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Killer Whales Harmed by Boat Exhaust

Killer Whales Harmed by Boat Exhaust

A Canadian zoologist, who studied the effects of boat traffic and exhaust on orcas for two and a half years, found carbon monoxide levels in the air of their natural habitats were five times greater than those found near Los Angeles freeways. Cara Lachmuth studied the southern resident killer whale population off the coast of British Columbia, where there are only about 87 orcas left. (Source: Marine Pollution Bulletin [pdf])

Lachmuth was surprised by the high levels of carbon monoxide found. She explained, saying, “when you’re out on the water there’s an inversion because the ocean is so cold and in the summer the air is a lot warmer — the CO is sticking right at that interface and it’s not moving vertically at all.”

In the Victoria and Vancouver area, whales are followed by an average of 20 boats for 12 hours a day during the summer. Boats used for recreational purposes might actually be contributing to the problem more than commercial boats, as they tend not to keep the minimum safe distance of 100 meters from the whales when they are trying to see them.

“If they’re inhaling these gases, it’s giving them immune problems and all kinds of other health problems that might be pushing them over the edge,” said Lachmuth.

Orcas in the area between Vancouver and Seattle are at risk from a variety of factors, including industrial waste and noise pollution. One major catastrophe such as an infectious disease or abrupt change in water temperature could sicken the population to the point they might not ever recover.

In her study, Lachmuth suggests limiting the number of vessels allowed within range of the whales, as well as limiting the amount of time vessels can spend in the area. This would cut down on both air and sound pollution that the whales are exposed to. This way the remaining orcas would have a chance to breathe some unpolluted air and not be so stressed by the incessant human activity.

If the orca population collapses, there won’t be any tour income generated any longer, so the current ways seem both short-sighted and even increasing the chance of a disastrous end for both the orcas, and the local tourism.  Besides new legislation, another option for less impact on the orcas might be the use of electric boats. Such a change might prove too expensive in the short-term, however.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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67 comments

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11:52PM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

thank you

5:48AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

Thanks for the article.

1:45PM PDT on Apr 1, 2011

Thank you for sharing this...we need to do everything to save the whales...

11:36AM PDT on Mar 13, 2011

Another sign of the times, but changes are afoot, yet even when we are ourselves living with more pollution that is affecting our lungs and every other part of our body, we still carry on destroying everything in our wake and say, "don't tell me, I don't want to know" when some of us try to speak up for those sentients who can't. What sorry excuses for humankind we are, there is nothing human about most of us and certainly nothing kind. Long live the orcas, I hope the few that are left will see us out and continue to hold the Planet's information as they have done for thousands of years.

12:18AM PST on Mar 13, 2011

This is an interesting study. The results are not surprising and yet people say they are concerned about declining fish stocks. All sea life would be affected.
I feel for the Orcas - I've been on cortisone inhalers since moving to BC, so I don't doubt the results of this study !

8:57AM PST on Mar 12, 2011

Je suis tout à fait d'acord avec vous,l'activité humaine qui ne
cesse d'accroitre dans les océans met la vie marine en danger,
aucun endroit sur la terre n'a été épargné par les humains a part le ciel qui pourrait être un jour dans la mire des humains,
le droit revient aux autorité locales pour mettre fin aux bateaux
et plaisentiers qui ne sont la que pour leurs plaisir polluant tout sur leurs passage en ignorant complètement qu'il y a des vies autour d'eux qui étouffent et risquent de disparaitre pour de bon.

7:20AM PST on Mar 12, 2011

SAD
but as lord Buddha said
DON'T BE SAD, BE SMART!
"Be smart" means: take action.

Nice that this article suggests actions as well.
Why not start a petition?

But beyound that, let us not use nature as a product to consume, eb though this brings us closer to nature and allows us to see its beauty, value and importance. It brings so many problems.
Rather, let us allow nature to come to us. Improve our life style, within our cities, within our bodies.
Let us be smart...

3:05AM PST on Mar 12, 2011

Sad! One sad story among the many!

8:44PM PST on Mar 11, 2011

Not in the slightest bit suprised at this article.
We humans tend to love everything to death... then sit back in shock when they are almost extinct or totally gone.
Will we ever learn!!!!

5:47PM PST on Mar 11, 2011

I've noticed for many years here in the South Bay area of the Santa Monica Bay in Southern California that when you look out over the bay...you can see a low layer of brown smog just hanging over the water from horizon to horizon. Gross! And everyone and every creature is breathing that junk! So go ahead and get that Hummer that you've always wanted. Why not? Who cares? Right? Seriously. Who cares? I mean I know that those of us here on Care2 do. But who else does?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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