October 13, 2017 12:39 am

There were 98 southern resident killer whales in 1995, and there are 76 now

Experts from across North America have gathered in Vancouver to discuss how to better protect B.C.’s dwindling southern resident Killer Whale population. Linda Aylesworth reports.

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The population of southern resident killer whales in the Salish Sea was recorded at 98 in 1995, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

That number has since fallen to 76. So hundreds of researchers gathered in Vancouver over the past few days in an effort to stop the decline of this endangered species.

Coverage of orcas on Globalnews.ca:

The Southern Resident Killer Whale Symposium, which was hosted by the federal government, drew biologists, politicians and business leaders to the Vancouver Convention Centre from Oct. 11 to 12.

They came together to discuss the threats to the species’ survival.

And there are numerous factors that are keeping its numbers from flourishing.

READ MORE: Noisy Navy is letting off blasts too close to orcas, Victoria whale watchers say

One is “very high levels of contaminants,” said Peter Ross, the director of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Pollution Research Program.

He said marine mammals in the Salish Sea are more contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), a chlorine compound, than any others around the world.

“We have not enough food for them, that’s primarily Chinook salmon, and we’ve got a lot of noise and disturbance,” Ross added.

A female resident orca whale breaches while swimming in Puget Sound near Bainbridge Island as seen from a federally permitted research vessel Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Elaine Thompson

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Canadian regulations state that boats have to stay 100 metres away from from whales.

But some have suggested adopting U.S. rules, which state that boats have to say over 180 metres away.

“We put regulation in place to keep boats 200 yards away from the whales, and out of their path,” Lynne Barre with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told Global News.

“And that’s something we see as a possible action that could happen in Canadian waters.”

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the federal government would do “whatever it takes” to ensure the recovery of the southern resident killer whale population.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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