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Researchers Alarmed By 'Puzzling' Changes in Resident Orcas

Science & Tech  (tags: discovery, science, scientists, orcas, killer whales, oceans, environment, research, investigation, study, Canada, British Columbia )

- 1635 days ago -
A Vancouver Aquarium whale researcher is sounding the alarm over what he calls "puzzling" changes observed in the resident killer whale pods that live off the northern coast of B.C. and Alaska.

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Michael O (176)
Saturday October 26, 2013, 3:00 pm
Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, a senior marine mammal scientist with the aquarium, says he fears changes in the ocean environment are prompting odd behaviour and an unusually high mortality rate, after spending the summer observing the whales aboard a research vessel.

Barrett-Lennard says one resident pod has lost seven matriarchs over the past two years, an unusually high death rate, and he's also noticed a lack of vocalizations from the normally chatty mammals.

“Resident killer whales are typically very vocal in the summer but, for the second year in a row, they have been remarkably quiet,” says Barrett-Lennard

“So quiet that we often had difficulty finding them.”

The lack of vocalizations was just one of three unusual changes observed by the cetacean research team. Resident orcas were also seen the past two summers travelling in small groups, farther offshore to find food — behaviour more typical in winter than summer.

At the same time, the Barrett-Lennard says the number of normally transient killer whales, also known as the Bigg's whale, has been increasing over the past 25 years. In the 1990's, resident orcas were sighted much more frequently than Bigg's orcas, but now the number of sightings is nearly equal.

“It’s unclear at this point if the loss of so many matriarchs or the increase in Bigg’s killer whales is having an impact on resident killer whale behaviour, but the changes we’ve seen over the last two years are striking and beg an explanation," says Barrett-Lennard.

Roseann d (178)
Saturday October 26, 2013, 3:44 pm
A man-made cause no doubt.

Mike H (252)
Saturday October 26, 2013, 6:27 pm
We are poisoning the ocean and this planet. Humans are the curse of this earth.

Julie P (154)
Saturday October 26, 2013, 6:58 pm
From the Vancouver Sun (January 2013):

" Margot Venton, a lawyer with Ecojustice, said Wednesday it is important for the U.S. courts to appreciate that ocean noise is an emerging issue in Canada, including for endangered southern resident killer whales in the shared waters of the Salish Sea.

Concerns over underwater noise are broad, she noted, and include not just sonar but continued expansion of Port Metro Vancouver and increased shipping through critical habitat of the killer whales."

From Oceana:

"Underwater seismic testing sounds like dynamite going off outside your home, over and over again. The sound carries for thousands of miles, and marine animals can't escape it. Dolphins and whales might beach themselves to get away, or, if they're too close, they could suffer hearing loss or other injuries.

The loud noises can make communication impossible, cutting these social animals off from their families. When faced with this noise, endangered whales stop singing for mates and dolphin mothers can no longer whistle at their babies."

Huff Post did a really sad post on the impacts of military sonar on marine mammals. They referred to it as 'acoustic holocaust'

" Killing With Sound: What Happens When the Whales Stop Singing?"

Here's the link:


Anette S (22)
Saturday October 26, 2013, 11:48 pm
sadly noted

Rebecca D (30)
Sunday October 27, 2013, 3:10 am
This is not good. Poor whales.

Roger G (154)
Sunday October 27, 2013, 1:45 pm
noted, thanks

M B (62)
Sunday October 27, 2013, 1:48 pm
noted with grief.

Suzanne L (98)
Sunday October 27, 2013, 2:38 pm
Human beings are destroying the capability of marine mammals to adjust. The underwater noise is likely but one factor, but an important one. I wonder about all the stuff and radiation that's drifting in from Japan.

Nelson Baker (0)
Sunday October 27, 2013, 2:47 pm
Thank you for the article.

Birgit W (160)
Sunday October 27, 2013, 3:04 pm
Sadly noted.

Winn A (179)
Sunday October 27, 2013, 4:35 pm
Sadly noted.

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Sunday October 27, 2013, 8:50 pm
Alarming news, interesting and informative article.

Julia R (296)
Sunday October 27, 2013, 11:16 pm
Very disturbing news and it should concern us very much! With all the noise pollution not just sonar which can be so damaging to the hearing of whales to the point of causing death but all of the other noise pollution from increased shipping through critical habitat of the killer whales and what about the radiation from Fukushima which has been dumped into the Pacific Ocean for the last few years,Robert Hunziker reports here:
Couldn’t this also be affecting them and caused the deaths of the seven matriarchs?


Robert O (12)
Monday October 28, 2013, 8:17 am
Thanks Michael.

Ruth C (87)
Monday October 28, 2013, 8:19 am
I agree Michael H.

kate K (481)
Monday October 28, 2013, 9:08 am
Like I previously said mankind is polluting everything
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