The death rate for killer whales in the Pacific Northwest is increasing as their food source, the Chinook salmon, disappears.
The most recent death, that of a newborn calf, is drawing particular attention worldwide. Photos of the mother of the whale carrying her dead newborn are being posted around the world. Experts say the mother orca is showing human-like grief as she refuses to let the body sink into the ocean.
The mother has been diving down and carrying the calf on here forehead for a week now.
The Southern Resident killer whale was born near Victoria, British Columbia on July 24. It died a short time afterwards.
At first, researchers who have been monitoring the pod of killer whales known as J pod near Clover Point on Victoria shoreline saw that the newborn whale was alive and swimming with its mother, J35.
The Center for Whale Research said that 100 per cent of the pregnancies in the last three years have failed to be viable.
“The baby’s carcass was sinking and being repeatedly retrieved by the mother, who was supporting it on her forehead and pushing it in choppy seas.”
Orcas and dolphins have been known to swim their dead calves for as long as a week.
The deaths of the newborn in J pod are being linked to the lack of food. The center is in charge of monitoring the whale population for the U.S. and the Canadian government as the pod swims between Washington State and British Columbia.
The survival rate in the past two decades has been 75%. Only 75 killer whales in the endangered group, known as southern resident orcas, remain.
The larger environmental question reflected in the J35 story is that both the USA and Canada MUST redouble efforts to restore wild salmon (particularly Chinook) throughout Washington State and British Columbia for a food supply for the SRKW in this region. Whales in this Endangered population are dependent upon Chinook salmon for their primary food source. Unfortunately, Chinook salmon are also Endangered.
The center says it has noted that fish-eating whales are getting skinnier and skinnier, and the death rate is increasing. Baby whales are dying because their mothers do not have sufficient food.
Ken Balcomb with the center said time is running out to help the pod survive.
We’ve got at most 5 more years of reproductive life in this population to make it happen but if we don’t do it in those 5 years it isn’t going to happen.