Sink your teeth into this: 15 facts about orcas

killerwhales_southernresidentsI won’t lie. My inspiration for this post is my obsession with this season’s Top Chef,  set in Seattle, WA (Bye, Kristen! I was very sad you went home). Anyway, here is a list of some captivating facts about the dominating marine mammal (the last one is the most important!).

  1. The killer whale, or orca, is a toothed whale and a kind of dolphin – in fact, it’s the largest of all the dolphins!
  2. Their Latin name, Orcinus orca, means ‘Greek god of the underworld’.
  3. Male orcas can average up to 22 feet in length and can average up to 12,000 pounds.
  4. Female orcas can average up to 19 feet in length and can average up to 8,000 pounds.
  5. Newborn orcas average up to 8 feet in length and weigh up to 400 pounds.
  6. Orcas typically swim to speeds of 3 to 4 miles per hour, but can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour.
  7. Female orcas give birth on average every three years after age 13. Some may average giving birth every ten years.
  8. The dorsal fin of the male orca is the tallest of all the whales! It can be up to 6 feet high. Their dorsal fin will not be at full height until 12-20 years.
  9. Female orcas live to be 90 years old, while male orcas live to be about about 50 years.
  10. Orcas are known for excellent eyesight above and below the surface of the water.
  11. Orcas are common to the Arctic and Antarctic waters, but are found in every ocean around the world.
  12. Orcas eat up to 500 pounds of prey (e.g., fish, walruses, seals, sea lions, penguins, squid, sea turtles, sharks, as well as other types of whales) a day. They live and hunt in cooperative and playful pods forming packs – they’ve even picked up the nickname ‘wolves of the sea’.
  13. Orcas do not chew their food. They use their teeth for ripping and tearing prey, but most often swallow their prey whole. Their teeth are up to 3 inches long!
  14. Orcas have a gray area behind their dorsal fin, known as the ‘saddle patch’, that are unique to each whale.
  15. There are only 86 orcas left in the Pacific Northwest’ Puget Sound population. This population is threatened with extinction due to pollution, climate change and food shortages. You can sign a petition with Change.org to help keep orcas on the Endangered Species Act (Well, you can sign until January 27, 2013).

I am sure I missed many interesting details in this “Sink your teeth into this” post. Please feel free to add your favorite below or you can learn more here.

Image (c) nmfs.noaa.gov

10 ways we’ve been saving the whales

The flukes of a sperm whale as it dives into t...

Image via Wikipedia

I love getting questions from you. This post is in response to one of my favorite people wanting more information on the whaling laws in the United States. This is what I uncovered so far and am more than happy to hear and read comments about what I’ve missed or legislation that’s been updated.

1. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) made it illegal for anyone living in the US to kill, hunt, injure or harass all species of marine mammals (dolphins, manatees, sea lions, seals, whales), regardless of their population status. Also, it made it illegal for anyone to import marine mammals or products made from them into the United States.

2. In accordance to the MMPA it is illegal to approach a whale in the wild as it can be seen as harassment.

3. Also, since underwater noise (most often military tests using sonar) can be attributed to whale beaching requests for such testing must be made under the MMPA.

4. The Endangered Species Act made it so that it is illegal for anyone living in the US to kill, hunt, collect, injure or harass them. Also, it is illegal to destroy their habitat. Lastly, it is also illegal to buy or sell any whales. All great whales are listed as endangered.

5. The Pelly Amendment stated the US has an obligation to impose import sanctions on the fish products of the countries that violate any international fishery conservation program, such as the International Whaling Convention.

6. The Packwood-Manguson Amendment reduces the fishing rights of the countries that violate international fishery conservation programs in waters of the United States.

7. The International Whaling Convention was in 1946 and implemented an indefinite ban on commercial whale. This ban is still in effect, with certain exceptions. Countries such as Japan and Norway have not honored the ban. The International Whaling Commission will be having its annual meeting in Panama this June.

8. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) had its 25th anniversary in 2007 and in the beginning was seen a more rigorous guideline to follow than the duties put forth by the International Whaling Convention of 1946.

9. Gillnet restrictions have been passed making it illegal for anyone using a gillnet to leave it unattended for more than two hours.

10. The US Coast Guard has imposed regulations since whale collisions with ships are a major source of injury and death for many whales. When vessels enter their habitat they must immediately report to a shore-based station to gain a better understanding of their surroundings and learn measure to avoid hitting a whale.

For more information how how to save whales please visit the American Cetacean Society.