A Christmas wish
Last week, it was hard not to feel extremely dismayed about the loss of a female endangered southern resident killer whale, J32, and her unborn baby. Their loss represents more than just a drop in the population to a desperately low 77 individuals. J32 was young, and all indications are that this was her first baby. Her loss from the population therefore also includes the loss of all the future babies she would have had if she thrived and lived into her old age.
While the direct cause of death was determined to be complications from her pregnancy, we don’t know the extent to which stressors, particularly pollutants and lack of access to prey, caused the problems that led to the loss of her baby. We do know that these animals struggle to survive every day amongst so many obstacles.
At WWF, along with many partners, we work very hard to protect these and many other Canadian species. It’s hard upon hearing about J32’s death not to lose a little hope for saving our endangered marine species.
But then, this week, there was a reminder for hope! We heard the news that the first North Atlantic right whale baby was spotted in the calving grounds off Florida. This species is another endangered Canadian whale – one of the rarest large whales in the world – which, like orcas, face almost insurmountable challenges from humans for their existence.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that there are about 500 North Atlantic right whales remaining in their critical habitat, which stretches from the southeastern United States to the Bay of Fundy and Scotian Shelf. Increasing their numbers means that we need to scale up our efforts to intelligently reduce human impact on these whales and the many other species found here. The need to expand and enforce protection is even more extreme for southern resident killer whales on the west coast, who number only 77.
If I could have one wish for the marine species of Canada, it would be that they could be safe in our waters. That they – along with us – would have plenty of food to eat and a home where they could raise their babies. We have a suite of tools to help them – including a powerful piece of legislation, the Species At Risk Act, under which they are protected as endangered species. But we aren’t using this legislation to its full potential. For orcas and right whales, bottlenose whales, humpbacks and many other species, we simply aren’t protecting their homes to the best of our ability. This needs to change.
I’m not Santa, but my colleagues and I will continue to work hard to do this for them…and to give them a voice as we ‘plan’ the future of their home.
The future of all species on this planet is in our hands.