Get the FACTS
EXTINCTION IS FOREVER
If you are driving on the I-5 between Seattle and Tacoma you may notice a couple of digital billboards with important messages about our Southern Resident Orcas.
The Southern Resident orcas’ survival depends on governments taking IMMEDIATE ACTION to meet the whales’ greatest need: More food.
These billboards state the facts.
If you are one of the lucky people who get to drive along I-5 between Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, you may notice a couple of digital billboards near Fife. The advertisements feature messages about the plight of Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW)*. A large part of the public must see the messages. A larger audience needs to be made aware of these orcas’ fight for survival. These remarkable animals are unequivocally on a short path to extinction unless there are significant changes in how society treats them and their supporting environment. The Southern Resident orca billboards will run through the end of December 2019. The messages on the electronic billboards will change during the campaign. Please stay tuned to this website for an explanation about each billboard message.
*Listed as critically Endangered in the United States and Canada.
73 Resident Orcas Remain
This message is pretty straight-forward. There were almost 100 Southern Resident orcas (SRKW) in 1999 when Ken Balcomb first notified United States government biologists that the population was entering a precipitous decline that warranted their attention. This distinct population of salmon-eating killer whales declined further to 83 by 2005, at which time they were finally afforded protection as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act in the United States. Ten years later, the US federal government applauded itself for many actions undertaken, but the Southern Resident orca population had by then dropped to 77 individuals. As of July 1, 2019, only 73 SRKW remain alive. The population is not recovering and is on a trajectory toward EXTINCTION. The underlying cause of this continued orca population decline is the on-going scarcity of wild Chinook salmon due to human causes. The whales must feed on Chinook to have any chance of escaping extinction. Without immediate and appropriate action, the orcas will not return from the environmental irresponsibility and bureaucratic obfuscation of government.
Save the Salmon Save the Resident Orcas
The wild Chinook salmon populations are vastly reduced in the Pacific Northwest, if not extirpated. Chinook was formerly the mainstay of the Southern Resident orca’s diet. Virtually all Chinook salmon “runs” to the rivers of the west coast of North America from California to British Columbia are listed as Endangered, and more than half of the “runs” are already extinct. The hatchery program for mitigating the harm done to the salmon runs by human activities have failed, and they produce smaller and inferior quality fish for both whale and human food. Reversing this ever-dwindling food spiral of wild salmon is necessary for the SRKW to have any chance of avoiding extinction. Resource extraction, human population growth, salmon habitat obstruction and degradation, climate change acceleration, and political apathy do not bode well for either salmon or SRKW. We must address the major changes required in the political and societal paradigms to get to a situation sustainable for salmon and the creatures and ecosystems that depend upon salmon. Change must happen NOW!
75% of Resident Orca Pregnancies Fail
An alarming statistic: 75% of Southern Resident orca pregnancies fail! This percentage is a documented fact based on drone measurements of pregnant whales who did not subsequently have a baby observed with them and from hormone analyses of SRKW feces of pregnant whales who did not have a newborn present. Early in the ORCA SURVEY study, we noted that a female SRKW could produce a baby every three years, and the average was every five years; whereas, now many Southern Resident females have no babies at all. And those that are productive have babies more than ten years apart.
We joked that this might be explained by the SRKW having a planned parenthood program, but the measurement and hormone studies belie that hypothesis.
42% of Resident Babies Don't Survive
It may seem startling that more than 40% of the Southern Resident babies do not survive to maturity.* But this is expected in most populations of animals near the carrying capacity of the food upon which they depend. It is deadly for a community to exceed carrying capacity. The mortality rate for newborn and young whales in this and other populations of killer whales has been at approximately this level since the Center for Whale Research’s ORCA SURVEY study began in 1976.
*In every animal population young and old animals experience higher mortality rates than middle-aged individuals.
Resident Orcas Extinct by 2050?
The population viability analyses (PVAs) that government and non-profit organizations have completed and published regarding the trajectory of the Southern Resident orcas all lead to EXTINCTION under current environmental conditions. Some PVAs suggest that the last SRKW will die in this century; some are more optimistic estimating the extinction of the SRKW a hundred or more years from now. But the zinger is that reproduction in the SRKW population is already failing miserably under current conditions, meaning that biological EXTINCTION is imminent with this generation of whales unless current conditions are drastically improved.
DEMAND ACTION NOW from your government officials.