Science merges into art in new studies of biofluorescence, in
which researchers identify colorful marine creatures that glow in
the dark. Their ultimate goal is to figure out why.
Biofluorescence is essentially the “black light” effect, in
which organisms absorb a narrow frequency range of blue light and
transform it into other colors, such as green and red. In deep
water, blue is the only frequency of light that makes it
Until recently, there was no technology to capture images of
fluorescent fish in extremely low-light conditions. Artificial
light ruins the effect, and older low-light cameras were too bulky
to travel underwater. New cameras developed at Yale University
changed the ability of research divers to capture colorful images
of sea creatures and bring them back to the surface for further
study. So far, more than 180 biofluorescent fish species have been
David Gruber, John Sparks and others are trying to figure out if
there is a reason that some fish produce a glow. They would also
like to know which of the other creatures are able to see them in
the darkness. Check out the article in the journal
PLOS ONE published Jan. 8.
Gruber notes that camouflage fish — those able to blend in with
their surroundings in regular white light — are often those that
stand out brilliantly in fluorescent light. He speculates that fish
of the same species are better able to see them, offering
advantages in communication and mating. For the sake of these
glowing fish, it would be nice to learn that their predators cannot
spot them so easily.
The natural beauty of these fluorescent patterns is not
overlooked by Gruber and his associates.
“I just find a real serenity and beauty being on the reef at
night,” Gruber says in the first video on this page. “And now when
we add on this kind of fluorescent layer, it’s like being on
The fish below is known as a fangtooth, a tropical fish found in
the ocean up to 16,000 feet deep. Upon second glance, you will see
a human eye and a chin and realize that you are looking at a very
nice painting on a human head.
The artist is Helena Jordana Skuhrovcov of the Czech Republic.
She is one of several body painters who have joined the protest
against deep-sea bottom trawling in Europe, a campaign sponsored by
LUSH cosmetics and Bloom Association, a marine conservation
Each of the artists involved in the project has painted a
different deep-sea creature to raise awareness about life in the
deep ocean and to call upon European governments to ban deep-sea
“The deep ocean is the largest habitat on the planet – teeming
with all kinds of unique marine life including corals and sponges
that live for hundreds to thousands of years. But deep-sea bottom
trawlers are destroying them, dragging giant weighted nets, cables
and steel plates more than 2 tonnes each across the ocean floor to
catch a small number of low value fish…
“A successful ban would represent a momentous historical
milestone in the fight to protect our deep ocean from unnecessary
destruction. Deep-sea bottom trawling is a capital-intensive,
fuel-greedy, subsidy-dependent fishing method that fails to yield
positive economic results while destroying the natural habitat of
The video below shows some of the artists painting their models
during a tour of Europe earlier this month. It drives home the
theme of the anti-trawling campaign, which has been joined by
numerous celebrities, as shown in a “gallery of
Thanks to Fred Felleman for calling my attention to this
interesting artwork. And, no, I’m not confused about the day of the
week; I just had too much going on yesterday to focus on “Amusing
When I’m on vacation, I usually offer a blog entry from my “Best
of Amusing Monday” series.
But this time I want to show you a video that has gone viral on
YouTube —which means you may have already seen it. If not, I hope
you are amused by this dog, Walter, who keeps running and running,
apparently with some destination in mind. As viewers, we’re not
sure where Walter is going until he gets there, but we’re with him
all the way. His final landing is quite appropriate for this
video of Walter, a Labrador retriver, seems to show his path
from a different vantage point. The location is Siracuse on the
island of Sicily, Italy.
By the way, I’m curious if anyone understands the reference in
my headline, “See Walter. See Walter Run.” Can you name the
original children’s book that included another dog that became
This year is the 50th anniversary of Alvin, a deep-sea vehicle
that has made some incredible scientific discoveries over the past
The latest issue of Oceanus magazine is a special edition that
takes us through the history of Alvin, including its part in
locating a lost hydrogen bomb, investigating the Deepwater Horizon
oil spill and documenting the remains of the Titanic.
What really drew my attention to this issue is a photo feature
Animals.” It was posted as a slide show in the online version
of Oceanus. It registered high on my amusing meter, and I encourage
you to click through the buttons that take you from one odd-looking
creature to the next.
