Orca ‘apocalypse’: half of killer whales doomed to die from pollution

September 27, 2018

At least half of the world’s killer whale populations are doomed to extinction due to toxic and persistent pollution of the oceans, according to a major new study.

Although the poisonous chemicals, PCBs, have been banned for decades, they are still leaking into the seas. They become concentrated up the food chain; as a result, killer whales, the top predators, are the most contaminated animals on the planet. Worse, their fat-rich milk passes on very high doses to their newborn calves.

PCB concentrations found in killer whales can be 100 times safe levels and severely damage reproductive organs, cause cancer and damage the immune system. The new research analysed the prospects for killer whale populations over the next century and found those offshore from industrialised nations could vanish as soon as 30-50 years.

Among those most at risk are the UK’s last pod, where a recent death revealed one of the highest PCB levels ever recorded. Others off Gibraltar, Japan and Brazil and in the north-east Pacific are also in great danger. Killer whales are one of the most widespread mammals on earth but have already been lost in the North Sea, around Spain and many other places.

“It is like a killer whale apocalypse,” said Paul Jepson at the Zoological Society of London, part of the international research team behind the new study. “Even in a pristine condition they are very slow to reproduce.” Healthy killer whales take 20 years to reach peak sexual maturity and 18 months to gestate a calf.

PCBs were used around the world since the 1930s in electrical components, plastics and paints but their toxicity has been known for 50 years. They were banned by nations in the 1970s and 1980s but 80% of the 1m tonnes produced have yet to be destroyed and are still leaking into the seas from landfills and other sources.

The international Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants came into force in 2004 to tackle the issue, but Jepson said the clean-up is way behind schedule. “I think the Stockholm Convention is failing,” he said. “The only area where I am optimistic is the US. They alone produced 50% of all PCBs, but they have been getting PCB levels down consistently for decades. All we have done in Europe is ban them and then hope they go away.”

The researchers said PCBs are just one pollutant found in killer whales, with “a long list of additional known and as yet unmeasured contaminants present”. Further problems for killer whales include the loss of key prey species such as tuna and sharks to overfishing and also growing underwater noise pollution.

The new research, published in the journal Science, examined PCB contamination in 351 killer whales, the largest analysis yet. The scientists then took existing data on how PCBs affect calf survival and immune systems in whales and used this to model how populations will fare in the future. “Populations of Japan, Brazil, Northeast Pacific, Strait of Gibraltar, and the United Kingdom are all tending toward complete collapse,” they concluded.

Lucy Babey, deputy director at conservation group Orca, said: “Our abysmal failures to control chemical pollution ending up in our oceans has caused a killer whale catastrophe on an epic scale. It is essential that requirements to dispose safely of PCBs under the Stockholm Convention are made legally binding at the next meeting in May 2019 to help stop this scandal.” Scientists have previously found “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution even in the 10km-deep Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean.

“This new study is a global red alert on the state of our oceans,” said Jennifer Lonsdale, chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link’s whales group. “If the UK government wants its [proposed] Environment Act to be world-leading, it must set ambitious targets on PCB disposal and protect against further chemical pollution of our waters.”

The research shows that killer whale populations in the high north, off Norway, Iceland, Canada and the Faroes, are far less contaminated due to their distance from major PCB sources. ”The only thing that gives me hope about killer whales in the longer term is, yes, we are going to lose populations all over the industrialised areas, but there are populations that are doing reasonably well in the Arctic,” said Jepson.

If a global clean-up, which would take decades, can be achieved, these populations could eventually repopulate empty regions, he said, noting that killer whales are very intelligent, have strong family bonds and hunt in packs. “It is an incredibly adaptive species – they have been able to [live] from the Arctic to the Antarctic and everywhere in between.”

He praised the billion-dollar “superfund” clean-ups in the US, such as in the Hudson River and Puget Sound, where the polluter has paid most of the costs: “The US is going way beyond the Stockholm Convention because they know how toxic PCBs are.”

Source: The Guardian.com

Advertisements

Killer whale ‘Orca’ spotted for first time in Pakistan (VIDEO)

November 20, 2017

To the surprise of marine life experts, a gigantic killer whale was sighted off Churna Island in the Arabian Sea, ARY News reported on Monday.

