An orca which washed up in Sechelt was a member of the endangered Southern Resident pod.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans say the whale was 18 years old, and was number J34.
Research biologist Meghan Moore with the Marine Mammal Research program says it is not yet known why the whale died.
She says, “It’s quite significant because it brings the population down to 79 animals, which is just an extremely small population size… so any loss to the Southern Resident population is detrimental just for their survival.”
Moore says more will be known about the cause of death Thursday, after the results of a necropsy .
An orca expert says the whale’s death could have something to do with noise from tanker traffic.
Orca Lab co-director Paul Spong says, “Orcas are acoustic creatures. They rely on sound, and in order to catch a fish they need to find that fish acoustically, using echolocation… and if they have a lot of background noise they can’t find that fish, and that has its own repercussions.”
Spong says the declining number of salmon, which whales feed on, could also have been a factor.