By Misty MacDuffee and Chris Genovali, Special to the Vancouver Sun July 1
Southern resident killer whales (southern residents) feature prominently these days as their struggle for survival in the Salish Sea has become symbolic of the unsustainable nature of our economy, and often, our lifestyles.
The mounting ecological cost of unrestrained economic growth presents a stark choice about our future and that of the whales; will future generations of children grow up with a healthy population of killer whales or will we only save memories of what once was?
Raincoast Conservation Foundation recently submitted 500 pages of scientific evidence for the federal review of Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tanker expansion project. Central to our evidence is a new analysis on the status and probable fate of southern residents. Considering the declining quality of habitat in the Salish Sea — a region facing increasing industrialization with proposals for oil, coal, and gas ports, and more container terminals — our findings are offered with a sense of urgency.
Already critically endangered, southern resident killer whales are struggling to find enough salmon to eat in a noisy and polluted ocean.
Sound is as important to killer whales as vision is to humans. Their most important seasonal feeding grounds are international shipping lanes; places where the opportunity to communicate (out to a range of eight km) is consistently compromised by noise from ships and boats. Nearly all opportunity for whales to speak with each other while hunting for food is lost during periods of busy traffic. Their primary food, Chinook (a.k.a. spring) salmon, is managed for commercial and recreational fishing, not hungry whales. The abundance of Chinook strongly influences birth, growth, and death rates of southern resident killer whales. Lastly, the southern residents’ popularity means a flotilla of whale watching boats follows them every day from spring to fall…
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