Orcas are sick and starving. We know what the problems are, and we know how to solve them. What we need now is political will and bold leadership to save these whales.
For Immediate Release
Defenders of Wildlife Report Reveals Toxic Threat to Orcas
Defenders of Wildlife released a report today revealing multiple threats to Southern Resident orcas from pollution in the Salish Sea. These orcas are some of the most contaminated and endangered marine mammals in the world.
Robb Krehbiel, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:
“Orcas are sick and starving. We know what the problems are, and we know how to solve them. What we need now is political will and bold leadership to save these whales.
“By reducing the amount of pollution in the Salish Sea, we can provide these orcas with healthy and abundant salmon here in their summer range. We strongly encourage the Governor and the Washington State Legislature to commit funding and resources to programs that reduce stormwater runoff and remove derelict vessels, creosote pilings and other pollution sources from Puget Sound.
“If we fail to act now, these whales could disappear in our lifetime. This is unacceptable.”
- Southern Resident orcas need healthy and abundant Chinook salmon throughout their range. Unfortunately, pollution from multiple sources (derelict vessels, creosote pilings, and stormwater runoff) has reduced the amount and quality of salmon available to these orcas.
- This problem is especially profound in the Salish Sea. The most contaminated Chinook salmon on the west coast are found in Puget Sound (part of the Salish Sea). As orcas consume these salmon, they also consume all of those pollutants, slowly building up toxics in their bodies.
- Pollution also reduces the amount of salmon available to these orcas. It degrades near-shore habitat (i.e. estuaries) that provide cover and food for growing salmon. Stormwater has also been shown to cause direct mortality of salmon at various life stages.
- With fewer salmon to eat and more toxics stored in their fat, our orcas are getting extremely sick. During lean times, all marine mammals rely on the fat stored in their blubber to give them the energy they need. For Southern Residents, though, this fat is filled with pollution. As the whales metabolize their fat reserves, they flood their bodies with these toxics, which can make them sick.
- Nursing mothers use their toxic fat to make milk for their newborn calves. Studies have shown that this may be a driving cause behind the high infant mortality and low birth rates in this population.
- On November 1, the Puget Sound Partnership reported that both Puget Sound and Southern Resident orca recovery are woefully underperforming. The latest State of the Sound report highlight that pollution from stormwater runoff remains one of the largest threats to the entire Salish Sea ecosystem.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.