Ken Balcomb the biologist is sick of watching the iconic orcas of the Northwest die, especially mothers and their calves. On Friday (10/28/2016) he became Ken Balcomb the activist, asking us all (the public!) to participate in saving the salmon-eating killer whales he has studied for almost 50 years.
Call to action:
SUPPORT EXECUTIVE ACTION TO BREACH THE FOUR LOWER SNAKE RIVER DAMS
- Sign this new petition to President Obama
- Contact your politicians, especially Senator Murray
- Learn how you can get more involved (share this PDF version with your friends)
- Sign this old petition/letter to Obama, Murray, Cantwell, etc.
In an unprecedented move, his organization the Center for Whale Research held a press conference today in Seattle. Sadly, the purpose was to announce their conclusion that J-28 (aka Polaris) has gone missing and is now declared dead — a tragic loss of a breeding female (in a population that has declined to 80 individuals this summer) which probably also dooms her youngest calf, J-54 (aka Clipper), who was born in late 2015. J-54 was part of the “baby boom” of 9 orcas that was heralded as good news in 2015 for the population which is failing to grow at the rate NOAA has specified in the recovery plan for the species.
Declaring that he doesn’t like reading the “obituaries” of killer whale mothers and their children, and citing a pre- and post-natal mortality rate of more than 75%, Ken and the other speakers today reiterated the clear need for bolstering the supply of southern resident killer whales’ their favorite food, Chinook salmon. He explained that the failure of fetal and newborn orcas to survive is derived from examination of ovary morphology (which can indicate ovulations, as well as failed and successful pregnancies) in deceased whales and attributed to insufficient food supplies for the mother before and during pregnancy, as well as during lactation.
Their call to action was specific — the removal of the lower 4 dams on the Snake river. Ken contextualized this with a request that we recover wild salmon populations throughout the range of the southern residents — from California to SE Alaska. He was joined by Jim Waddel, retired Army Corp of Engineers, who posited that the Corp could begin breaching the earthen portion of the dams as soon as this December (!) — in part because a long history of studies and judge opinions have made it clear that dam removal is the only remaining option that is viable — both economically and ecologically.
Background information and more ways to help save the salmon and the orcas:
Sharon Grace makes the case for dam breaching on the lower Snake river
Retired Army Corp Engineer Jim Waddel presents the case: