07/25/2018: "Baby Orca Dies Shortly After Birth"
Another orca has died; of the eleven births between 2014 and 2016, only five have survived.. so far. This week a newly born calf reportedly died in less than an hour of birth.
According to CWR ( Center for Whale Research ) The orca population is now at it’s lowest in over three decades, and no calves have been produced since 2015.
Ken Balcomb of the CWR reported the calf’s mother, J35, as photographed (see above photo) by Balcomb, shows J35 supported her death calf, which she reportedly did for hours.
According to CWR, the calf was alive and swimming with its mother, J35, and other members of J pod near Clover Point on the Victoria shoreline in mid-morning, however by the time CWR came on the scene the calf had died, and sinking but repeatedly retrieved by the mother who was supporting it on her forehead and pushing it in choppy seas toward San Juan Island.
A resident of San Juan Island near Eagle Cove reported: “At sunset, a group of 5-6 females gathered at the mouth of the cove in a close, tight-knit circle, staying at the surface in a harmonious circular motion for nearly 2 hours. As the light dimmed, I was able to watch them continue what seemed to be a ritual or ceremony. They stayed directly centered in the moonbeam, even as it moved. The lighting was too dim to see if the baby was still being kept afloat. It was both sad and special to witness this behavior. My heart goes out to J35 and her beautiful baby; bless it's soul.”
As of sunset last night, July 25, J35 was still pushing the dead calf near East Point, Saturna Island, Canada. Killer whales and dolphins have been known to support and transport their dead calves for as long as a week - a testament to the amazingly strong mother/offspring bond and caring.
Sheida Sahandy, Puget Sound Partnership Executive Director, stated “"This morning’s reported loss of yet another baby Southern Resident orca, and the near starvation of its sibling, highlights the urgency for action.”
In March the Governor signed an executive order to propel action to save the Southern Resident orca. Of course the first action was to form a task force and a number of “working groups [who] have been working to find paths forward to implementing solutions to this complex problem.”
Balcomb has said the lack of food is the major problem, but has discounted the importance of underwater noise from boats and ships which interfere with the orca’s ability to locate what few salmon are available.
Janet Thomas of ORCA Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance posted that “All the science underscores the negative impact of motor-boat noise on the SRKWs (Southern Resident Killer Whales) ability to forage for food, to communicate, and to navigate. I really wish Ken Balcomb would speak up on the SRKWs behalf in ways that would serve them effectively.”
As for the ORCA group, they have authored a “Petition to establish a whale protection zone for the southern resident killer whale (orcinus orca) distinct population segment under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.”
According to WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) a coalition of organizations in Canada -including the David Suzuki Foundation- are actively pushing for emergency protection of the Southern Resident orca population, requesting an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). They are asking for increased protection of critical feeding areas from fishing and vessel traffic, limits on salmon harvest in those key areas, and speed limits for large vessels - all actions that are supported by Canadian orca recovery plans and can be done quickly with an immediate impact.
It is clear from the statements and papers that have addressed the question of, what are the main threats that need to be addressed, it is two main things: not enough salmon, and noise from vessel traffic and the presence of boats that make it harder for the orcas to locate the few salmon that are out there.