One of Alvin’s most significant discoveries came in 1977, when
the submersible traveled to the Galapagos Rift, a deep-water area
where volcanic activity had been detected. Scientists had
speculated that steaming underwater vents were releasing chemicals
into the ocean water. They got to see that, but what they
discovered was much more: a collection of unique clams, worms and
mussels thriving without sunlight.
These were lifeforms in which bacteria played a central role at
the base of a food web that derives its energy from chemicals and
Since then, other deep-sea communities have been discovered and
documented throughout the world, with hundreds of new species
examined and named.
The Oceanus article also describes in some detail the
just-completed renovation that has given Alvin new capabilities.
The people responsible for various aspects of the make-over are
interviewed in this special edition.
The first video on this page is by Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution celebrating Alvin’s 50th birthday. The second is a
walk-around the newly renovated craft by Jim Motavalli, who usually
writes about ecologically friendly automobiles.
Erich Hoyt, who has been enjoying adventures with killer whales
and other sea creatures since the early 1970s, will share his
understanding of the underwater world during a series of
presentations from British Columbia to Northern California.
The tour begins today on Saturna Island in British Columbia. For
the full schedule, visit The
Whale Trail website.
Erich has a rare talent. He is both an engaging writer as well
as an experienced scientific researcher. His first book, “Orca: A
Whale Called Killer,” is essential reading for orca supporters. His
understanding of the oceans has led him into the field of
conservation, seeking greater protections for marine habitats
throughout the world.
As Erich prepared for his upcoming tour, sponsored by The Whale Trail, I had the
privilege to visit with him for more than an hour via Skype from
his home in Bridport, England.
We discussed how people’s attitudes in the U.S. and Canada have
changed since 1973. That was when Erich’s curiosity was sparked by
encounters with Northern Resident orca pods in British Columbia,
where he had moved from the U.S. with his family.
Those were the days when little was known about killer whales.
Orcas were still being captured in the Northwest and sent to
aquariums throughout the world. Since then, we have learned how
those first captures had a serious effect on the close-knit orca
communities. Continuing threats today include pollution and a lack
of chinook salmon, the primary prey of orcas.
In 1999, Erich helped start a research program in Russian to
bring the same kind of scientific scrutiny and conservation
concerns to killer whales on the opposite side of the ocean. That
program, involving Russian scientists, revealed the presence of two
types of orcas, those that eat marine mammals and those that eat
fish — similar to what we call “transients” and “residents” in the
Orca communities identified so far in Russia range in size from
50 to 600 animals. As we’ve seen in the Northwest, cultures — such
as vocal dialects and feeding habits — are handed down from mother
An awareness of orcas, as seen in the U.S. and Canada, has not
reached Russia or many places in the world, Hoyt says. Russia still
allows killer whales to be captured, and last year seven orcas were
taken from the Sea of Okhotsk. Earlier captures in Russia were
especially disheartening to the researchers who had come to know
the individual animals taken from their families.
During his presentation, Erich will show a brief video of some
of the Russian capture efforts.
In countries such as Russia, China and Japan, new marine
aquariums are being built all the time, with orcas and beluga
whales as the star attractions. That’s in stark contrast to the
situation in the U.S., where a growing awareness of wild orcas
along with the film “Blackfish” has helped change people’s
attitudes about keeping large marine mammals in captivity.
Erich told me that he would like to see more people around the
world come to know individual orcas by name, as we do here in the
“Look at how far things have come, from when we didn’t know
anything about them to when we start to see them as our friends,”
About a week ago, I reported that NOAA Fisheries had undertaken
a yearlong review to determine if the “critical habitat” for
Southern Resident killer whales should be extended down the
Washington and Oregon coasts. See
Kitsap Sun, April 24 (subscription). A special consideration
for protecting the whales from undue noise was part of the petition
from the Center for Biological Diversity.
Hoyt agreed that sound should be given special consideration by
the federal government.
“Rob Williams (a Canadian researcher) talks about acoustic
refuges,” Erich noted. “It is a challenging issue, because whales
and dolphins can hear so well… We will need much larger marine
protected areas if we really want to protect them…”
A general increase in noise levels in the ocean can lead to
habituation by marine mammals, he noted. As they grow accustomed to
louder sounds, the animals may adjust — but how will that affect
their ability to communicate and find prey? What are the prospects
for their long-term survival under more noisy conditions?
And then there is the special issue of mid-frequency sonar,
which can cause temporary or even permanent hearing loss for some
species. Navies that use sonar must be extra careful to avoid
impacts, he said.
