Help celebrate Orca Awareness Month!
Did you know that June is Orca Awareness Month? While the celebration originated in Washington state, in 2016 a group of orca-defenders in British Columbia asked the lieutenant-governor to proclaim June as Orca Month in BC as well, since we share the Salish Sea orca population with Washington.
Canada’s southern resident orcas have been considered endangered since 2001 under the federal Species At Risk Act, but the government has been slow to protect them. Our orcas are at-risk because of a lack of salmon (pods feed almost exclusively on chinook salmon, which is also a threatened species), and boat engine noise. Noise is louder and carries further underwater, and the sound waves interfere with echolocation, which orcas use to communicate, socialize, and locate food. Like other sea creatures, orcas get entangled in fishing gear, swim through pollution, and often end up with plastic in their stomachs.
These concerns have prevented the population of southern resident orcas from rebounding from the live whale captures by the aquarium industry in the 1960s and 1970s. As of a December 2019 count, only 73 orcas remained in the three resident pods found in the Salish Sea.
Despite the threats these orcas face, the Orca Month BC team continues to advocate for them. In the past, most Orca Month events have involved letter-writing to politicians and other actors in the conservation field, hosting talks, and marine art and performance events. The latter can’t happen this year, and organizers are turning to creative alternatives to raise awareness.
The team is asking Canadians to create their own ways of spreading awareness of orca starvation, underwater boat noise, fishing gear entanglement, and plastics in the ocean. One way to spread awareness is to contact your MP about marine species protection. Another way to do this is to find places in your own communities to display orca images and literature, such as community bulletin boards. Awareness campaigns have largely gone online in recent months due to COVID-19, but physical displays remain important.
Orca Month organizers have also shared literature and fact sheets online, and linked to the websites of participants on the Orca Month team blog. The team is also adding Orca Month art and photos from across Canada to the blog. Finally, the Orca Month BC team is lobbying for orca protection zones to be created around the Gulf Islands—part of Canada’s commitment to protect 25 percent of land and ocean by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.
Orca Awareness Month 2020 is a time to help defend and protect this iconic ocean species, and we sincerely hope you will get involved!
Thanks to the Orca Month BC team for writing this blog! Want to take more action to defend orcas with Nature Canada? Sign up to be an Ocean Defender and help protect Canada’s ocean and the species that live there.