Southern resident orcas represent the smallest population of four resident communities within The North America Pacific ocean. Southern residents are placed on the endangered species list under the EPA. These Orcas of the Salish sea only consists of one clan made up of 3 pods. There are only 79 known orcas left making up these 3 pods. These 3 pods are the J, K, and L labeled pods. Within J the worlds oldest known living orca (J2) was recently found deceased. At the time she was found dead she would have been 105 years old.
researches track the southern resident population by photo identification. Their population is built based on matrilineal system consisting of a female, her sons, daughters, and the offspring of her daughters. The pods can average anywhere from 1 to 17 individuals and can be a result of 1 to 5 generations.
The basic social structure of the southern resident orca network has Clan J pod which has 26 members, Clan K pod which has 19 members and clan L pod which has 35.
Declining populations of southern resident orcas are due to many threats. some of these are decreased prey availability, pollution and contaminants, and effects from vessels traffic and vessel sound. Lack of Prey is a result from the four snake river dams which are killing and blocking millions of salmon from the ocean ever year which decreases their population, leading to a decrease of orcas and lack of food available. Looking into the pollution aspect, within my research I have found that that they are the most contaminated marine mammals in the world. This is due to the high levels of toxic anthropogenic chemicals which accumulates in their fatty tissues, which as all of you know, IS WHAT A WHALE IS MADE UP OF. The Blubber holds in pollution and pose a large problem for conservation efforts. Other chemicals such as DDT, insecticides, PCBs and many more man made chemicals that pose detrimental physiological effects on orcas. SUCH HIGH AMOUNTS ARE FOUND IN THEM THAT THE DEAD INDIVIDUALS NEED TO BE DISPOSED OF IN HAZARDOUS WASTE SITES. Regardless of the other reasons for decline this should not be happening. a study examining 35 orcas found many key genetic alterations which could be a major part of the decline of the species. Marine noise is also a major threat. this comes from noise and over crowding for many types of boats and vessels. These vessels interrupt and disrupt orca behavior, foraging, eating habits, and scare away prey. Sonar by some ships can cause hemorrhaging which could lead to death in some.
Many conservation efforts can and have been taking place such as salmon restoration efforts, clean up contaminated sites properly, continue creating and enforcing vessel laws, conduct research to understand these beautiful creatures, and raise awareness and enhance public knowledge like my goal is with this blog!
Every species has the same right as another to live on this planet. conservation efforts need to take place to help out many species populations and help them make it to the future generations. Humans are not superior yet no other species has ever had this much say over how other populations will thrive. this is a great and inevitable responsibility, and it our time to act upon it.
“When we return wild animals to nature, we merely return them to what is already theirs, for man cannot give wild animals freedom, they can only take it away.” -Jacques Cousteau