Southern Resident killer whales, a sub-species of Orcinus orca, are in danger of possible extinction. As of September 13, 2018, only 74 whales remain. Over the last two decades, 75% of their pregnancies have failed and 100% have failed in the last three years (2016 – 2018). Unlike other North Pacific killer whale ecotypes which feed primarily on marine mammals, the Southern Residents’ diet consists solely of fish. Chinook (King) salmon makes up 80% of their diet, while other fish species make up the remaining 20%.
A 2017 population viability analysis conducted by an international team of renowned scientists representing academic and conservation organizations from three countries concluded that the Southern Residents could achieve an annual growth rate of 2.3% if actions are taken immediately to increase Chinook salmon supply by 15%, and reduce acoustic disturbance in hunting areas by 50%.
Since it's passage by Congress in 1973 with strong bipartisan support at the request of then President Richard Nixon, the Endangered Species Act has been one of the most effective environmental policies in American history. Under the ESA, 99 percent of listed species have recovered within their designated timeline. Yet, despite overwhelming support from the American public (90% either somewhat or strongly support the law, including 75% of conservatives), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is proposing rule changes that would effectively dismantle it. The proposed changes would decrease protections for threatened species, make it more difficult to list new species and habitats, remove opportunities for public input, and limit the use of scientific data to inform decision making processes. You can learn more about the proposed changes here: Sweeping Changes Proposed to the Endangered Species Act.