Sick killer whale baby; Washington authorities issue rule to ban whale watching tours
SEATTLE – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued an emergency rule ordering commercial whale-watching tours to stay further away from a sick baby orca to help them survive.
J56, or Tofino, as the whale is also called, was born in May 2019 to an orca known as Tsuchi, or J31.
The whale’s declining condition has been reported to the state by the non-profit scientific organization SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research, which is contracted to monitor the condition of southern resident J, K and L pods. , The Seattle Times reported.
“We first expressed our concern about J56 in the summer of 2020 when we measured her as thin and also noticed that her skin had a paler color tone – images collected this week show us that his condition worsened, “Holly Fearnbach, director of marine mammal research with the team, informed the state agency on Wednesday.
Dr John Durban, of Southall Environmental Associates who is working with the monitoring team, said that by comparing measurements of Tofino’s condition to whales of similar age in the 14-year-old data set from the ‘team, they categorize her condition as bad, which means she is at a significantly high level. risk of death in the coming months.
This finding under new whale watching regulations passed by Washington State in 2020 warrants additional measures to ensure that Tofino and its suppliers have the best chance of successfully feeding.
Related: New federal rule protects southern resident killer whales along the entire Oregon coast
Fish and Wildlife confirmed the surveillance team’s sightings and invoked an emergency rule on Friday requiring commercial whale-watching tours to be held at least half a nautical mile from the baby or his family, if she is with them.
Ships can confuse orcas and make it more difficult for them to hunt salmon, which they do by listening to the echoes of echolocation clicks. The noise and disturbance from the boats make them harder to hear and cause orcas to raise their voices to be heard from each other, which can drain their energy.
Southern residents frequent Puget Sound, struggle to survive, and most pregnancies fail. In 2005, they were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The families of southern resident killer whales have probably just suffered the loss of K21, the oldest of the southern resident males. He was seen very emaciated on July 29 and has not been seen since. He is presumed dead, bringing the total population of southerners at risk to just 74.
The department urges all boaters to stay away from southerners over the holiday weekend.
– The Associated Press