Sometimes it takes a heartbreaking situation to make us finally stand up and take notice of a problem we’ve been ignorant of for far too long. The story of an endangered killer whale pushing her dead newborn calf along 1,600 kilometres of ocean for more than two weeks certainly falls into that category.
The mother, J-35 as she is known to scientists, made international headlines for her “tour of grief,” which lasted a remarkable and unprecedented 17 days. At one point, scientists were concerned the orca would become malnourished and pass away herself.
When the mother finally did let go in mid-August, it was a bittersweet story. As her calf passed to the bottom of the ocean, we were all reminded that there hasn’t been a successful orca birth in three years now, in large part thanks to malnourishment. Meanwhile, the last recorded orca to be born, J-50, has fallen ill.
It’s a dire situation for the 75 or so killer whales left, and it’s a hard thing to watch from the sidelines. So how can humans help? Conservationalists have a few suggestions.
Don’t eat Chinook salmon
A major reason for the killer whale’s decline is a lack of sufficient prey resources, i.e., Chinook salmon. It takes about two-to-eight years for one of these fish to reach sexual maturity, which makes this an uphill battle. The best thing we can do at home is to fish and eat fish as responsibly as possible, if not avoid it altogether.
Stop using plastic bags
They’re convenient when you’re at the grocery store, sure. But they’re also incredibly damaging to the environment and to the animals that accidentally ingest them—including whales. Opt for reusable bags instead, and while you’re at it stop using plastic water bottles and straws, too.
Buy second-hand or sustainable clothing
We all love sporting new digs, but throwing our hard-earned cash at a new outfit without researching where it comes from can be bad for the environment. A whopping 85 per cent of shoreline plastic pollution comes from the plastic fibres in synthetic material used for clothing, which is a whale of a problem. The next time you’re beefing up your wardrobe, try one of these animal-friendly retailers instead.
Use natural cleaning products
We all covet a clean house, but many of the everyday cleaners we use to get our abodes gleaming eventually make their way to the ocean via groundwater. There they can cause an overgrowth of algae and weeds, which takes the oxygen from the bottom of the food chain. Meanwhile, NPEs, a chemical found in all-purpose cleaners, can directly affect the reproductive health of killer whales. For that reason, it’s better to opt for a natural cleaning solution of vinegar and baking soda instead.
Stay away from marine-themed amusement parks
SeaWorld may no longer be breeding Orcas in captivity, but the continued popularity of such amusement parks is of concern to organizations like PETA. If you want to discourage animal abductions and the poor treatment of these creatures, simply spend your money elsewhere.
Contact your political representatives
Not only is it important to salvage salmon in order to help the orcas recover a sustainable food source, but The Orca Conservancy also has concerns over the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which increases shipping traffic and the potential for oil spills. That’s why they’ve put together this handy contact sheet and a reminder of talking points. Because every voice counts.
Support wild whale research
Want to do more? You could help out with some cold, hard cash. The Orca Conservancy is always looking for donors, and guarantees that 100 per cent of all donations go towards scientific research and projects that are assisting towards the recovery of the whale population. Want something closer to home? #JoinThePod with the David Suzuki Foundation, which is also getting in on the fight.