Tag Archive | marine life

How Pollution affects Orcas

Without further regulations that would either ban or place restrictions on the entry of pollutants in the oceans, wild orcas like Samish (J-14) would likely endure a bleak future. (Photo of Samish is by the Whale Museum's Killer Whale Adoption Program)

Around the world, killer whale populations are falling victim the effects of pollution mainly caused by man-made toxins. These toxins, which are usually made of various chemicals, are used on land often end up entering waterways through runoffs and eventually end up as pollution in the ocean. Various chemicals, such as flame retardants, industrial pollutants, oils, and pesticides have all been known to enter the oceans through waterways and they are all having a major impact on marine wildlife, including killer whales.

Because killer whales are known as the top predator of the ocean, it's very easy for pollutants to become concentrated and reach dangerous levels their bodies since these pollutants make their way through the marine food chain.

While wildlife experts agree on the fact that pollutants make their way through the marine food chain, some of them often get sorted into the body tissues of animals after they are ingested. For example, In the Pacific Northwest, the marine food chain is consisted of  zoo plankton feeding on phytoplankton, krill feeding on zoo plankton, salmon feeding on krill, and orcas (killer whales) feeding on the  salmon, which has become endangered because of pollution, over-fishing, and habitat loss. In the case of transient orcas,  dolphins, seals and sea lions feed on the salmon, while the mammal-eating transients feed on the very same marine mammals that feed on the salmon. This means that prey animals that contain toxins in their bodies pass them on to animals that are higher on the food chain and because of this, killer whales have been shown to have high and dangerous levels of concentrated pollutants in their bodies.

In the Pacific Northwest, resident killer whale populations in Washington and in British Columbia are among the most intoxicated marine mammals in that region due to not only being urban animals, but also, the salmon they depend on is also contaminated with pollutants. Research has also shown that resident orcas have 200 times more pollutants in their system in most humans do. (Photo of resident orca is public domain).

In Norway, studies on Norwegian herring-feeding killer whales have found that this population of killer whale has very high levels of PCBs. PCBs are type of industrial chemical that is used in transformers, oils, and insouciance. As a result, this makes Norwegian killer whales have the highest level of containments in high Arctic. (photo of Norwegian orca was taken by Jonathan Ball).

Studies done on the contamination levels of Pacific offshore killer whales have discovered to be very high because they are known to feed on large fish such as great white sharks, and tuna which can bio-accumulate containments over a period of a lifetime. (Photo of offshore orca is public domain).

Transient orcas, which specialize in feeding marine mammals, are more contaminated than resident orcas due to dietary differences. Their bodies are so full on toxins that when they are found dead on beaches, their remains are often treated as toxic hazardous waste when necropsies are performed on them. (Photo is public domain).

New Zealand is home to a small population of ray-feeding killer whales that have also been known to feed on certain species of sharks. In 2010, a study done by Dr.Ingrid Visser of the Orca Research Trust of New Zealand have shown that this population of about fewer than 200 animals are the most containment animals in the Southern Hemisphere. This could also be due to the fact that the mammals are mainly seen in harbors where such containments can mainly be found. (Photo of wild orca pod off the coast of New Zealand was taken by Dr. Ingrid Visser of the Orca Research Trust).

In the 1970’s, various pollutants were banned world wide because of the negative effects they posed both to humans and wildlife. Yet, many of these pollutants can still be seen in the form of containments and in various forms and it’s still to this day having a huge impact on marine wildlife, such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). PCBs are a type of organic compound that has a 1 to 10 chlorine atom attached to biphenyl, which is molecule composed of two benzene rings. When PCBs are ingested, they aren’t neither metabolized nor eliminated for these fat-soluble molecules go on to accumulate in fats, such as blubber. Just to make matters worse for the killer whales, the PCBs are affecting their reproductive health too and this is because they are known to be estrogen imitators and cause low sperm count in both humans and animals alike, including killer whales. Also, out in the wild, when a killer whale calf is born, chances are, it was born with toxins that have been passed on to them by the mother through the placenta  and goes on to receive these same toxins it developed before birth by nursing on the mother’s fat-rich milk. In some cases, the calf (mainly the first-born) dies likely due to heavy exposure to toxins. However, calves the mother goes on to have after that have been known to fare better because of the mother’s toxin levels decrease over time. PCBs have also been known to cause other problems too such as cause disease and developmental problems.

What can you do to reduce pollution…..

  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
  • Clean garbage off a beach
  • buy organically grown food to reduce the use of pesticides
  • Use biodegradable cleaning products that are plant-based.
  • Dispose paint, thinners and motor oil to prevent them from going down the drains

If you have any questions, or comments about killer whales, please email me at Animaltrainer104@aol.com and I hope you to do your part in caring for killer whales and the oceans by reducing pollution.


