The Center for Whale Research and Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirmed late last night that a dead orca found floating off the coast in British Columbia was 18-year-old J34, known as Double Stuf, a member of the critically endangered Southern Resident orca population. This loss marks the fourth adult orca to die, and the sixth death overall, this year in the small community. With only 79 individuals remaining, 2016 was a particularly hard year after a more hopeful 2015, which saw the “baby boom” of nine new calves (seven have survived thus far). The struggling population is at risk from prey depletion, toxic contamination, and vessel effects. Researchers believe that a lack of salmon, the preferred food of the Southern Residents, is largely to blame for recent losses in the population.
Double Stuf was seen floating in the water on December 20th and was brought ashore on the 21st so a necropsy could be conducted. A cause of death was not immediately apparent, but a more thorough examination could provide some answers about why the young orca died. He may have been struck by a passing vessel. Double Stuf was born in 1998 to mother Oreo (J22), and has a younger brother, Cookie (J38) born in 2003. At 18, he was just entering the prime of life for a male orca. The Center for Whale Research last saw him on December 7th.
This is heartbreaking news to end 2016 for the Southern Residents. Considered one of the most endangered marine mammal populations in the world, they are in need of immediate and definitive action to prevent their extinction. You can help by signing our petition to remove four dams on the Snake River, restoring an important salmon river that provides much-needed food for the Southern Residents.