The popular Southern resident killer whale, which roams from Alaska to California, are being killed, or critically injured, by boat strikes, and drowned by fishing nets. Their calls to one and other, warning of the dangers of ships near them, have been drowned out by the noise of those vessels. Pollution and declining Chinook salmon stocks, the bulk of their diet, are also to blame. Dams, like those along the Columbia River, and Snake River, share responsibility for deteriorating Chinook numbers.
To address problems that occur when ships and mammals are in the same waters, the Canadian Coast Guard Marine Mammals Desk program is using radar, and AIS, (Automatic Identification Systems), to guard Southern resident killer whales, and Gray and Humpback Whales. When tracking whales and killer whales, and the movement of ships, the Marine Mammals Desk program helps avoid collisions between vessels and wildlife. These accidents result in critical injuries, and mammal deaths. The desk is staffed by five specially trained officers and is in operation every day of the year–24/7.
The new program also reports any vessels that stray into protected waters near sanctuary zones. The information concerning illegal encroachments is reported to the Conservation and Protection branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada, and Transport Canada. Officials send government vessels to patrol the area, as well as levy charges against those endangering Orca, and other cetaceans.
Only about 70 Southern resident killer whales are still thought to exist. In 2019, a calf was born for the first time in three years. Many pregnancies are thought to fail due to lack of nutrition for the mother. The next 15 years may see the extinction of the species.
Ship strikes significant cause of death for southern resident killer whales UBC study finds. (2020, December 3). CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/ship-strikes-significant-cause-of-death-for-southern-resident-killer-whales-ubc-study-finds-1.5826030
Canadian Coast Guard opens the first Marine Mammal Desk to better protect Southern Resident Killer Whales and other cetaceans. (2021, January 14). CNW Group Ltd. https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadian-coast-guard-opens-the-first-marine-mammal-desk-to-better-protect-southern-resident-killer-whales-and-other-cetaceans-892746694.html
Southern Resident Killer Whale. (2020). WWF-Canada. https://wwf.ca/species/southern-resident-killer-whales/
Southern Resident Orcas. (2020). Endangered Species Coalition. https://www.endangered.org/campaigns/southern-resident-orcas/