WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 15, 2016) — The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced nearly $500,000 in grant support through its Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program (KWRCP). The awards announced today will fund four grants and will be matched by $619,000 in grantee contributions, for a total conservation impact of more than $1.1 million.
The KWRCP funds projects to help study and protect killer whales in the wild, with a particular focus on the Southern Resident killer whale population found off the coast of Washington. This second round of grants under the program was made possible through funding from SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“Working closely with our partners, including SeaWorld, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA, we can help protect this imperiled population,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “These four grants are an excellent example of the innovative ways that scientists and managers can work together to improve the health of the Southern Resident killer whale population.”
Killer whales play a key role in the ecological and cultural fabric of the Pacific Northwest. Researchers have been increasingly concerned about the health of resident populations of killer whales in this region following a decline in the 1990s due to limited prey availability, noise and pollution levels. The KWRCP was launched in early 2015 to support efforts to advance the knowledge and conservation of killer whales, with a primary focus on three strategies to aid in the recovery of the Southern Resident killer whale Distinct Population Segment: increasing prey availability; improving habitat quality; and strengthening management through crucial research.
“At SeaWorld, our vision is to inspire others to preserve our world’s oceans and the animals who live there, and these grants will do just that by contributing critical research to improve the lives of killer whales in the wild,” said Joel Manby, President and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. “When you combine what these researchers learn in the field with what scientists are discovering by studying the killer whales in our care, our knowledge of orcas is constantly improving. This research will provide lasting benefits to the health of the killer whale population, particularly the endangered Southern Resident whales.”
Grants awarded in this second slate of projects will fill critical gaps in scientists’ understanding of the role of toxins stored in the blubber of the Southern Resident population. Funded research projects will answer key questions about the release of toxins from the blubber in relation to food availability and in the transfer of milk from mother to calf, in order to assist scientists in evaluating the greatest limiting factors to population recovery. Additional investments will restore juvenile rearing habitat for salmon in the Upper Skagit River in order to increase food availability during critical times of the year.
"Creating Rearing Habitat for Juvenile Salmon in the Upper Skagit River helps provide a key food source for orca populations. These efforts also support healthy salmon populations in the watershed, while benefiting dozens of other native species and providing important recreational benefits to local communities and sustaining a key cultural resource for Tribes," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "The Service is proud to play a role in this vital program."
2016 Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program Grants
Increase Prey Availability
Strengthen Management through Applied Research
Understand the Effects of Reduced Prey and High Contaminant Levels on Killer Whales (Washington, British Columbia). Grantee: Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
Understand Nutrition and Toxin Impacts on Pregnancy Health in Southern Resident Killer Whales (Washington). Grantee: University of Washington
Assess Persistent Organic Pollutant Transfer from Female Killer Whales to their Calves (California, Texas, Washington). Grantees: National Marine Fisheries Service: Northwest Fisheries Science Center
For more detailed information about the four grants announced today, please click here, and to learn more about the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s work on killer whales, visit nfwf.org/killerwhales.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nation’s wildlife and habitats. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions. NFWF works with government, nonprofit and corporate partners to find solutions for the most intractable conservation challenges. Over the last three decades, NFWF has funded more than 4,500 organizations and committed more than $3.5 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at nfwf.org.
About SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc.
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., supports two initiatives at the Foundation that focus on coastal and marine resources, the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program and the Ocean Health Initiative. The Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program funds efforts to advance the knowledge and conservation of killer whales with a primary focus on activities that aid in the recovery of the Southern Resident killer whale Distinct Population Segment (DPS) and the Northern Pacific Resident population. The Ocean Health Initiative works through other Foundation programs to support a portfolio of projects that bolster the health of threatened marine and coastal species and habitats while engaging communities in these conservation efforts. For more information, visit SeaWorldCares.com
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