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