Based on the latest reports, three orcas from the endangered population in the water of Washington state are either missing or dead.
This population is currently monitored by a team of researchers who announced Friday that there was no sign of the missing whales. A calf and an adult female have recently died, so the population dropped to 80 specimens, which is most likely the lowest during the past few decades.
According to the officials from the Center for Whale Research, a 42-year-old orca has been missing since the 1st of July. Ken Balcomb, the CWR senior scientist, adds that mothers and calves have a hard time finding food, which is the leading cause of death among the endangered orcas.
That is why the Center concluded that four dams would grant those whales access to enough food for themselves and the calves. More precisely, by breaching these dams, there would be plenty of salmon for the orca population.
This means that scientists would only have to restore the salmon stock every time the orcas need it. However, the opposition claims that Lower Snake River dams should not be removed because they are a reliable source of cheap hydroelectric power, meaning that they are playing an important role in the local economy.
Scientists believe that J28 died last week in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This killer whale had a 10-month-old calf as well. Balcomb underlined that the female looked gaunt in the weeks before she died.
The killer whale population has never been stable as it kept fluctuating from over 100 specimens 20 years ago to around 80 in the past few years. There is a wide variety of primary factors influencing the decline of orcas’ numbers such as boat-caused disturbance, lack of food, and pollution.
More precisely, human excess had a massive impact on those marine mammals. Orcas has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 2005 after their numbers plummeted during the past decades.
The killer whale’ favorite food is the chinook salmon a large fish rich in fat, which is unfortunately threatened as well. According to retired engineer Jim Waddell with the DamSense group, no reason is too important to stop these dams from being breached.
Scientists and other organizations will continue their efforts to make sure that the Lower Snake dams won’t be an obstacle to orcas’ survival.
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