Government And The Extinction Of Killer Whales

The government has begun to realize the reality of the extinction rate of the Southern Resident orcas; however, they have not taken efficacious initiatives for their protection. The marine ecosystem has many animals that are a part of the ecosystem. These Southern Resident Killer Whales are now listed as “endangered under the Canadian Species at Risk Act. ” They have important prey and predator relationship similar to the terrestrial ecosystem. Nature has always had a value of its own. However, people with higher power of authority, either the government or corporations, have not come to terms with conservation yet. These people follow the anthropogenic ideology. They believe that nature has value because either it is profitable or economically beneficial. Instead of understanding the value of nature where each and every species has every single right to live similarly to human beings and, nonetheless, nature should be valued because of its mere existence (the ecocentric ideology). The government has been monitoring the Southern Resident orcas since the early ‘90’s and did absolutely nothing advantageous for the Southern Resident orca population. From the figure listed below, we can see that there has been a rapid decrease in the more recent years compared to the older ones. Furthermore, the population has been decreasing rapidly which the government does not seem to be bothered by as most of these actions and policies have been uneventful and unaccommodating like, the approval of the LNG pipeline. Future spills or leakages caused from this pipeline will lead to fatal repercussions indubitably hindering their growth as a species when exposed to these toxic chemicals. Some of the reasons these orcas have been listed endangered is from: prey availability and lack thereof, vessel and boat noises disrupting their echolocation, impurities in the water bodies itself ensuing disastrous consequences.

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“Low prey abundance has been suggested as a risk factor impacting a population of killer whales Orcinus orca.” These orcas living in the southern and the region consume Pacific salmon especially a certain breed of these known as Chinook Salmon. These species have been on the decline and has been “listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA (NMFS 2005), even while in some cases they continue to be subjected to significant fisheries.” These fisheries approved by the government have has serious negative consequences for the chinook salmon. Some of these reasons include, “(1) local stock declines due to habitat deterioration, (2) widespread increases in fishing mortality rates, (3) selective increase in a few stocks due to salmonid enhancement activities, and (4) changes in counting effort and methods.” The government with the collaboration with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, have built fisheries and dams that decrease the perfect spawning grounds. Also, most of the fishes that are used by the fisheries for commercial usage have increased, which leads to overfishing. Most of these fisheries and companies farm the best of their catch and release the small and feeble into the ocean. By doing so. These fragile salmon try to spawn eggs; but, in vain. Many of the eggs either do not survive due to natural selection and genetics. This is one of the major reasons why this species has a significant decrease in population. Since the relationship between the Southern Resident Orcas and Chinook Salmon is proportional, the lack of the orcas’ prey leaves them malnourished. Even some of the fish farms that maintain chinook salmon have not followed standard safety procedures. Lice infestation has been a huge debacle in most of these farms. These are some of the reasons why the governments policies have not resulted in a noteworthy effect on the orcas.

“Vessel traffic may have contributed to the decline through a variety of mechanisms. Collisions between vessels and killer whales occur occasionally in residents, including southern residents, and other killer whales and result in injury or death.” This can include any type of vessel that uses radio frequencies, SONAR, or even a horn. Due to the sound and frequencies produces from these various equipment’s, this disrupts the whales’ only mechanism to locate any obstacles; echolocation. They use it for communication, foraging, and navigation generated from their larynx. Moreover, whale watching vessels have an adverse effect on the orcas. Mainly, they start to lose their ability to forage in the presence of any type of vessels. In order to decrease some of these drastic effects on the orcas, the government should ban whale watching overall. As a result, the orcas would be in a much better shape as their ability to forage will regenerate over time. The government also implemented new rules to keep the vessels in a safe distance from the orcas. Their new law states that all “vessels must stay 200 metres away” from the Southern Resident Killer Whales. This effort of the government proved to be ineffective and lackluster. Various researchers including this one, have concluded that the boats “between 100 and 400 m also have a significant effect” on the orcas. The government should collaborate with these scientists and then legislate new laws complimenting the research. This is why the laws created by the government with vessel traffic have been in vain.

