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Satellite Tagging of Southern Resident Killer Whales: Determining Critical Habitat

Brief overview of the argument for satellite tagging of the Southern Resident Killer Whales to determine critical habitat, and therefore secure endangered status as a subspecies of Orcinus orca.
by Sarah Crumb on 21 April 2013

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Transcript of Satellite Tagging of Southern Resident Killer Whales: Determining Critical Habitat

The Southern Resident Killer Whales are well on their way to subspecies categorization. This, combined with continued success with satellite tagging and photo identification will only further the evidence necessary to affirm their endangered status. Keeping waterways free of pollutants and continuing to promote salmon habitat restoration will also encourage population growth, and a healthy marine ecosystem for all. The Southern Resident Killer Whales population of the Pacific Northwest are at risk as a result of several factors. Due to their predictable range during the summer months, between 1965 and 1975, 45 whales were captured for marine parks, and 13 were killed in the process. Following this disruption to their population, the depletion of Chinook salmon, and pollutants in the marine ecosytem has negatively affected their numbers. Accurately describing their year round range is necessary in order to determine critical habitat and therefore apply for federal protection as an endangered species. Turning Point By way of darted satellite tags, NOAA researchers are currently tracking the whereabouts of killer whale number K25 as he travels with K-pod up and down the Pacific Coast between British Columbia and Northern California. As of March 2013, K25 had been traveling and tracked for 3 months, confirming previously observed winter migration behavior. Success Challenge Satellite Tagging of Southern Resident Killer Whales:
Determining Critical Habitat Photo c/o the Center for Whale Research Sarah J. Crumb
Miami University
Project Dragonfly
April 2013 K25 and pod mate "K pod of the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales swam slowly north through Colvos Passage (the west side of Vashon Island) in a resting pattern on 12/29/12, accompanied by a research boat from NOAA." Photo c/o Western Prince Whale & Wildlife Tours website Found in all the world’s oceans, killer whales (Orcinus orca) are the largest member of the family Delphinae. Despite being found worldwide, killer whales are at risk in several areas. Currently at debate is whether there are subspecies of killer whales in certain ecosystems, and if so, whether some of those populations are endangered. Of particular concern are the so-called Southern Resident Killer Whales of the Salish Sea. Within the Salish Sea area are three potential subspecies of Killer Whale. Residents, such as the Southern Residents, are fish eaters and have curved dorsal fins. Transients hunt other marine mammals (such as seals and porpoises), and have more triangular dorsal fins. Offshores primarily live off the continental shelf in the Pacific Ocean. While their summer range of the San Juan Island area is well documented, the Southern Residents' winter range has only been speculated. Photo c/o Orca Network How You Can Help It starts at home. Recycle, dispose of trash responsibly, compost if you can, pick up after your dog.
Help with stream clean up efforts. Contact your city or local environmental stewards to find opportunities.
If you go whale watching, choose only responsible companies that adhere to the strict laws. Remember, vessels must stay 200 yards away from whales!
Visit The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, WA to learn more, and support local research.
Make informed decisions when planning your vacation destination. Do you feel good about supporting an institution that houses large marine mammals?
Report sightings of Killer Whales and other marine mammals by contacting The Whale Museum, or Orca Network. K25 Photo ID c/o Center for Whale Research More Info: Center for Whale Research www.whaleresearch.org
Orca Network www.orcanetwork.org
The Whale Museum www.whalemuseum.org
Puget Sound Partnership www.pugetsoundstartshere.org
Southern Resident Killer Whale Tagging of K25 http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/cbd/marine_mammal/satellite_tagging.cfm
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