Canada's Pacific coast killer whales still at risk

Mon Dec 1, 2008 7:43pm EST
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's killer whale population on the Pacific Coast remains at risk of extinction as its main food source continues to decline, a government panel said on Monday.

The resident killer whales living along the U.S. border south of Vancouver Island are considered endangered and the population that has dropped to 48 adult animals is expected to decline further, the panel said.

A separate group of resident killer whales found on the northern end of Vancouver Island is doing slightly better, but they are also considered threatened, according the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife.

The panel responsible for tracking the status of wildlife across Canada gave the whales the same designations when it last reviewed their condition in 2001.

The whales. also known as orcas, have suffered because of declining stocks of chinook salmon, their principal prey, as well as pollution and acoustical disturbance in the busy waterways.

(Reporting by Allan Dowd, Editing by Frank McGurty)

<p>An 18 year-old mother killer whale Sharkan (R) swims along with her recently born baby in the Antibes Marineland amusement park near Nice, on the French riviera February 27. EG/CLH/</p>