Southern Resident killer whales need more than luck

Exposing this new whale, and members of this population, to more vessel traffic is a disturbance the whales simply do not need.

Southern Resident killer whales swim by in the Salish Sea.

Photo by Andy Wright.

The Southern Resident killer whales were in need of some good fortune. It came on January 10th with the appearance of a new calf, L124, whose sex is unknown and who is informally named Lucky.

So why no picture of Lucky?

The reality is that calves like Lucky only have a 40% chance of survival. More sobering still is the fact that no calves have survived in this population in the last three years. This is why we have stopped using images other than those taken during essential research and monitoring efforts. Exposing this new whale, and members of this population, to more vessel traffic is a disturbance the whales simply do not need.

While we recognize that whale watching is but one of a suite of pressures facing the Southern Residents, vessels at close proximity interfere with feeding and communication. Right now Lucky needs more than luck. The whole population needs us to do everything we can. This is why we are calling for a closure of whale watching on Southern Residents. Whale watching is not solely dependent on the Southern Residents; there are other whales and other killer whales that are not critically endangered.

Right now, with our conservation partners, we are also participating in numerous working groups established by the federal government to address prey availability and reduce noise and disturbance. This doesn’t shift our stance on what is required. In terms of prey, the easiest way to provide more food and recover endangered Chinook populations is to close marine commercial and recreational Chinook fisheries that target the salmon these whales require.

A new calf is cause for hope. We can give it a better chance of survival by reducing disturbance.

For those that remain.

Misty MacDuffee in a lifejacket on the Fraser river.

Misty MacDuffee

Misty is a biologist and the Program Director of Raincoast’s Wild Salmon Program. Her most recent publication, with co-authors at the Wild Fish Conservancy and University of Montana, describes a framework for certifying salmon fisheries based on a much higher bar than is currently in use. She is dedicated to the long term survival of finned, furred, and feathered creatures.

Investigate. Inform. Inspire.

Publications | Scientific Papers | Reports & Books

Find us & follow