Whale population

From: mwilliamson (mwilliamson@wheelock.edu)
Date: Mon Oct 07 2002 - 13:56:08 EDT

  • Next message: mwilliamson: "ocean mammals communication"

                                   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


                          J. Michael Williamson
    Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <http://whale.wheelock.edu>
                       Associate Professor-Science
      Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
                        voice: 617.879.2256
               fax:    617.734.8666, or 978.468.0073
              "Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call,
                  Wanted to sail upon your waters, 
                   since I was three feet tall"
                            Jimmy Buffett

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