Endangered Puget Sound killer whale found dead in B.C.

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By PHUONG LE Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) – The death of an endangered Puget Sound orca found on Vancouver Island in Canada might have been related to pregnancy issues, a research group said Friday.

The 18-year-old female that washed ashore Thursday was a member of the J-pod, one of three families of southern resident killer whales that spend time in the inland waters of Washington state and Canada.

“There were 78. There are now 77. We’re going down, and it’s tragic,” said Ken Balcomb, a senior scientist with the Center for Whale Research, which keeps a census of the animals.

Balcomb planned to travel to British Columbia to assist Canadian authorities in a necropsy Saturday to determine the cause of death.

From photo observations, he said, the whale’s “belly looks low and extended, and it could be that the fetus died in utero.”

Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist with Canada’s Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, will lead the necropsy. He said he has seen two photos of the stranded orca and also believes it was pregnant.

“Based on historical information and clinical observations, the whale’s death may have arisen from pregnancy or complications of birth,” he said.

Balcomb said the death was another blow to the population that was listed as endangered in 2005.

A newborn orca born in early September was recently presumed dead. Two additional whales were confirmed missing and presumed dead earlier this year.

The population numbered more than 140 animals decades ago but declined to a low of 71 in the 1970s when dozens of the mammals were captured to be displayed at marine parks and aquariums.

Despite a decade of research, protection and recovery efforts, the animals continue to struggle primarily due to lack of food, pollution and disturbances from marine vessels.

Scientists will exam the organs and take tissue samples of the whale found dead on Vancouver Island. Along with determining its cause of death, they’re interested in tracking diseases and other issues to understand health implications for the entire population.

The striking black and white whales have come to symbolize the Pacific Northwest.

Individual whales are identified by slight variations in the shape of their dorsal fins and distinctive whitish-gray patch of pigment behind the fins, called a saddle patch.

The whale found Thursday was last seen in Puget Sound in late November and last photographed with her family on Nov. 26 east of Victoria, according to Orca Network.

“We cannot express how tragic this loss is for this struggling, precariously small, family of resident orcas of the Salish Sea,” the group said in a statement.

Tories table plan to stop violence against aboriginal women and girls

Conservatives will devote $25 million over five years to deliver plan

 

By Susana Mas, CBC News, Canada

 

Kellie Leitch, minister of Labour and Status of Women, has tabled the government's action plan to address family violence and violent crime against aboriginal women and girls. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Kellie Leitch, minister of Labour and Status of Women, has tabled the government’s action plan to address family violence and violent crime against aboriginal women and girls. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

 

The federal government has tabled a plan to address violence against aboriginal women and girls, announced Minister for Status of Women Kellie Leitch as MPs returned to Parliament after the summer recess today.

“We have heard from victims’ families directly and they want action. And that’s precisely what we are delivering,” said Leitch during question period today.

The government has budgeted $25 million over five years to deliver the plan — a commitment first announced in the February 2014 budget.

The plan flows from the 16 recommendations MPs sitting on the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women made last March.

The $25 million plan, which would run from 2015-20, would include:

  • $8.6 million over five years to support aboriginal communities in developing community safety plans.
  • $2.5 million over five years to help aboriginal people create projects and raise awareness “to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse.”
  • $5 million over five years to work with aboriginal communities and stakeholders, as well as aboriginal men and boys, to denounce and prevent violence against aboriginal women.
  • $7.5 million over five years to help victims and their families through the Victims Fund and the Policy Centre for Victim Issues.
  • $1.4 million over five years “to share information and resources with communities and organizations, and report regularly on progress made and results​.”​

The opposition parties continued to call on the Conservatives to heed calls for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said only a public inquiry would get to the root causes of the problem. “There’s still a lot of work than can be done looking at the systemic causes here, and that’s what we’re calling for,” he told reporters on Monday.

Mulcair has said if the NDP were to form the government after the next federal election, it would call a public inquiry within 100 days.

Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett denounced today’s plan as “political smoke and mirrors.”

In a statement to CBC News, Bennett said “today’s so-called ‘Action Plan’ simply implements the whitewashed recommendations of the Conservative dominated Special Committee … and is nothing more than a laundry list of existing piecemeal government initiatives, many not even specific to Indigenous women and girls.”

Bennett said the Conservatives should call a “non-partisan” inquiry to find out “why this problem has persisted for decades and why successive governments have been unable to fix it.”

Today’s announcement is in addition to other initiatives the government has said it will support, such as the creation of a DNA-based missing persons database.