Erich and I also talked about L-112, the young female orca that
washed up dead near Long Beach about the time the Royal Canadian
Navy was conducting exercises far to the north. Investigators were
unable to determine what caused the “blunt-force” injury to the
animal. But they ruled out explosives being used by the Navy,
because the currents were in the wrong direction and the distance
was too great.
“This brings to mind the crash of the Malaysian jetliner,” Erich
said. “You know something unusual happened, but it defies almost
any explanation you bring up. Scientists tend to come up with
explanations that are the simplest … but they should be careful not
to rule anything out.”
Killer whale researcher Ken Balcomb has suggested that L-112’s
mother may have carried her dead daughter to the area where she was
found. Hoyt said he has personally observed a female white-sided
dolphin carrying her dead offspring for more than two hours in
“It was really touching. We didn’t know at first if the baby was
dead. We were not very close. But eventually the mother just let go
of the baby.”
Erich expects mixed audiences at his upcoming appearances — from
people who know more about certain issues than he does to people
who are dragged to the event by a friend.
One message will be that people can watch whales from shore
without causing them any disturbance. That’s the mission of The
Whale Trail, the organization sponsoring Erich’s trip to locations
where killer whales may be seen from shore.
I told Erich about my first adventures with killer whales during
the fall of 1997, when 19 orcas visited Dyes Inlet. See “The Dyes
Inlet Whales 10 Years Later.” One of my messages at that time
was to encourage people to watch from vantage points in Tracyton,
Chico and Silverdale.
“Land-based whale watching is really close to my heart,” Erich
told me. “It’s the kind of thing that’s important for the community
… and a fantastic way to get to know wildlife.”
Hoyt’s appearances in Washington state include this Wednesday in
Port Townsend, Thursday in Port Angeles and May 18 in Seattle.
Whale Trail website for the full schedule.
We just completed another group of stories in the ongoing series
we’re calling “Taking the Pulse of Puget Sound.” This latest story
package is about
marine water quality and marine sediments. (The stories
themselves require a subscription.)
For all my years of environmental reporting, I have to say that
I’ve never really understood the meaning of water quality. Keeping
the water free of chemicals and fecal bacteria is one thing. Safe
levels of oxygen, temperature, acidity and suspended sediment are
other important factors.
But in the real world, you never find ideal conditions. You take
what you get: physical conditions dictated by weather, climate and
bathymetry; a strange brew of toxic chemicals; and a mix of
nutrients and organic material, all drifting through complex cycles
of life and death.
Water quality means nothing without the context of living
things. More than 1,000 species of tiny organisms live in or on the
mud at the bottom of Puget Sound. In many areas, sensitive species
have disappeared. We are left with those that can tolerate harsher
conditions. Why are they dying off? What can be done about it?
Some plankton species are becoming more dominant, and the
effects on the food web are unknown. When water quality is poor,
Jellyfish are displacing forage fish, disrupting the food supply
for larger fish.
We know that toxic chemicals are spilling into Puget Sound in
stormwater and getting into the food web, first touching the
tiniest organisms and eventually causing havoc for fish, marine
mammals and humans. Compounds that mimic hormones are affecting
growth, reproduction and survival for a myriad of species. Because
of biomagnification, some chemicals are having serious effects at
concentrations that could not be measured until recently.
Puget Sound can’t cleanse itself by flushing its chemicals and
waste out to sea, as most bays do. Puget Sound is long and narrow
and deep, and the exchange of water takes a long time. Most of the
bad stuff floating in the water just sloshes back and forth with
the daily tides.
We can’t forget that some of the good stuff floating around are
microscopic plants that feed the food web, along with a variety of
larvae that will grow into fish, shellfish and many other
creatures. But many of these planktonic life forms are vulnerable
to chemicals, which can reduce their ability to survive against
predators, tipping the balance in unknown ways.
Understanding water quality is not so much about measuring what
is in the water as understanding the effects on living things.
Which species are missing from a given area of Puget Sound, and
what killed them off?
Biological monitoring has been around for a long time, but we
may be entering a new phase of exploration in which we begin to
connect the dots between what takes place on the land, how
chemicals and nutrients get into the water, and what that means for
every creature struggling to survive.
We have some brilliant people working on this problem in the
Puget Sound region. I would like to thank everyone who has helped
me gain a better understanding of these issues, as I attempt to
explain these complexities in my stories.
