Killer Whale Ecotypes & Biodiversity

There is an easy classification of killer whales: the northern killer whale and the southern killer whale. The distinction is helpful in understanding how very different each type is from one another in size, markings, vocal ranges, migratory patterns, and consumption habits.


North Pacific

North Atlantic


Other pods

  • pod of New Zealand

  • pod of the Gulf of Mexico

  • pod of the Hawaiian Islands

  • pod of the British Isles


The issue coming up to 2019 is that the genetic disposition of all killer whales has evolved to the ecosystems to which they live over thousands of years, except there is one gene that all land mammals and humans possess called PON1 (paraoxonase 1).

This fundamental gene is described in a ScienceMag journal article called Ancient convergent losses of Paraoxonase 1 yield potential risks for modern marine mammals helps defend marine creatures against man-made toxins such as organophosphorus compounds, but is missing in killer whales.

According to the government of Canada there are 246 endangered species, 142 threatened species, 215 of special concern, and 23 extirpated species. The bigger picture is that killer whales have become a threatened species due to human-environment interactions, populations becoming extremely low.

The federal government has issued $61.5 million in conservation efforts but is that enough?

Some recommendations include:

  1. Reducing the total fishery removal of Chinook salmon by 25 to 35 per cent

  2. Closing fisheries where whales forage for food

  3. Introducing a new mandatory requirement for all marine vessels — including recreational boats (minimum distances of 50-400 meters)

  4. Adding to the underwater hydrophone network to measure and track noise impacts of individual vessels

  5. Whale watching bans

Under the Fisheries Act, anyone who disturbs marine mammals could be fined up to $100,000 or a maximum of $500,000 for a criminal offence

Follow these links for more information:

Species At Risk Act

Animal Welfare Act (QC) (PEI)

Marine Mammals Regulations

Fisheries Act

Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act

Nisga'a Final Agreement Act, RSBC 1999, c 2 (BC)

News-related links

Measures to help save key whale species

‘It would really hurt this town’

Effect for all coasts in Canada

Joshua David Joseph is our founder and main contributor at Sustainability: Through The Looking Glass. He is passionate about global business, sustainability, and culture. Find more from Josh on our members page.

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