This article on the decline of Orcas is close to home and painful.
Orcas of the Pacific Northwest Are Starving and Disappearing
For the last three years, not one calf has been born to the dwindling pods of black-and-white killer whales spouting geysers of mist off the coast in the Pacific Northwest.
Normally four or five calves would be born each year among this fairly unique urban population of whales — pods named J, K and L. But most recently, the number of orcas here has dwindled to just 75, a 30-year-low in what seems to be an inexorable, perplexing decline.
The biggest contributing factor may be the disappearance of big king salmon — fish more than 40 inches long. “They are Chinook salmon specialists,” said Brad Hanson, team leader for research at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center here, part of NOAA. “If they could, they would eat Chinook salmon 24/7.” Orcas gobble 30 a day. Hunting enough smaller prey requires a lot more energy.
I live on a beach with a reef at Kye Bay on the east coast of Vancouver Island. I began regular visits here as a child in 1960 and have witnessed a steady decline of its ecosystem.
I remember abundant kelp, seagrass, barnacles, oysters, clams, geoducks, dungeness crabs, kelp crabs, hermit crabs, shore crabs, shrimp, sand dollars, sand collars, snails, starfish, flatfish, bullheads, dogfish, and more. Every single species on that list is mostly gone. Like a desert, sand and rocks remain.
I remember many small fish and crabs being trapped in pools waiting for the tide to come back in. Now there is only sand.
I remember after a summer storm seaweed and kelp would wash in and fill the bay to a depth of several feet, then rot and stink keeping the damn tourists away for a few weeks. Now it is uncommon to see a few inches of seaweed washing in.
I remember picking oysters from the reef with everyone else which no doubt contributed to their decline.
I remember large flocks of shorebirds. For several years I assisted someone who has conducted shorebird counts here for over 40 years. She showed me her notebooks with clear evidence that almost every species of shorebird is in severe decline.
I remember sitting out at dusk and watching the bats fly overhead. The bats are gone.
I remember abundant grasshoppers, June beetles, butterflies, moths, sand wasps, and other insects. Most are gone.
I remember when the dwellings that line the bay were small summer cabins set in amongst large fir trees. Now most of the trees have been felled and the cabins razed to build large year-round homes.
I remember my hometown Campbell River 50km north of here being called the salmon capital of the world because anyone with a boat could easily catch their limit of salmon. And they did until they couldn’t. Now fisherman must drive 2 hours and boat another 1 hour to the west coast of Vancouver Island for fishing that is still decent but in rapid decline.
I remember when fish were bigger. Much bigger.
I remember when dogfish were treated like a pest species. Now you never see them.
I remember when it was common to have a killer whale surface next to the boat you were fishing in.
I remember abundant sea lions on the rocks of the west coast. The sea lions are mostly gone now because fisherman shoot them because they compete for dwindling salmon stocks.
I remember political parties that promised to close the fish farming industry because of harm they do to wild fish stocks and when elected change their mind because the economy is more important than ecology.
I remember being optimistic. I visited the local fisheries office to ask if there was anything residents could do to restore the keystone kelp beds. They were not helpful and more or less said it was a waste of time because human pressure and climate change will continue to degrade ocean health.
I remember when we used to discuss over-population. The population of this valley has grown by more than 3 times (300%) since we had those conversations.
I remember being in denial like most people.