While I was looking into the sediment story, Maggie Dutch of
Ecology’s sediment monitoring team introduced me to a huge number
of benthic invertebrates. In a blog she calls
“Eyes Under Puget Sound,” she talks about the monitoring
program and offers a slideshow of some of the bottom creatures. See
Japanese whalers who hunt whales in the Antarctic can no longer
justify their actions as “scientific research” and must stop their
annual whale roundup, according to a ruling by the International
Court of Justice.
The court ruled today that Japan’s so-called “research” does not
meet ordinary scientific standards. The court ordered Japan to stop
killing whales under the guise of its research program, called
JARPA II. As stated in a 73-page finding
(PDF 649 kb) supported by 12 of the 16 judges:
“Taken as a whole, the Court considers that JARPA II involves
activities that can broadly be characterized as scientific
research, but that the evidence does not establish that the
programme’s design and implementation are reasonable in relation to
achieving its stated objectives.
“The Court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan
for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with
JARPA II are not ‘for purposes of scientific research’ pursuant to
Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the Convention (the International
Convention for the Regulation of Whaling).”
In the legal action brought before the United Nations court by
Australia, the judges carefully scrutinized the JARPA II methods
and procedures. They found that the sampling procedure and lethal
take of minke, fin and humpback whales falls short of legitimate
scientific study in many regards:
“The fact that the actual take of fin and humpback whales is
largely, if not entirely, a function of political and logistical
considerations, further weakens the purported relationship between
JARPA II’s research objectives and the specific sample size targets
for each species — in particular, the decision to engage in the
lethal sampling of minke whales on a relatively large scale.”
“Examining Japan’s decisions regarding the use of lethal
methods, the court finds no evidence of any studies of the
feasibility of or the practicability of non-lethal methods, either
in setting the JARPA II sample sizes or in later years in which the
programme has maintained the same sample size targets. The court
also finds no evidence that Japan examined whether it would be
feasible to combine a smaller lethal take and an increase in
non-lethal sampling as a means to achieve JARPA II’s research
After the ruling, Koji Tsuruoka, Japan’s representative at the
court, addressed reporters at the Peace Palace in The Hague.
According to a report by
Australian Associated Press, Tsuruoka stated:
“Japan regrets and is deeply disappointed that JARPA II … has
been ruled by the court as not falling within the provisions of
Article 8. However, as a state that respects the rule of law, the
order of international law and as a responsible member of the
global community, Japan will abide by the decision of the
He said Japanese officials would need to digest the judgment
before considering a future course of action. He refused to discuss
whether a new research program could be crafted to allow whaling to
Australian officials were careful not to gloat over the victory
as they emphasized the need to maintain favorable relations with
Japan. Bill Campbell, Australia’s general counsel in the case, was
quoted by the AAP:
“The decision of the court today, important as it is, has given
us the opportunity to draw a line under the legal dispute and move
The ruling was welcomed by environmental groups, including Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society, which has sent ships to the
Antarctic to directly confront the whaling ships and interfere with
their whaling activities, as seen on the television show “Whale
Wars.” Capt. Alex Cornelissen of Sea Shepherd Global had this to
say in a
“With today’s ruling, the ICJ has taken a fair and just stance
on the right side of history by protecting the whales of the
Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the vital marine ecosystem of
Antarctica, a decision that impacts the international community and
future generations. Though Japan’s unrelenting harpoons have
continued to drive many species of whales toward extinction, Sea
Shepherd is hopeful that in the wake of the ICJ’s ruling, it is
whaling that will be driven into the pages of the history
It appears we’ll never know what killed L-112, known as Victoria
or Sooke, found dead at 3 years old, after she washed up on an
ocean beach in Southwest Washington.
If you recall from two years ago, much speculation swirled
around the notion that the female orca was killed by military
operations, such as sonar or an explosion. The Royal Canadian Navy
confirmed the use of sonar and small underwater detonations west of
Vancouver Island. But that was far from Long Beach, where the orca
washed up, and ocean currents suggest she was killed even farther
south. For a quick history, see
Water Ways from Feb. 18, 2012, followed by an
entry on May 16, 2012.
The latest report concludes, as early ones did, that L-112 died
from “blunt force trauma.” But the cause of the trauma could not be
determined. No sonar activity or explosions were identified in the
area where her death probably occurred, although a physical
examination was not able to totally rule out those causes.
