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The extremely endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales off the coast of Washington and British Columbia fell to 73 after 3 orcas went missing, the Center for Whale Research said in a statement.
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With only 74 left in the wild, the Southern Resident orca population in Puget Sound needs help now more than ever. That's why on Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's office announced "an unprecedented investment" to help boost the population as well as the Chinook salmon they eat.
"We are undertaking a herculean effort to save these iconic creatures. It will take action at every level of the environment across our entire state," Inslee said in a news release. "We need to restore the ecosystem to one that sustains orcas, salmon and the quality of life for all Washingtonians."
This week, the Canadian government announced a slew of measures to save the critically endangered species. The $61.5 million (US$50 million) initiative will address three key threats to the orcas: a lack of chinook salmon, the whales' favored prey; contaminants in the water; and vessel traffic and noise that interferes with their hunting abilities, according to a news release from the Fisheries and Oceans department.
A study published in Science Friday found that current concentrations of PCBs could lead to the disappearance of half of the world's killer whale, or orca, populations over the next 30 to 50 years, according to an Aarhus University press release published by ScienceDaily.
The ailing orca whale J50 was declared "missing and now presumed dead" by the Center for Whale Research Thursday, after a three-day search by the organization in the waters between Washington state and Canada failed to locate her.
She would be the third Southern Resident killer whale to die since June, bringing their numbers down to 74.
Tahlequah—a southern resident killer whale whose heartbreaking story has captured attention around the world—has been carrying her dead calf for more than two weeks now.