Endangered Killer Whales – A New Management Approach
There are many species of whales that are resident or migratory in the open sea around the world. Killer whales, however, are different. This species has always been a mystery to scientists and had even been thought of as one of the rarest of oceanic species. For this very reason, it is not often that you will hear about killer whales, so much so that it is actually considered to be one of the most endangered marine species in the world today.
The Southern Resident Killer Whale (SMK) is part of a rare group of killer whales which are only in the Southern Ocean off the coasts of Canada and the northwest United States. They can be no more than seven feet long and have gray bodies with white undersides. Their dorsal fins are long and rounded, but unlike the dolphins, they have no paired fins on each side. Their flippers are short and rounded as well, although there are a few species that have evolved into two-flippers.
The North Pacific Orcas, also known as the blue whales, have very large mothers with very little fat. However, they have a very large calf which will weigh up to 25 pounds when fully grown. Calf weight is a lot higher than what killer whales prey upon, so they are not likely to use their calves as a source of meat. They will, however, use the calves as their source of fats and proteins.
The gestation period for these two species of whales is about two to three months. Their birth location is in the Pacific Ocean and it is during this time that the baby killer whales give birth. The mothers take the baby whales into their mouths at an early age and begin to feed them through gagging, which is how they become lactating mothers.
The gestation period for Pacific sleeper whales is around eight to nine months, which is much shorter than the case of the North Pacific sleeper whale. Their babies stay in the mother’s pouch until they are weaned and then they are taken to sea. A pregnant mother will feed her calf once or twice a day, and the calf will stay close to the mother for most of the time. This means that the baby killer whales take between two to three years to become sexually mature.
When it comes to looking at the dangers faced by Pacific sleeper whales and the threat that their conservation might pose to the sustainability of both Alaska and Canada salmon populations, David Balcomb says that a one-sized-fits-all approach to conservation simply won’t work. He said, “It’s like trying to save the Yellowstone River by wearing white tights and running around in circles. We need to take a holistic approach and look at the whole of nature to solve these kinds of problems.” He also pointed out that in certain areas of Alaska, for example, big increases in salmon reproduction have led to a sharp increase in reproductive numbers, but that even though some of those salmon have been harvested, baby killer whales remain present in the area. This means that, although harvesting might be able to halt the decline in certain populations of salmon, it could also decimate the Pacific sleeper population.