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WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
We need whale poo ? WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Humpback whale underwater

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

The dolphin and porpoise casualties of the war in Ukraine

Rare, threatened subspecies of dolphins and porpoises live in the Black Sea along Ukraine's coast....
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...

Sad News for the Southern Residents

L120, the new calf who was just born in early September, has sadly gone missing and is assumed to have died.  L120 was the first new calf in the critically endangered Southern Resident population since 2012, and offered some hope for the group after two other members of L pod were confirmed missing and likely deceased this summer.

L120 was the third calf for Surprise! (L86), but was not seen with Mom in recent sightings by the Center for Whale Research, the organization that maintains the annual census of the Southern Residents.  Surprise’s second calf, Sooke (L112), died in February 2012 at 3 years old, and a necropsy revealed signs of severe acoustic trauma.

Southern Resident orcas are threatened by biocontamination – the accumulation of toxins and pollutants in their environment and subsequently in their bodies – and calves often bear the brunt of this danger as nursing mothers metabolize and offload their own toxic buildup through their milk.  Prey depletion is also a major threat to Southern Residents, and prey shortages can intensify the effects of other threats. Numbers of their preferred prey, Chinook salmon, have declined drastically in the Salish Sea and in rivers along the west coast in the last century.  Many salmon populations are endangered, threatened by habitat degradation and the loss of access to spawning grounds.  Increased vessel noise and traffic can cause acoustic masking for the orcas, making it more difficult to forage and locate prey.

 This heartbreaking loss brings the Southern Resident population down to just 78 individuals, 20 members less than their peak count in 1995, and 10 fewer than when they were added to the Endangered Species List in 2005.  To help these beautiful and iconic whales recover, we must address the threats on multiple fronts – help restore salmon populations and habitat, reduce the amount of toxins both already in and entering our oceans, and minimize stress from vessel noise and traffic.  The amplifying effect of each threat upon the others means that there is no easy fix or single problem to solve.  It’s a complicated battle, but one worth fighting so we can give the next new calf their best chance at survival.