It had been in the news for quite some time now that the southern resident killer whale population (SKP) has been in danger of extinction. News articles cite various reasons for the possible downfall of this community. NOAA fisheries, a conservation association based in Maryland, has stated that there are three main risk factors contributing to the dwindling community of the SKP. These include a lack of prey availability, contaminant accumulation built up in the fat tissue of the whales, and excess noise generated from boat activity.
Importance of this population
The impact of this endangered species extends beyond the scope of ecology. the symbolism of the SKP has a significant place in the first nations community living in western Canada. It is said according to Orca Spirit Adventures that the killer whale represents the soul of people who have died at sea. The Orca whale stands for defying challenges and overcoming obstacles. The meaning of the orca is highly reflected in first nations artwork and stories. The fact that the SKP is so important to this native culture makes their status as an endangered species all the more concerning. The loss of this species would not just be a loss to the marine environment, it would detrimental to the first nations people of BC who have incorporated the SRP into their traditional practices for countless generations.
Photo of first nations Killer Whale art from: https://shop.slcc.ca/learn/the-whale/
How bad is this situation?
While certain media outlet have described what’s happened to our SKP as a catastrophe, the situation may not be as bad as it seems. In his keynote speech to the B.C. Marine Mammal Symposium, biologist and member of the SCIE 300 teaching team Dr. Andrew Trites evaluates the arguments various arguments used discuss the declining Killer Whale population. For example, Dr. Trites addresses the goal of having a SRP rise from 76 to over 200 by explaining that the carrying capacity of the southern coast may not be able to support this growth. Dr. Trites goes further to explain that the true issue may be the lack of fertile female Killer Whales.
While this presentation is from 2017, estimates from January of this year by Orca Network suggest the population may currently be 74 which is still within the normal range presented in Dr. Trites’ talk.
What can you take away from all of this?
Like anything, there seems to be mixed opinions on how to handle the declining population of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. It is important to know what we as members of the community are able to do to help keep this community live. For starters, it is imperative that people follow BC government fishing guidelines for Chinook Salmon. The whales are extremely particular eaters and mainly consume Chinook Salmon. Secondly, support local tourism industry that promotes sustainable whale watching to prevent excess boat traffic in close proximity to these whales which has been shown to stress the population.
Should I smoke weed everyday? Or, maybe a better question is should I consume marijuana at all? This question has been debated for decades but never more than since legalization in October 2018. Proponents of the drug preach it as a miracle substance capable of curing all sickness and pain while those opposed to cannabis argue that it causes mental illness and may lead to a life of debauchery. So what’s the answer?
One of the more concerning demographics for marijuana consumption is the age range up to 25 years old. The reason that 25 is the magic number cited in most journal articles is because this is the age when the human brain has fully matured and is now less susceptible to damage from marijuana. According to a study conducted by the Canadian Paediatric Society, one in three Canadian children have tried marijuana before the age of 15.
The damage to the developing brain depends on the frequency and potency of marijuana. Research has shown that moderate to heavy use of marijuana in adolescence has been linked to anxiety, depression, impaired concentration, and trouble making plans. These effects may be permanent and are thought to be caused by a re-wiring of the brain when being exposed to high amounts of THC (the psychoactive/intoxicating agent in marijuana). More troubling, some research has found a causal relationship between heavy marijuana use in adolescence and development of schizophrenia. The issue of marijuana use amongst teenagers is summarized well in the following video made by The National.
But marijuana can’t be all bad right? Why do so many people consume it when there appears to be so much research that it is detrimental to the mind? One reason which is obvious but overlooked is the fact that people like to get intoxicated. This is the same reason why Canadians spend over twenty billion dollars annually on alcohol. It is not sufficient to say that because alcohol is allowed despite its many downsides, we should allow the public to use marijuana. Having said this, as a society we have decided that adults over the age of 19 have the right to choose relatively safe intoxicants and for this reason it seems reasonable that marijuana be legal.
In addition to pleasure there is some evidence that CBD (the non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana) may actually have health benefits. Due to marijuana only recently becoming legal, there is still relatively little research for the benefits and drawbacks of CBD. Supporters of CBD argue that it reduces their anxiety and allows them to think more clearly. While this is not yet entirely understood, there still are many companies offering CBD supplements such as Urbal Activ.
I believe that everything has a use within moderation and this applies to marijuana. While there are benefits and drawbacks of cannabis, overall it is a harmful chemical substance that has the potential to hinder brain development. To answer my question, I will not be smoking marijuana.