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News Archive - Jan 02

Orca Network News - January, 2002

News, updates and events about the Southern Resident
orcas, orcas worldwide, and their habitats

Current News

January 1, 2002 through January 31, 2002.

Springer's Story

Young orca found living alone off Vancouver Island
(Note: See report below)
January 31, 2002 (Seattle Times) Marine scientists are trying to help a orca-whale calf that has lost his pod and has spent the past six months in a remote inlet on Vancouver Island's west coast.
The calf is about 2-1/2 years old, but he's been able to hunt for fish and is in pretty good shape, they said.
Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine-mammal scientist at the Vancouver Aquarium, said it's unusual for an orca to lose his pod.
The calf follows the research boat, Barrett-Lennard said, but at a certain point, the same point every time, he will not go farther. Researchers think he is waiting in one spot, perhaps for his pod to find him. The scientists aren't saying exactly where the whale is because they don't want him disturbed.
If the team needs to help the whale leave the inlet to be reunited with his pod, he'll need to be conditioned to follow a particular boat.
Barrett-Lennard said the group knows the calf's mother was still alive last summer. But an uncle he often swam with is missing.

DFO and Partners Lay out Action Plan to Protect Killer Whale
January 30, 2002

Special Report from the Canadian Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans

2-year-old L98 is alive and well after at least seven months away from L pod! He was first seen in September, 1999, shortly after his birth to L67.

January 30, 2002

A most unusual situation has developed here in British Columbia, which I think will be of considerable interest to the network. Since July 2001, a lone juvenile killer whale has been residing in a remote inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It came to our attention in September, but we were unable to photograph it for identification until November. We have confirmed, with the assistance of the Center for Whale Research, that the whale is L98, a member of L pod born in 1999. This whale was not present with L pod when censused in June, 2001.

We have not made this situation public until now in consideration of L98's well-being. We were initially quite concerned that the whale would not obtain sufficient food as winter approached, and potential disruption from curious boaters would not help the situation. However, so far he seems to be doing quite well. We have observed him catching salmon, and he is showing no signs of emaciation. We plan to continue regular field trips to the west coast to monitor L98's health status. Fisheries and Oceans will undertake conservation and protection patrols as required to ensure the whale is not disturbed. In the meantime, we will continue discussions with our colleagues to develop response strategies should the juvenile's health deteriorate.

The L98 situation is the first time that a young resident whale has been found separated from its pod for a significant length of time. (A somewhat similar incident took place in the late 1970s, when an unknown, young killer whale in poor health was found at Campbell River and was ultimately taken into captivity at Sealand in Victoria...the whale came to be known as 'Miracle'). We have no idea how L98 came to be alone in this inlet, but he seems reluctant to leave. The situation is particularly interesting given the recent occurrence of the lone (as yet unidentified) juvenile in Puget Sound. There is no evidence that the two events are related. We'll provide updates to the network on L98's status as things develop.


John Ford and Graeme Ellis
Marine Mammal Research Program
Conservation Biology Section
Pacific Biological Station
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Nanaimo, BC V9R 5K6

Global warming could make life harder for Northwest fish
January 30, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) Global warming is likely to make the Northwest less hospitable to salmon and trout, according to a review of more than 150 scientific studies released Tuesday by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
Northwest salmon are particularly vulnerable because rising temperatures could directly affect their habitat, the review concludes.
"Cold-water fish like trout and salmon are projected to decrease from large portions of their geographic range in the continental United States," the study says. "Water quality will probably decline greatly, owing to expected summertime reductions in runoff and elevated temperatures."

Chronology of the Dungeness stranding.
Orca headed back to Pacific
January 30, 2002 (Bremerton Sun) A male orca is on a path to recovery, but a female's death remains under investigation
A male killer whale that refused to leave Dungeness Bay for three days seemed to be in reasonably good shape Friday afternoon as it swam west through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and toward the Pacific Ocean.

Once-trapped orca seems to be doing well
January 29, 2002 (Seattle Times) The male orca trapped behind Dungeness Spit earlier this month and towed to safer waters appears to have weathered the ordeal just fine.
Joe Barton of Shelton, Mason County, was beachcombing near Ocean Shores last week and chanced upon a time-depth recording tag that had been attached to the male orca in Sequim. Data on the device showed the orca had been traveling at 2 to 3 mph, regularly diving between 50 and 80 feet, then surfacing for about a dozen breaths before diving again.
"Hats off to everybody involved in saving that whale," said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist and executive director of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.
Meanwhile, Canadian scientists have tentatively identified a young male orca seen in recent weeks off Vashon Island. John Ford, a marine-mammal scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said the orca appears to be from the northern residents that frequent the northern part of Vancouver Island.

