Climate Action

Killer whales at risk of extinction due to pollution

A new study has found that half the population of killer whales could become extinct over the next 100 years because of pollution.

  • 02 October 2018
  • Rachel Cooper

A new study has found that half the population of killer whales could become extinct because of pollution.

The pollutant affecting Orca's, also known as killer whales, is PCB which has been used globally since the 1930s in electrical components, plastics and paints. In the 1970s they were banned after reports surfaced around their toxic nature. However, they pollutant is still leaking into the seas.

New research, published in the journal Science, examined PCB contamination in 351 killer whales. They found that populations that are most at risk are off the coast of Brazil, Japan, Gibraltar and the United Kingdom.

“It is like a killer whale apocalypse,” said Paul Jepson at the Zoological Society of London, part of the international research team behind the new study. 

Orcas are positioned at the top of the food chain which means that they are exposed to vast amounts of chemicals as they absorb all the pollution their food has eaten. The hire up the food chain you go, the more concentrated the chemicals become.

Presently, 267 species worldwide are being affected by ocean pollution and 700 species are at risk of becoming extinct. 

Jennifer Lonsdale, chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link’s whales group, said: “This new study is a global red alert on the state of our oceans. If the UK government wants its Environment Act to be world-leading, it must set ambitious targets on PCB disposal and protect against further chemical pollution of our waters."

This news follows the UK Government backing plans to protect 30 per cent of global oceans to ensure species do not become endangered.