Killer whales dying along Pacific coast - "Very sick, emaciated" - Population at lowest level in decades - Steep decline began after 2011 - No babies born in past 2 years - Alarming changes in behavior observed - Social structure is 'splintering'...
Double divers, now in jeopardy.
Deaths [have] reduced [the] orca population to [its] lowest level in 30 years. The endangered killer whale population in Puget Sound continues to decline, [having] dropped to 78, according to Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research
. No new calves have been born to the three pods since 2012
. And, alarmingly, the social structure among the orcas appears to be "splintering." Balcomb compiles an annual census of the population for submission to the federal government. [T]he past few years, the pods have divided themselves into small groups, sometimes staying together but often staying apart. He suggests that the primary factor for the
population decline is a lack of food for the killer whales.
L 100 "Indigo" in foreground, now deceased.
The two orcas that are missing and presumed dead are L-53, a 37-year-old female named "Lulu"; and L-100, a 13-year-old male named "Indigo". Population has gone from 88 in 2011 to 78 today.
Killer Whales of BC, Aug 26, 2014:
After the confirmation [of the deaths] of L53 Lulu
and L100 Indigo,
more bad news: Orcalive confirmed that "Plumper"
[age 37] has not been sighted since 8/21/14 and now is considered missing. Also "Pointer"
[age 39] did not return with his family and is also missing. Both boys were spotted with a "peanut head." Rest in Peace! You will be missed! New information which unfortunately is coming directly from Port McNeil [is] not better. Also the young I63
[age 24] is missing. She did not return with her family. R.I.P. young lady.
Although disease could be a factor, it is speculated that the collapse of California's Sacramento Valley chinook run is to be partly to blame for declining killer whale numbers. The same fishery collapse, off the California and Oregon coasts, shut down salmon fishing this year for humans, as well. Studies have shown that orcas have a strong preference for chinook salmon, pursuing other prey only when their primary food source is scarce. That makes scientists wonder whether there is something particular about chinook salmon that the orcas need to thrive.
Two of the orca families -- L and K pods -- have been seen, in recent years, feeding off the California coast in the winter. That was unheard of before early this decade, leading scientists to speculate they are driven to swim hundreds of miles just to meet their minimum nutritional requirements. Loss of babies is not nearly as unusual as the deaths of adults in what should be the prime of their lives.
The last whale song: In a broader stroke, could Fukushima radiation poisoning of the Pacific, a rise in sea temperature due to methane, incoming pathogens via cosmic dust, and fluctuations in our magnetic poles also be factors in the reduction of whale pods? Perhaps so, given the rapid die-offs of thousands of species during this decade from seemingly "unknown causes." Is it only a "smattering of time" until humanity experiences the effects of rapid and irreversible climate change and an exhausted food chain as well? Add one more species to the list for we undoubtedly stand in queue.
See also: Researchers predict west coast killer whales will exceed 1,000 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium -- Over 10 times gov't limit in Japan -- Concern about harm to humans, sea life -- Expert: People eating large amounts of fish may have levels similar to whales
Killer whale population declining in Puget Sound