On Dec. 20, an 18-year-old male orca was found dead near Vancouver, Canada. The killer whale, known as J34, was one of at least five other whales found dead in the Puget Sound region.
J34’s carcass was towed to land and then autopsied on Dec. 21. According to the Seattle Times, Canadian Fisheries and Oceans coordinator Paul Cottrell believed the cause of death to be blunt-force trauma to the head most likely caused by a boat.
J34 comes from the orca J pod, a famous pod of killer whales located in the Puget Sound region. The Seattle Times states that although J pod was listed as endangered in 2005, there were more deaths in 2016 for these mammals than at any other time in recent history.
According to the Center for Whale Research, another whale from the Puget Sound J pod — J28 — died earlier this month from a bacterial infection in her bloodstream.
The Center’s website states, “Orcas are on top. They’re an apex predator and sit at the top of the food chain. This means that everything in their environment, from the bottom to the top, affects their survival.”
To stop the deaths of these endangered mammals, the Center for Whale Research proposes that we take daily measures to keep the ocean clean.
Noticing what goes down the drain can help keep the endangered population alive. “Water that goes down the drain, or is flushed, doesn’t disappear,” the center says on their conservation page. Disposing of trash down a toilet or a drain can lead to sewage overflows that pollute the ocean and local waterways. Even washing a car in a driveway can lead to hazardous chemicals going down the drain and into the ocean, because treated waterways cannot get rid of all chemicals. Taking your car to a car wash, where the water can be reused and recycled, is a better alternative.
The center also encourages people to reduce, reuse and recycle. This can be done by not using plastic bags — which can end up in a whale’s stomach — and by not using plastic bottles, but refillable water bottles instead.
“The whales are good neighbors to us, providing us with entertainment, spectacular beauty to enjoy, and local jobs that support local economies. We should respect them by being good neighbors back,” the center’s conservation page says.