Pregnant endangered killer whales with a high miscarriage rate have a ‘fragile’ hope of giving birth.
Three endangered killer whales in a community plagued by miscarriages have become pregnant, prompting the creation of legislation to help them carry their babies to term.
Recreational boaters are being asked to observe Be Whale Wise regulations and allow endangered Southern Resident killer whales more space by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its partners, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In a WDFW press release, deputy regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region Scott Rumsey remarked, “We need to work together to give these pregnant whales every opportunity of success.” “The more unaffected foraging they can do, the higher their chances of contributing to the population.”
According to the group, adherence to these regulations is especially important due to the high incidence of failed pregnancies among Southern Resident killer whales. This whale population is made up of three pods, J, K, and L, and is found in the waters of northern North America.
By using airborne drones to observe three whales in the J-pod of 24 orcas that travels between the San Juan Islands, Southern Gulf Islands, Lower Puget Sound, and the Georgia Strait, researchers from SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research (SR3) determined that they were carrying calves.
Boaters must stay 300 yards to the sides of whales and at least 400 yards in front or behind them, according to the laws.
The procedures are designed to assure not only the whales’ physical safety, but also that food supplies are not affected. This is especially crucial for pregnant whales, whose feeding requirements rise by 25% in the last month of pregnancy, according to the WDFW.
According to research published by the NOAA in January of this year, expecting Southern Resident mothers abandon their food hunt when approaching vessels are heard. The study, which tracked whale feeding patterns for three years, led to the establishment of the 400-yard rule, demonstrating that whales searching for food were far more easily disturbed than previously thought.
“We have a lot of folks looking at the science to see where we can keep improving the odds for this population,” WDFW director Kelly Susewind said. “Now that we’ve found out about several pregnancies among the Southerners. This is a condensed version of the information.