VANCOUVER, Thursday, July 18, 2019 — Today, CBC British Columbia launches Killers: J pod on the brink. This original podcast dives deep into the elements putting B.C.'s orca population at risk, exploring climate change, pollution and politics. Hosted by CBC Radio One’s Gloria Macarenko, the five-part podcast can be found on all podcast streaming platforms.
J35 still pushing her dead calf 24 hours later. Photo by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research
“We’ve been covering stories about the southern resident killer whales on On The Coast for many years, and one of the most heart-wrenching stories from 2018 was when J35, a mother orca, carried her dead calf for 17 days,” says Gloria Macarenko. “Listeners want to know why J pod is struggling to thrive, who is responsible for their demise, and what can be done to save them.”
The podcast explores the resident killer whales’ fight for survival, and the spectacle: International attention Ocean noise Malnutrition Changing ocean waters Impact of human fascination
“We have a track record for delivering original content, as seen with our previous podcasts such as 2050: Degrees of Change and SOLD!, which educated the community about climate change and housing affordability, respectively,” says Shiral Tobin, Director, Journalism and Programming, CBC British Columbia. “Through public feedback, we know there is a very captive and impassioned audience that wants to know more about the plight of J pod,” says Tobin. “And we’re going to deliver.”
Episode 1: Tapping Out - Hope turns to dismay as a new J pod calf dies before researchers arrive. When mother J35 carries its corpse for 17 days and 1000 miles, the world wakes up to the plight of the southern residents.
Episode 2: Sea of Noises - Each southern resident pod uses a distinctive dialect of calls to communicate. These calls can travel ten miles or more underwater. To what extent does increased ocean noise - often from ships - play a role in the decline and threats to J pod?
Episode 3: Peanut Head - J pod's family matriarch is showing signs of peanut head: an orca condition involving extreme fat loss around the head due to malnutrition. Experts agree that the southern residents are not getting enough fish to eat, but it might not be as simple as a decline in their main food source, Chinook salmon.
Episode 4: The Water is the Starting Point - J pod is an urban orca family, and a major factor impacting its members are the changing ocean waters. Orcas are highly vulnerable to contaminants and toxins in the ocean and their food webs are being altered by climate change, warming water, and ocean acidification.
Episode 5: Tough Love - In 1964, J pod ancestor Moby Doll was harpooned and put on display at the Vancouver Aquarium, drawing lots of attention locally and abroad. It's the beginning of an intense interest in orcas that is mirrored today in aquariums and whale watching.