CPAWS BC Blog
We need your help to make sure that the Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area gets the protection it needs. These five small islands, surrounded by the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, just off the northern tip of Vancouver Island are a place of refuge for more than 2 million seabirds each year, alongside many other species including sea otters, sea lions, whales, sea turtles and sharks.
Like Courtney, who wrote the brilliant guest blogs you have been reading all week, I have been fortunate enough to spend some time getting to know BC’s southern resident orcas. And I agree with Courtney that once you get to know them, they will stay a part of you forever.
In the wintertime Southern Resident orca have been observed waiting at the mouth of the Columbia River... waiting for a salmon return that is no longer coming.
Humans live in a visual world, but whales live in an acoustic one. Killer Whales use sound like we use our eyes. By forcing air through their sinuses a clicking sound is created. This sound is focused out the front of the whales’ head using a fatty organ called a melon. This sound goes out into the environment and the echo is received through the whales’ jaw bone which is hollow and full of oil. This echolocation ability allows the whales to see - just with sound. Their echolocation is so good that scientists believe they can detect the larger sized swim bladder inside a Chinook Salmon and therefore know to target them.
The Center for Whale Research, which is the primary research institution studying the Southern Resident Killer Whales, have been observing that the whales have been noticeably absent from their core summer habitat. They are having to look harder for scarce and significantly smaller fish, which means they have to eat more individuals for the same amount of energy. This increase in individual fish consumed poses its own threat to the whales, as these salmon have toxins worked into their fat.