Men’s Breakfast Learns that West Coast Orca Population is in Peril

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Submitted by Brian McHattie

The December Men’s Breakfast meeting featured, well me, speaking about the orca populations of Canada’s west coast based on my summer 1993 volunteer work at OrcaLab on Hansen Island, followed by a full-out passion for the species ever since! There are four distinct populations: the Northern and Southern Residents (around Vancouver Island), the Offshores (up into Queen Charlotte Sound and off Haida Gwaii) and the Bigg’s Transients (found throughout the coastal area). The Resident orcas are particularly fascinating to humans as they travel in matrilineal pods, tight knit family groups led by the mother or grandmother. Each clan has a distinct language, with sub-pods having specific calls unique to their family.

The disheartening part of the presentation covered the fate of the Southern Resident population off Vancouver and Seattle in the Salish Sea. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Vancouver Aquarium and Sea World marine removed over 60 individuals (out of a estimate population of 100 animals), with many moved to a life in captivity and others killed in the process. While the population did rebound slightly, a steady decline has occurred in the last decade due to a lack of food (declining Chinook salmon stocks with Columbia River dams preventing access to breeding grounds), a body load of contaminants (4 times higher than levels in Northern Resident orcas), and increasing boat traffic and noise affecting their use of echolocation. Another major concern is potential for an oil spill (do we really want hundreds of oil tankers using a Trans-Mountain Pipeline, adding to this problem).

To learn more about this endangered orca population, please visit www.centreforwhaleresearch.com. Also on that site is some amazing drone footage showing orca behaviour.

The next Men’s Breakfast is Saturday January 19, 2019 at the Tobermory Community Centre. Breakfast is served at 9am, with coffee ready by 8am. The guest speaker will be Rick Peacock talking about the challenges and rewards of being a business owner in a small seasonal community. For Additional information please contact Rainer at 519-596-8359. The Men’s Breakfast is open to all men in Northern Bruce, please join us for breakfast and an interesting speaker.