Whale Population (fwd)

From: Pita Admininstrator (pita@whale.wheelock.edu)
Date: Wed Oct 02 2002 - 08:48:30 EDT

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    Date: Tue, 1 Oct 2002 14:15:58 -0400
    From: Greg Early <gearly@downeast.net>
    To: "'Lrrlashonda@aol.com'" <Lrrlashonda@aol.com>,
         "pita@whale.wheelock.edu" <pita@whale.wheelock.edu>
    Subject: Whale Population

    Actually this is a pretty hard question for a couple of reasons. It
    depends on how we answer the question " what population of orca are we
    talking about?". Which leads to another question which is "What exactly IS
    a population of orca... anyway?". Sounds complicated? Well this is just
    the start...there are biologists...there are panels of experts...there are
    conferences...there are lawyers...it's not been pretty...but here is the
    story so far, at least what I know about it...

    As far as the population of killer whales worldwide goes...we don't really
    know how the population is doing. This is because we do not have a very
    good idea of what the world wide population of orca actually is. Orca live
    all over the world and many are in places where they are quite hard to
    study (like the Antarctic) or even find.

    There are, however groups of killer whales in places where they can be
    studied. And some of those groups have been studies very well. One of
    those groups is in the southern part of the Pacific Northwest around Puget
    Sound. There are also groups of whales in Southeastern Alaska, and Prince
    William Sound as well as a group to the north of Puget sound. These groups
    appear to live around these areas and are known as "resident" groups.
     There are also groups of whales known as "Transient" whales that move
    through these areas, but do not ap[pear to stay in one place long.

    Still with me??? One of these groups...the one living in Puget Sound...has
    been observed and counted since around the mid-1970's and since the mid to
    late 90's the group has been getting smaller. These days that group is
    about 20% smaller than it was at it's highest point. Keep in mind that
    this is not all of the orca there are. In fact this group had just under
     100 whales at the most. Also, during this time some of those other groups
    were staying the same or increasing slowly. Still this is a scary loss and
    if you do some math on the rate of loss you can calculate that this whole
    group could disappear in about fifty to one hundred years (that is a little
    more than one whale generation).

    So there has been much discussion about what all of this means (the
    conferences and the panels of experts). One suggestion was to declare this
    group "endangered" under the Endangered species act. After a bit more
    discussion the government decided not to do that because this group did not
    meet the definition of a "population" and it is not clear the entire
    population of orca (worldwide) is in the same trouble or would benefit from
    the protection. Well...that is not the end of the story (I promised you
    lawyers...) Conservation organizations threatened to sue the government if
    the process was not begun to include these whales under the ESA. The
    government had another think and changed it's mind and the review process
    has started. Will the whales be listed as "endangered"?...we don't know
    yet. What will happen to this group of whales? we don't know that yet
    either. Why did this happen in the first place?...We are not sure about
    that. There have been a lot of suggestions, ranging from the effects of
    pollutants, to the effects of whale watching, to changes in the food web,
    but so far the answers are not very clear. There are some good web sites
    describing this whole thing and you can see how it is viewed both by
    conservation organizations and the government...

    www.publicaffairs.noaa.gov/releases2001/ aug01/noaa01r125.htm


    The ASK archive also has some other information about this topic ...so
    check that as well...



    -----Original Message-----
    From: Lrrlashonda@aol.com [SMTP:Lrrlashonda@aol.com]
    Sent: Monday, September 30, 2002 4:58 PM
    To: gearly@downeast.net; pita@whale.wheelock.edu
    Subject: Whale Population

    Can you please tell me how killer whale's population dropped over the last


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