“Marine traffic of oil tankers and other vessels to ports in Washington State and British Columbia, as well as oil transportation by rail and pipeline, increases the vulnerability of inland marine waters to a catastrophic event such as a spill or grounding.” For example, the LNG pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline which carry harmful substances that can alter the killer whales’ habitat when spilled. Implementing such pipelines might benefit the economy and the people; but, leave a deep scar in terms of conservation. These spills have serious effects including, “adrenal dysfunction and increased lung disease (Schwacke et al., 2013; Venn-Watson et al., 2015), cardiac, pulmonary, adrenal and gastric lesions (Stimmelmayr et al., 2018), reduced reproductive success (Kellar et al., 2017), immune system impairment (De Guise et al., 2017), and population decline (Matkin et al., 2008).” Compounds such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s) are prevalent in these toxic chemicals which is proved to be mutagenic as well as carcinogenic. Increased combustion from these vessels will make it more susceptible for the orcas to be unprotected from the PAH’s. Already the Orcas have a specific diet they follow and an unhurried rate with respect to their reproduction. Moreover, these toxic chemicals will only inhibit their rate of reproduction leading to a diabolical shift in behaviour with foraging concludes to a lesser lifespan, inferior genetic system, substandard eggs, and incompetent regeneration rates. The government are funding about “$423 million” in order to regulate contamination in the ocean which will apparently meet one of their deadlines for 2020. Nevertheless, many deadlines have been unsuccessful (like the carbon tax) and by that time in might even be too late as more projects like the LNG pipeline are approved, the more vulnerable the orcas are to a spill.

The government has always been dodging conservation efforts with the Southern Resident Orcas. Trophy hunting and poaching policies by the government do not reflect properly in the practical world. They let the orcas and the chinook salmon to be hunted for pleasure; therefore, now they are classified as endangered. The government has been monitoring the population of the Southern Resident Killer Whales since the early ‘90’s. They just watched the population of these whales decline instead of legislating rules and regulations from the start. Currently, the orca population consists of only “76 members in 2017” and could approximately be estimated to a total of 73 members. Some of these killer whales assisted by the government have been taken into captivity. But orcas are natural predators built to travel long distances and by forcing them to stay in a particular location will trigger psychological adversities that might be uncontrollable. Government sanctioned marine protected areas (MPA’s) have proven to be insignificant as these orcas travel a lot; especially during the migrating season. Even though the Southern Resident Killer Whales are only one species out of the millions of others that the government has to conserve, they had the adequate resources to properly execute polices that would have aided in the conservation of the orcas. Hence, the government has not done enough for the conservation of the orcas and consequently, by allowing the fisheries and the companies to have more control they ended up being a reason for the decrease in the population of the Southern Resident Orcas.

References:

  1. S. K. Wasser, J. I. Lundin, K. Ayres, E. Seely, D. Giles, K. Balcomb, J. Hempelmann, K. Parsons, and R. Booth, “Population growth is limited by nutritional impacts on pregnancy success in endangered Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca),” Plos One, vol. 12, no. 6, 2017. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179824
  2.  M. V. Hanson, R. V. Baird, J. V. Ford, J. V. Hempelmann-Halos, D. V. Doornik, J. V. Candy, C. V. Emmons, G. V. Schorr, B. V. Gisborne, K. V. Ayres, S. V. Wasser, K. V. Balcomb, K. V. Balcomb-Bartok, J. V. Sneva, and M. V. Ford, “Species and stock identification of prey consumed by endangered southern resident killer whales in their summer range,” Endangered Species Research, vol. 11, pp. 69–82, Nov. 2010. DOI: 10.3354/esr00263.
  3. M. M. Krahn, P. R. Wade, S. T. Kalnowski, et.al, “Status review of southern killer whales (orcinus orca) under the endangered species act”, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NWFSC-54, [Available online: https://repository.library.noaa.gov/view/noaa/3332], [Accessed: November 5th , 2019]
  4. C. J. Walters and P. Cahoon, “Evidence of Decreasing Spatial Diversity in British Columbia Salmon Stocks,” Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, vol. 42, no. 5, pp. 1033–1037, 1985. DOI: 10.1139/f85-128
  5. D. Lusseau, D. Bain, R. Williams, and J. Smith, “Vessel traffic disrupts the foraging behavior of southern resident killer whales Orcinus orca,” Endangered Species Research, vol. 6, pp. 211–221, 2009. DOI: 10.3354/esr00154
  6. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Communications Branch, “Protecting Southern Resident Killer Whales,” Government of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Communications Branch, 30-Oct-2018. [Online]. Available: https://dfo-mpo.gc.ca/campaign-campagne/protectingwhales-protegerbaleines/srkw-eng.html. [Accessed: 07-Nov-2019]
  7. J. I. Lundin, G. M. Ylitalo, D. A. Giles, E. A. Seely, B. F. Anulacion, D. T. Boyd, J. A. Hempelmann, K. M. Parsons, R. K. Booth, and S. K. Wasser, “Pre-oil spill baseline profiling for contaminants in Southern Resident killer whale fecal samples indicates possible exposure to vessel exhaust,” Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 136, pp. 448–453, 2018. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.09.015
  8. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, “Killer Whale (Northeast Pacific Southern Resident Population),” Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 06-Dec-2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/profiles-profils/killerWhalesouth-PAC-NE-epaulardsud-eng.html. [Accessed: 07-Nov-2019].
07 July 2022

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