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.
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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.
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.
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.