Combination of Pollution, Noise, Food Scarcity Poses Threat to Southern Orcas

Combination of Pollution, Noise, Food Scarcity Poses Threat to Southern Orcas

A decade-long US study has revealed that a group of orcas that live along the continent's West Coast is facing troubles to increase beyond an estimated population of 80. Their plight is attributable to triple threats of pollution, vessel noise and the non-availability of food.

The Salish Sea off Vancouver Island and Washington State are the places where southern resident Orcas can be found. These orcas have been seen as far south as Monterey Bay, California and as far north as Chatham Strait, Alaska.

Lynne Barre is a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and she said on Monday that the southern residents in recovery are not being considered by experts. As a result, the animal will remain under the category of endangered species.

"Right now, they're not growing as fast as our recovery criteria would require for them to be taken off the Endangered Species List. They've been hovering around the 80s for quite some time", she said.

Barre said the study has found that pollution, vessel noise and the lack of food are three major obstacles in the way of recovery for the southern residents. Barre said non-availability of food will force the species to eat from where contaminants are stored. Also, vessels and sound create problems for orcas as they find it difficult to hunt prey.

Southern residents have been found as the most contaminated marine mammal in the world. Barre said that high concentrations of pollutants, like PCBs, DDT and now flame retardants, were found in the southern residents.These species are known to fall sick and suffer reproduction problems because of pollution.

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