadership by eliminating toxics, using sustainable packaging and limiting plastic use. Be aware of clothing made out of synthetic fibers (plastics) and limit the times you wash products you currently have like fleece that can release microfibers into our water supplies.

 

We are all saddened by the news of this tragic loss but let’s make sure we are working harder than ever to save the orcas and our ocean.

 

HELP NAME THE NEW BABY ORCAS

 

In the midst of such sad news this past week we wanted to share a bit of fun. In the last year there have been two new calves born to our southern residents. J56 and L124 have been swimming strongly with their pods for months now, and it’s time to give them each a name! The Whale Museum has narrowed it down to four options for each and you can visit their page and vote for your favorite. Make sure to cast your vote by September 9!

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