Orca Whale 'Crewser' Presumed Dead as Population Reaches Its Lowest Point Since 1984
Following the suspected death of an orca whale nicknamed Crewser, the population of southern resident orca whales is the lowest it has been in 34 years, The Seattle Times reported Saturday.
The Center for Whale Research (CWR) declared the whale, officially known as L92, "missing and presumed dead" on Friday. L92 had not been seen since November 2017 and was "conspicuously absent" from 2018 sightings. He was 23 years old.
With L92s death, the number of southern resident orca whales, who travel between waters in Washington State and southwestern British Columbia, fell to 75, the lowest it has been since 1984. Orca whales were listed as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2005.
Despite a baby boom, the southern orca population has fallen by eight since 2016, The Canadian Press reported.
Deaths are being blamed on a decline in Chinook salmon, the whale's main prey, as well as noise and boat traffic, The Seattle Times reported.
Conservationists are concerned that the increased shipping associated with the Trans Mountain pipeline could exacerbate these risks, since it will increase tanker traffic in the Salish Sea by 700 percent, according to the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
"Even without oil spills the additional noise from Kinder Morgan tanker traffic increases the risk of extinction to already imperilled Southern Residents. Today's approval of the Kinder Morgan project sanctions the probable extinction of Southern Resident killer whales. We are now considering our options including additional legal action," Raincoast Executive Director Chris Genovali said in 2016, when the pipeline was first approved.
L92's death is a reminder of the urgency of the orca's situation, coming three months after Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order to protect orcas and Chinook salmon.
"The problems faced by orcas and salmon are human-caused, and we as Washingtonians have a duty to protect these species," Inslee said at the time. "The impacts of letting these two species disappear would be felt for generations."
He ordered state agencies to outline both immediate and long-term solutions to ensure both species' survival.
L92 was a member of L pod, the largest group of orca whales that spends time in Washington and BC waters. The smaller J and K pods complete the southern resident population.
On June 11, the CWR counted 50 whales in inland waters. The CWR said the whales were spending less and less time inland in the spring as Fraser River Chinook salmon runs decreased. 2018 looks to be an especially low year for Fraser River Chinook salmon, the CWR reported.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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