Protestors urge Seaquarium to free Lolita the Orca
January 28, 2002 (MSNBC)
She still calls out to her family.
For the past 30 years, animal activists have been fighting for Lolita the Orca's freedom, but the Miami Seaquarium says they won't let her go.
For the past 30 years, the Miami Seaquarium has been home to Lolita. She was captured off the Pacific Northwest when she was about 6 and since then she has lived here and been trained to perform in shows.
Howard Garrett of the Orca Network says: "The problem is that it is inhumane to have them here; they live half their normal life span."
Though plans have been in the works for 15 years to get Lolita a bigger tank and the proper permits have been obtained, officials say that nothing has been done due to financial reasons.

$5 sticker could help pay for orca research
January 28, 2002 (Bellingham Daily Herald) Legislators hope a $5 license plate sticker could fund research into the diminishing orca pods that spend the summer in the San Juan Islands.
Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes, has introduced a bill that would offer optional $5 orca stickers through the state Department of Licensing, and use the proceeds to fund competitive grants for scientists conducting orca research.
"The need for (orca) research funding is critical and the department is clearly interested in increasing funding and working with the federal government to increase research," Pozzanghera said.

Experts amazed at oil left in Sound
January 23, 2002 (Anchorage Daily News) Sea otters have evidence of liver damage. Harlequin ducks have metabolized fresh hydrocarbons.
And certain beaches in Prince William Sound have far more oil than anyone thought possible a dozen years after the Exxon Valdez tanker struck Bligh Reef, according to a rigorous survey conducted last summer.
Much of that oiled sediment underlies flat productive shore of the western Sound, homeland to mussels and clams and other intertidal life, said federal chemist Jeff Short of Auke Bay Laboratory in Juneau.

No spill reported after tug, oil tanker collide
January 21, 2002 (Seattle P-I) A tug escorting an oil tanker collided with the tanker in heavy winds and seas in Rosario Strait southwest of Anacortes late Saturday night.
The Coast Guard does not yet know the cause of the collision involving the Sea King, a tug owned by Crowley Marine Inc. of Seattle, and the Allegiance, the tanker now at the Tesoro refining facility in Anacortes.
No oil pollution resulted. Two of five crew members on the tug suffered minor injuries.

Corrupt compost: Herbicide threatens state's growers, gardeners, waste managers
January 22, 2002 (Seattle Times) The recent discovery of clopyralid (pronounced clo-PEER-a-lid) in compost around the country is threatening not only growers and gardeners but solid-waste-management systems that depend on composting to divert tons of yard waste, food, land-clearing debris and other organic material from landfills.
While not toxic to humans, pets, livestock or wildlife, scientists say, the herbicide ruins sensitive plants in amounts as tiny as three parts per billion.

Earth in the balance - could tilt either way
January 17, 2002 (Christian Science Monitor) Life on Earth stands at a significant crossroad. Over the past 10,000 years, Homo sapiens have been wildly successful, colonizing continents, defeating a great proportion of natural enemies, and replacing forests, grasslands, and swamps with agricultural fields, roadways, and cities. Since 1960, our population has doubled to 6 billion; despite a slowing rate of growth, it will probably peak at between 8 and 10 billion later this century.
We also live in the midst of a mass extinctions, the greatest extermination of living species since the end of the dinosaurs. Estimates for current extinction rates range from 100 to 10,000 times prehuman levels, with most around 1,000 times the natural level. Whatever the rate, it is projected to rise steeply as remaining wild land is developed and nonindigenous species are introduced through human commerce.

A huge land deal to stem urban sprawl
January 17, 2002 (Seattle P-I) Suburban sprawl would be stopped cold in northeastern King County under a proposed $185 million land deal announced yesterday that puts a chunk of forestland nearly twice the size of Seattle off-limits to development.
But there's a catch: To preserve the 104,000 acres from development, conservationists agreed to cut many of the trees there. And before the deal can be sealed, it may take an act of Congress.
"This acquisition really does represent a pioneering model for preservation of forestland," said Gerry Johnson, managing partner of the Preston, Gates & Ellis law firm and president of the non-profit Evergreen Forest Trust, which would buy the land from the Weyerhaeuser Co.
Huge deal may save forest from sprawl January 17, 2002 Seattle Times

Young Orca discovered alone in Puget Sound (no longer online)
January 16, 2002 (KING5 TV) A young whale was seen swimming alone between the Fauntleroy ferry dock and north Vashon Island. The whale is about 11 feet long and assumed to be about 2.5 years old.
"He's a juvenile, he's past nursing, so he's not dependent on his mother for milk. He's dependent on his family for social context. I think that's why he's responding now. We give him a little encouragement here and he checked us out," said Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research.

Army Corps Changes Wetlands Rules
January 15, 2002 (Seattle P-I) For developers, the Army Corps of Engineers' reduced requirements for speedy government approval of draining and filling permits is a long-overdue relaxation of changes ordered by Congress.
The regulations, announced Monday, revoke some requirements for winning expedited permits that the Clinton administration imposed on developers during its last year in office.

