I am pretty supportive of the efforts of Ingrid Visser but I read this morning’s Herald piece about Orca around the MV Rena shipwreck and thought that it wasn’t right. After looking more into the claims made I am left disappointed.
She said fewer than 200 orca lived around the New Zealand coastline, and they had the highest endangered threat rating available for animals.
There was nothing to stop the mammals going through the restricted area, and the oil should have been cleaned up sooner, she said.
That statement simply isn’t true. From Ingrid Visser’s own Ph.d Thesis she says:
The conservation status of orca worldwide is poorly known, although two populations of the Pacific North West Coast of North America have recently been classified as ‘Threatened’ and ‘Vulnerable’.
So only two populations in the World are classified, and even then they are only listed as “Threatened, Vulnerable” which isn’t as she says the highest endangered rating available for animals. The highest rating is Critically Endangered which is several notches above where two populations int he world are listed and way above the overall listing for Orca. In fact Orca aren’t even listed in the IUCN Red List of Vulnerable species, which is the definitive list of for those species with the highest rating for animals.
Now don’t get me wrong, I really admire the work of Ingrid Visser but why would she allow her credibility to be maligned in this manner. There is no possible way for her statement to hold true, both from the evidence of her own Ph.d Thesis and also from the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
So what is the world population of Orca?
Worldwide population estimates are uncertain, but recent consensus suggest an absolute minimum of 50,000. Local estimates include roughly 25,000 in the Antarctic, 8,500 in the tropical Pacific, 2,250–2,700 off the cooler northeast Pacific and 500–1,500 off Norway.
Sure there are some local populations that are endangered but that is not what Ingrid Visser said. You would think if they were as endangered as Ingrid Visser has said then the Department of Conservation would say so, only they don’t.
The killer whale (Orcinus orca) is the most widely distributed mammal on earth with the exception of humans. Its distribution is patchy however and it is more commonly seen at the poles and in cooler waters. It also prefers deeper water but can be found in shallow bays and estuaries, and in inland seas.
The facts, including Visser’s own work, don;t support the statement. That really means that the whole article is just shameful sensationalism of the oil spill for their own ends.
Sure it is awful that there is oil in the sea, and awful that Orca are swimming through the area that previously had oil in it, but it is actually sensationalism to link the oil spill to their endangered status, which as I have shown is far from endangered.