WA Orca Births Good Sign but Population Still Threatened
Monday, July 24, 2023
There's good news for orcas off Washington's coast: Two new calves have been spotted among the endangered population. However, the births also punctuate the whales' dire situation.
Earlier this month, the Center for Whale Research confirmed the birth of two calves in the L-pod of the Southern Resident killer whales. They are the first additions to the L-pod in two years.
John Rosapepe, Pacific Northwest representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, said the whales are still under threat, lacking food primarily because of four salmon-blocking dams in eastern Washington.
"Removing the dams and restoring the salmon on the lower Snake River is central in recovering the Southern Resident killer whale population," Rosapepe asserted.
Rosapepe pointed out nearly a dozen Southern Resident orcas are malnourished, including one pregnant whale. The addition of two calves increases the number frequenting the Salish Sea from 73 to 75.
The future of the four lower Snake River dams has been contentious for decades. Proponents of the dams say they provide important services, including barging, irrigation and hydropower. But Rosapepe argued recent developments could push forward efforts to remove them.
"Gov. [Jay] Inslee and Sen. [Patty] Murray had a study done where they brought together all the different studies, and it shows that we can replace these services," Rosapepe noted.
Final removal of the dams would require authorization from the federal government. In this year's legislative session, Washington state lawmakers provided funds for planning the transition away from the services the dams provide.
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