Don’t Forget to Clean The Beach: Why Beach Cleaning is Important

If you are planning to have a picnic on the beach, be sure you pick up after yourself when you leave.

Taking part in an annual beach clean-up is one way to keep the oceans healthy for generations to come. In the past 25 years, over 144,606,491 pounds of trash has been collected from beaches world-wide from Alaska to New Zealand. Beach-clean-ups is considered to be very important because throwing trash into beaches, and the oceans can be better known as pollution. When trash gets into the oceans, animals can easily mistaken that trash for a certain food source. An example of this is with the sea turtles. When a turtle sees a plastic bag floating around in the ocean, the animal might mistaken it for a jellyfish before swallowing it as a whole. The plastic bag may prevent the turtle from eating, thus, cause it to slowly starve itself to death. Trash-induced marine pollution has been a subject of a number of wildlife documentaries for years; each and everyone of these segments which talked about marine pollution, has brought a huge light among the public to start taking action to help make their beaches healthier and safe for all marine wildlife. While many coastal towns have taken action to require city dumps to collect trash from beaches and relocate to dumps that are away from beaches, the pollution sadly, still continues. By taking part in these annual beach clean-ups, you are leaving a great example to others on how to reduce marine debris in the seas and allowing wildlife to remain safe from pollution.

To learn more about how you can get involved in beach clean-ups, visit  http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/marine-debris/ to check for beach-clean ups in your community.


Our Oceans At Risk of Extinction: It’s Not too Late to Do Something About It Though

Manatee at Homosasa Spring National Wildlife Refuge in Homosasa, FL

If no action is taken to help marine wildlife, animals like manatees could die out

Just not too long ago, a new study done by the International Program On The State Of The Ocean (IPSO) has revealed that marine animals such as sea turtles, manatees, sharks, penguins, whales, and the marine ecosystems they all depend on are all at risk of becoming victims of an unprecedented marine mass extinction that could happen in our lifetime. But, unlike other mass extinctions of the past, this one would be the result of  generations of human activity.

This ground breaking UK study has revealed that centuries of pollution, commercial whaling, and overfishing have all caused an extreme increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the oceans that have combined to put marine animals and the ecosystems they all depend on at terrible risk of extreme danger of extinction. Sadly some of the most popular animals such as the African penguin, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the blue fin tuna, the Hawaiian monk seal, and the Hector’s dolphin are among the many marine animal species that are becoming at risk of becoming extinct because of ever growing marine issues such as global warming , oil spills, and overfishing,

Winter the dolphin

Winter, a five-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin lost her tail in a crab trap, an example of what marine derbis can do to animals like dolphins.

Just to make matters worst, in some places in the world, there is a huge increase in “dead zones”, which are oceanic areas where fish and other animals cannot survive because of lack of oxygen is making impossible for marine plants and coral reefs to thrive, all of which the animals need to survive. There has already been a report of large dead zones in Gulf Coast which may have been a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. It seems like everything is starting to die out on us during our lifetime. This is not good because then, if everything in the ocean dies out, then, the next generation may never be able to enjoy seeing sea turtles swim in coral reefs, nor killer whales catching themselves a salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

It's never too late to do your part to save the ocean, (I am holding a sea star that I am about to return to the water in South Carolina in May 2011)

However, it’s never to late to save the oceans from a pending mass extinction. Here are some things YOU can do to make a difference when it comes to saving marine wildlife and the ecosystems they depend on for generations to come:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle any reusable and non-reusable materials
  2. Participate in an annual beach clean up in your town
  3. volunteer or intern at your local stranding or wildlife rehabilitation center. These places rely so much on the dedicated work of both interns and volunteers alike.
  4. Share your environmental concerns on the internet, your community, your friends, and even your family.
  5. Educate yourself on marine wildlife, marine biology and conservation by getting a book at a store, library, or even look the topics up on the internet.
  6. Visit a marine life facility
  7. Adopt an animal through any conservation organization that offers symbolic animal adoptions like Save the Manatee Club, The Whale Museum, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and The BC Killer Whale Adoption Program.
  8. Reduce the use of toxins in your home, school, or business
  9. Conserve water, paper, and energy.
  10. Don’t buy any wildlife-based products when on a holiday vacation in a country that sells them legally.
  11. Write letters to NOAA, Congress, your senators, or even the president.
  12. When fishing please remove any unused fishing gear from the water in order to prevent entanglements
  13. Stay at least 50-100 yards from any wild dolphin when whale watching on a non-commercial tourist vessel
  14. Stay 50 yards from any marine mammal, bird, or sea turtle when swimming in the ocean.

On behalf of all the animals at Clearwater Marine Aquarium (including Nicholas), I hope that these tips will encourage you to do your part to protect the oceans for generations to come.