Boats and ships pose threat to Southern Resident killer whales

Three orcas seen in the photograph, partially out of the blue ocean, spouting water, one is mid turn with its white belly showing

Photo by Miles Ritter of Saturna Island.

When endangered Southern Resident killer whales are using the inside waters of the Salish Sea, they are in the presence of boats and ships about 85% of the time.

Ships reduce the amount of time whales can feed without noise interfering with the echolocation their predatory search behaviour depends on to catch salmon. Calculations of reduced feeding success for Southern Resident killer whales in the presence of vessels can be as high as 19% when vessels are a near continuous presence.

Because these whales are ‘nutritionally-stressed,’ they cannot afford to lose meals to disruption from more vessels.

We have been using science, the courts and public education to further recovery efforts for endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

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