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Canada expands critical habitat for at-risk orca populations

Last week, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans made an expansion of critical habitat for both the Northern and Southern Resident orca populations official.  Like in the U.S., a critical habitat designation recognizes that an area with certain features is vital for the survival of an endangered species, and protects designated areas from activities that…

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Lawsuit launched to protect Southern Resident orcas' coastal habitat

Following their 2014 petition to revise federally-designated critical habitat for the endangered Southern Resident orca population, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has filed a legal notice demanding the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) take action to protect the orcas’ ocean habitat off California, Oregon, and Washington.  The notice points out the unlawful delay by…

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Southern Resident orca critical habitat – where are we now?

In 2014, WDC supported a petition by our colleagues at the Center for Biological Diversity asking the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to expand critical habitat for the endangered Southern Resident orca community.  Unfortunately, four years later, we’re still waiting for NMFS to take action to protect more of the Southern Residents’ home. The summer…

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Mayday Monday – What Have We Learned?

New information since 2005 listing The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) submitted a petition in 2014 asking for expanded critical habitat and the addition of sound as an essential feature of their habitat. Early in 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) found that petition to be warranted, and while they plan to revise critical…

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Mayday Monday – The Cascade Effect of Threats

Connectedness and synergistic interactions between different threats In December 2014, the Southern Resident orca Rhapsody (J32) was found dead carrying a near full-term fetus. The loss of a reproductive female and her calf was a hard hit to the Southern Resident population. Preliminary results from her necropsy showed that she was malnourished and had a…

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Mayday Monday – Boat Traffic and Noise Pollution

Primary Threat #3: Boat Traffic and Noise Pollution Orcas are acoustic beings, and sound is an indispensable aspect of their daily lives. Vocal communication is particularly advanced for orcas and is an essential element of their complex social structure. Each pod has its own dialect, or “accent” on shared calls within clans, which are similar…

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One of new Southern Resident orca calves missing

WDC is saddened to share the news from our colleagues at the Center for Whale Research (CWR) that newest calf in the critically endangered Southern Resident orca population, J55, is missing and presumed dead.  J55 was first seen in mid-January swimming with the J14 family group.  His or her mother was never confirmed, as the…

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Mayday Monday – Legacy Toxins and Bioaccumulation

Primary Threat #2: Legacy Toxins and Bioaccumulation Chemical pollution is another major threat to the orcas: the Southern Resident orcas are one of the most contaminated marine mammal populations in the world. They are a long-lived top predator, which makes them incredibly vulnerable to pollutants that accumulate up the food chain. Their home in Puget…

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Mayday Monday – Depleted Salmon Stocks

Primary Threat #1: Depleted Salmon Stocks The fates of Resident orcas in the Pacific Northwest and their salmon prey are one and the same. The extent of this relationship is reflected in an old tribal adage, “no fish, no Blackfish.” The availability and abundance of salmon is the most influential threat to the Southern Residents’ recovery.…

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