Fishermen recorded footage of the whale, which is also known as Orca, some kilometers away from Churna. WWF-Pakistan has confirmed sighting of the mammal animal.

Killer whale is the largest member of Dolphin family and it is an apex predator which means that it preys on other animals but no animal preys on it.

While killer whales are generally not considered a threat to human, but they have reportedly killed and injured some people.

Earlier, an independent observer spotted a whale shark, 10 nautical miles from Karachi Harbour. The number of whale sharks has plummeted by 50 percent over the last 75 years in the world.

Visit the source at Daily Pakistan.com to view the VIDEO of the encounter

Watch: Killer whale spotted in UAE waters

Ministry of Environment warn residents that hefty fines will be imposed if migrating orcas are harmed

April 19, 2017

Dubai: Authorities have issued a cautionary message to residents not to panic if they see a killer whale in the sea – they will not attack you.

A killer whale was recently spotted at a beach in Umm Al Quwain, and the video has gone viral on Twitter, with many social media users retweeting the video clip.

However, a number of social media users were quick to raise concern over how dangerous the whales can be, leaving the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to emphasise that a heavy fine will be imposed on anyone that harms these animals.

According to a statement issued in Arabic, Mona Omran Al Shamsi, acting director of Department for Biological Diversification at the ministry, clarified that killer whales are also known as orcas, and is one of the largest of dolphins.

“These dolphins do not pose any type of threat to the lives of fishermen or swimmers, and feed on marine mammals, such as fish and seals. Their curiosity will attract them to get close to beaches and while they do not show any type of aggression but like any kind of animal, they do defend themselves in dangerous events,” said Al Shamsi.

There have been very few cases of orca attacks in the wild and most marine biologists believe that in most cases such attacks are a case of mistaken identity, says WhaleFacts.org, where the dolphin initially identifies the human as a prey animal.

In these cases, the killer whale will quickly stop when realising its mistake.

“Any person who hunt these species of animals will be heavily fined and their fishing license will be revoked,” said Al Shamsi.

She explained that the ministry had spotted a number of dolphins and whales in UAE waters, including the bottlenose dolphin and the humpback whale, as they are currently migrating.

The species is a protected one, and is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES ) of Wild Fauna and Flora and Appendices I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) of Wild Animals.

Two other orcas were also sighted earlier this month, near the Musandam Peninsula of Oman. 

To watch the video visit the source at Gulf news.com

Killer Whales spotted off the coast of Musandam in Oman

April 9, 2017

Killer Whales, also known as Orcas, were spotted off the coast of Musandam over the weekend.

AbdulWahid Al Kimzari, Head of the Nature Conservation Department at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs in the region, stated that the whale sightings are extremely rare.

“Within the last ten years, there has been very little if no documentation of these whales in Oman’s waters. There was only one sighting last year, and again this year. But, we have not been able to conduct studies on the whales and their reasons for entering Omani waters because they are so rare,” Al Kimzari said.

According to Al Kimzari, tourists from Wilyat Daba spotted the Killer Whales first while on a boat ride in the water. 

Source: Times of Oman.com

Watch: Two orcas were spotted off the UAE coast this weekend

Whale hello there…

It would be a breathtaking sight anywhere in the world, but it’s all the more special in the UAE – a pair of orca whales was spotted near the Musandam Peninsula, just off the coast of the UAE, this Friday.

A video of the rare sighting shows the orcas emerging from the water, before joining a group of divers for a swim.

Kirsty Hill, who shared the video with What’s On, was on a diving trip with the Dibba-based Nomad Ocean Adentures on Friday. She said they were near Limah on the Musandam Peninsula, a governorate of Oman, when the whales appeared.

“They stayed with us for about an hour,” Hill said.

“This is most definitely not a common occurrence – our dive guide has been diving there for 15 years and never seen one before.”

Here’s a map that shows the area where the whales were spotted (Limah is on the east coast):

Orca sightings are rare in the Gulf, according to the UAE Dolphin Project.

However, whales are spotted in the area from time to time. In 2015, a pair of orcas was seen playing in the waters off Ras Ghurab Island, near Abu Dhabi, and in January 2014, four orcas were reported five miles off Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

Source: What Son.ae