A new bit of information emerges from the long-term acoustic
recorders that listen for sounds off the coast. Calls identified as
coming from L pod were reported near Point Reyes in California on
Jan. 30, off Westport in Washington on Feb. 5, and near Newport in
Oregon on Feb. 20. L-112 was found dead on Feb. 11 after floating
for several days. It appears likely that the young whale was with
her pod at the time of her death.
As the report states:
“This multi-disciplinary investigation could not determine the
source of the blunt trauma despite gathering and evaluating all
available information on the whales, the environment, and human
activities. We evaluated the sighting history of the whales to
provide insight into the circumstances of the stranding.
“Autonomous passive acoustic recorders off the coasts of
Washington, Oregon, and California indicated that the main group of
L Pod, possibly including L-112, was off California in late
January, heading north, and possibly off Westport, Washington in
the first week of February and detected near Newport, Oregon after
“A major source of trauma from sonar, explosives, or a seismic
event would likely have affected multiple individuals traveling
together as killer whales are known to do. All other members of
L-112’s family group were sighted following L-112’s stranding. No
other members of the L4 sub-group were reported missing, injured,
or stranded between the time of the L-112 stranding and the summer
“This observation leads us to believe that the trauma suffered
by L-112 was likely borne individually and was not an event that
covered a large area or that directly impacted the young whale’s
most likely traveling companions in the L4 sub-group. For these
reasons, we do not believe that L-112 succumbed to blast injuries
or exposure to other high intensity sound.”
So was L-112 struck by a ship? Did she encounter another
aggressive whale or large shark? Or was she hit by another unknown
force or object? We’ll probably never know, as the mystery goes on
and on and people continue to ask, “Who killed L-112?”
Tracking J pod for 30 days — mostly during the month of January
— lends support for the idea that this group of Southern Resident
killer whales strongly depends on the inland waters of the Salish
Sea, perhaps more so than K and L pods.
A satellite transmitter was attached to L-87, a 22-year-old male
orca named Onyx who has been spending his time with J pod. The
tracking effort is part of a study to determine where the whales
travel in winter. While one month of tracking doesn’t prove much,
it is interesting to know that J pod can hang out for days around
Texada Island in the Strait of Georgia without being noticed.
The following video, courtesy of the Northwest Fisheries
Science Center, depicts travels of the whales from Dec. 26, when
the tag was attached, to Jan. 23, when the tag apparently fell
The tracks end just as the orcas seem to be leaving the Strait
of Juan de Fuca, but so far we don’t know if they continued or
When the whales moved into Central and South Puget Sound, as
shown by the satellite tracks, observers watching from shore and on
ferries reported the whales each time, noted Brad Hanson, who is
leading the tracking study for the NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries
Science Center. On the other hand, the whales were infrequently
reported while in the Strait of Georgia and Strait of Juan de Fuca,
“One thing that was interesting to see,” he noted, “is that the
movements are completely different from what they do in
In summer, J pod often moves north into Canada but not much
beyond the Fraser River near Vancouver. These winter travels show
the J pod moves farther north and stays in the northern part of the
Strait of Georgia for extended periods of time.
What they are finding there to eat has not been fully studied,
but some percentage of chinook salmon reared in local waters are
known to stay inside the Salish Sea, never swimming out to the
Past studies based on recorded killer whale calls have shown
that J pod moves into the open Pacific Ocean on occasion, but the
whales rarely travel very far down the coast. The recording
equipment was moved this winter to strategic locations to better
distinguish how far south J pod travels in winter, Brad said.
Over the next couple months, researchers will continue to look
for opportunities to attach tags to killer whales, he said. A
cruise aboard a large research vessel in March will attempt to
follow the Southern Residents, identify their feeding areas and
determine what they are eating in the ocean.
Because Southern Resident killer whales spend so much time
foraging in the Pacific Ocean, the coastal waters from Washington
to Northern California should be designated for special protection,
according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The environmental group listed research conducted by the
National Marine Fisheries Service — including ongoing
satellite-tracking studies — in a new petition to the agency. The
“Petition to Revise the Critical Habitat Designation …” (PDF 340
kb) calls for the West Coast to be designated as critical
habitat from Cape Flattery in Washington to Point Reyes in
California. The protected zone would extend out nearly 50 miles
Environmental activists have long argued that the whales depend
on more than the San Juan Islands, Puget Sound and the Strait of
Juan de Fuca for their survival. Those inland areas, currently
designated as critical habitat, are where the whales normally spend
most of the summer months. But when winter comes around, where the
whales go has been a relative mystery until recent years.
