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NatureOil Spills

Killer Whale Population Never Recovered from Exxon Valdez Spill

Biologists believe that the entire population of killer whales in the Prince WIlliam Sound will soon die off completely.

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While salmon, otters, and other animals in the area have experienced partial or full recoveries, this group of whales has struggled ever since the 11-million-gallon oil spill in 1989. At that point, the whales numbered 22. Today they’re down to just seven.

“These are the unexpected things. In killer whales, not recovering for this long length of time is something that we certainly didn’t foresee or predict,” said Jeep Rice, senior scientist with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Auke Bay Laboratory.

While 16,000 gallons of oil still remains in the sound 20 years later, scientists say that the spill is not the only culprit in the whales’ decline.

Even before the spill the whales were struggling because their main prey, harbor seals, were becoming more scarce. The waters were filled with pesticides presumably floating over from Asia and some scientists believe the whales’ reproductive capabilities suffered. But one fact is clear: in the year after the spill, over a third of the 22 whales died.

While this all may not surprise anyone, the problem is that Exxon denies that any of it is happening. According to them, every species in the area is recovered or recovering. So in case you had any doubt, Exxon’s not a nice company.

Source: McClatchy Newspapers
Photo Credit: kckellner on Flickr under Creative Commons license.



One comment
  1. tom

    Um, just because there are fewer whales around Valdez, doesn’t mean there are few whales in Alaskan waters. In fact, we’re assuming that the baseline whale number count at the time of the oil spill is the definitive number with which all future population stats must be compared. What if there were 3 whales off Valdez the year BEFORE the spill? Does that mean we have a net gain of 5?

    Just ask these questions, you stupid environmentalists. Stop responding to life only with emotions.

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