LETTER: Events promote orca awareness

In 2016 the province of B.C., at the request of a group of conservationists and whale lovers, officially proclaimed June “Orca Awareness Month”, a time to celebrate local killer whales and focus on their needs. B.C.’s orcas were declared threatened under the Species At Risk Act in 2003, and a recovery plan for southern residents (J, K and L pods) is required under the Act.

Orcas live near their mothers for life, with post-menopausal grandmothers leading each group. They communicate over vast underwater distances by sending and receiving sound waves through specialized membranes in their heads and jaws. Their brains minutely map their underwater surroundings using these sound patterns, but ever-increasing shipping sonar interferes disastrously with their ability to do this. Other hazards include pollution, shortage of chinook salmon, collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear.

Orca Month campaigns for quiet zones away from shipping where orcas can rest, socialize and find prey, and we also support campaigns to release captives from aquariums. Conservationists, citizen-scientists, artists and writers come together throughout June, and families and neighbourhoods are urged to hold their own orca celebrations and events.

Ways to participate: Visit the whale art display at Caffe Misto, 2865 Foul Bay Rd.; find books about whales in displays at GVPL’s Esquimalt and Centennial branches; return your plastics to the Oak Bay Recycle Depot at Carnarvon Park on June 23, from 9 – 11:30 a.m., join the picnic after and learn about the effects of plastic in the ocean. To join the “Walk For Lolita” (the captive southern resident at Miami Seaquarium) on June 16: contact orcamonth@gmail.com.

Barbara Julian

Victoria

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