Comparing the East and West coasts of the United States usually brings to mind music and sports rivalries, cultural distinctions, even climate and time differences.
One unfortunate feature our coasts have in common is the presence of two of the world's most endangered species...
...the remaining North Atlantic right whales who wander along the US East coast...
...and a dwindling family of Southern Resident orcas who roam the Pacific Northwest.
West Coast: Southern Resident Orcas
The endangered Southern Resident orca population includes only 76 individuals and remains the only orca (killer whale) population listed under the US Endangered Species Act in US waters since it was added in 2005.
In the 1960s and 70s, the population was reduced by approximately 40% following intensive efforts to capture individuals for a growing marine park industry.
They now face the modern threats of prey depletion, chemical and noise pollution, and vessel effects.
East Coast: North Atlantic Right Whales
Hunted since the 11th century, North Atlantic right whales were nearly extinct when they finally received protection from whaling in 1935.
Even so, the population has struggled to recover as they face mounting modern-day threats from fishing gear entanglements, vessel strikes, habitat loss, and pollution.
Sadly, the unprecedented loss of at least 18 endangered North Atlantic right whales in one year– a number comprising 4% of a population with only an estimated 450 individuals remaining – has caused considerable alarm.