An intensive research program has pointed to the conclusion that
all three pods venture into Pacific Ocean, and K and L pods travel
far down the coast. Research methods include a coastal network of
people watching for whales, passive recorders to pick up sounds
from the orcas, and work from large and small research vessels.
Satellite tracking has allowed researchers to map the whales’
Water Ways, Jan. 14.) In addition, forage activity has been
observed where rivers drain into the ocean, and many researchers
believe that the Columbia River may be especially important.
In addition to the proposal to expand critical habitat, the
petition calls for NMFS to include man-made noise among the
characteristics getting special attention. The petition states:
“Moreover, in revising the critical habitat designation for
Southern Resident killer whales, NMFS must also preserve waters in
which anthropogenic noise does not exceed levels that inhibit
communication, disrupt foraging activities or result in hearing
loss or habitat abandonment.
“A variety of human activities, including shipping operations,
have the potential to impair these functions by generating
additional ocean noise, resulting in the acoustic degradation of
killer whale habitat.
“Global warming and increasing ocean acidification, both
products of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, also contribute
to rising levels of ambient noise.”
Characteristics already considered in protecting the orcas’
critical habitat include water quality, prey quality and abundance,
and adequate room to move, rest and forage.
I thought it was interesting that the Center for Biological
Diversity would petition the agency to expand critical habitat for
the Southern Residents at a time when federal researchers are
building a pretty strong case to do that on their own.
Sarah Uhlemann, a senior attorney at the center, told me that
she sees the petition as supportive of those research efforts,
which seem to be building toward a legal and policy shift:
“They have been putting a lot of funding into that research, and
we’re thrilled about that. The agency has been pretty clear that it
does intend to designate critical habitat in the winter range.
“This petition puts them on a time frame. They have 90 days to
decide if the petition may be warranted… Within a year, they must
inform the public about what their plans are.
“This is supportive of what the agency already has in mind. It
just gives them a little kick to move forward faster.”
The Endangered Species Act defines critical habitat as “the
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species
… on which are found those physical or biological features …
essential to the conservation of the species and … which may
require special management considerations or protection.”
Within critical habitat, federal agencies are required to focus
on features important to the survival of the species.
The petition mentions a recent study suggesting that Southern
Residents may require consistent availability of chinook salmon,
rather than “high numbers of fish that are only available for a
short period of time.” If those findings hold up, coastal foraging
may be critical to the population’s survival, the petition says,
citing work by Katherine Ayres of the University of Washington’s
Center for Conservation Biology.
The Ayres study concludes that the whales become “somewhat
food-limited during the course of the summer” and, therefore, “the
early spring period when the whales are typically in coastal waters
might be a more important foraging time than was previously
It could be pointed out that the Southern Residents spent little
time in Puget Sound this year, and researchers speculate that they
may have been finding better prospects for food among the more
abundant runs of chinook returning to the Columbia River.
While J and K pods have have begun to rebound in population, L
pod has declined to historic lows, totaling only 36 individuals
last fall. Where there is uncertainty, the petition calls on NMFS
to act on the side of protection. The petition states:
“Without proper oversight, human activities will continue to
degrade this region, compromising the continued existence of
habitat characteristics required for the population’s survival and
recovery. As NMFS is aware, anthropogenic pressures have already
contributed to the decline of salmon stocks throughout the
northwestern United States.
“Nutritional stress resulting from low Chinook abundance may act
synergistically with the immunosuppressive effects of toxic
contaminants, present in prey species from both coastal and inland
marine waters, causing Southern Residents to experience a variety
of adverse health effects, including increased mortality. The
population may be unable to adapt to further reductions in prey
news release, Sarah Uhlemann expressed her concerns for the
“These whales somewhat miraculously survived multiple threats
over the years, including deliberate shootings and live capture for
marine theme parks. The direct killings have stopped, but we can’t
expect orcas to thrive once again if we don’t protect their
“Killer whales are important to the identity and spirit of the
Pacific Northwest and beloved by people across the country. If this
population of amazing, extremely intelligent animals is going to
survive for future generations, we need to do more to protect their
most important habitat.”