Environmentalism has become embedded in the culture
January 13, 2002 (New York Times) There was a psychic `time out' after Sept. 11, but I see us coming out of that now. It's now O.K. to say we can't just rubber stamp what the administration wants. The suburban demographic is particularly concerned about the environment and human health and recognizes that if we pollute the air, my kids are going to get asthma, and it doesn't matter if we are at war."

Salmon need better habitat
January 11, 2002 (Seattle P-I) The capacity of our rivers to produce wild salmon has been reduced dramatically. Putting more fish into that limited habitat doesn't mean you will get more fish back. As the quality of an animal's habitat declines, so does the population that it supports.
Favorable ocean conditions resulted in higher survival rates and larger than usual returns of salmon to many Western Washington rivers this past year. This has led some folks to believe we are out of the woods. They forget that the bulk of these higher returns was composed of strong hatchery stocks. Most wild salmon stocks -- especially Puget Sound chinook -- continue to struggle to rebuild their populations.

Chronology of the Dungeness stranding.
Orca detected at the strait
January 8, 2002 (Seattle Times) Brad Hanson, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, picked up a signal around 10 p.m. Sunday from a transmitter affixed to the orca. The signal, which came from southwest of Neah Bay, was faint but moving, said Brian Gorman, an NMFS spokesman.
Meanwhile, Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor has tentatively identified the whale from photographs taken of 10 transient orcas seen feeding on porpoises off Coos Bay in 1996. Also among the group was the female, possibly the male's mother, who was dead near Sequim last week.

Freed orca still can't be located; IDed in 1996
January 7, 2002 (Peninsula Daily News) Scientists say they still don't know where the young male killer whale rescued from the Dungeness Spit's inner bay might be swimming. A small radio transmitter placed near the dorsal fin didn't work, or fell off, and the orca hasn't been seen since late Friday.
When last spotted, the five-ton, 22-foot orca was in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, apparently in reasonably good shape, heading west toward the open Pacific at speeds up to 7 or 8 knots.
Meanwhile, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Cascadia Research identified the two orcas by the shape of spots near their dorsal fins. Both had been seen in a group of 10 whales in Coos Bay off Oregon on Sept. 12, 1996. They were recorded as CA-188 and CA-189.

Orca makeover: From 'killer' to icon
January 6, 2002 (Seattle Times) Human fascination with the creature burned bright last week at the drama of two whales beached near Sequim. A dead female brought tears from onlookers. A stranded male, possibly her offspring, brought bittersweet joy as rescuers towed him to the wide waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Dave Ellifrit, a researcher for the Center for Whale Research, said much of the good that comes to orcas can help other creatures as well.
"In order to save the charismatic creatures, you have to save the environment they're in," he said. "Sometimes, it takes a poster child to hook people before they learn about all the intricacies of the food web."
Freed orca now can't be locatedJanuary 6, 2002 (Seattle Times)
Researchers lose track of rescued killer whale
Last seen headed west - 'all reports are favorable'
January 6, 2002 (Peninsula Daily News)
Extraordinary efforts save stranded whaleJanuary 6, 2002 (San Juan Islander)

Rescuers finally tow orca to deep water
January 5, 2002 (Seattle Times) Its belly cut by shellfish, its organs straining under the heft of its own weight, a young male orca trapped inside the Dungeness Spit was finally towed to deep water yesterday - seeming healthy, but minus a companion.
Young male orca are known to travel for years alongside their mothers, and her death might explain the bull's reluctance to leave. "We're dealing with behavior," said Schroeder, the veterinarian who also participated in the necropsy. "We're not dealing with illness."
Orca headed back to Pacific January 5, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)
A male killer whale that refused to leave Dungeness Bay for three days seemed to be in reasonably good shape Friday afternoon as it swam west through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and toward the Pacific Ocean.
A third whale, which may have originally been with the other two at Dungeness Spit, was sighted late Thursday around La Conner in Northern Puget Sound, according to Howard Garrett of Orca Network, which monitors whale sightings.
"Up to eight people saw a small orca swimming in Swinomish Channel," Garrett said. He is asking people to watch for the solitary orca, which seemed to be swimming lethargically. It may be a younger offspring of the dead female.
Whale finally towed to safety January 5, 2002 (Seattle P-I)

The struggle to save an orca: With one killer whale dead nearby, rescuers fight to keep another alive
January 4, 2002 (Seattle Times) A small army of researchers yesterday struggled with the two-fisted task of saving one killer whale trapped behind the Dungeness Spit and figuring out what killed another orca found nearby.
Rescuers managed several times to pull the live whale, a male, close to open water, only to have him slip out of an inch-thick rope harness, swim away and strand himself again. As of late yesterday, he was still trapped.
Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor yesterday said he was all but certain the two whales are transients that appear here less regularly and eat marine mammals instead of salmon.
Stranded orca resists rescuers January 4, 2002 (Seattle P-I)
Experts trying to save orca despite repeated beachings January 4, 2002 (The Olympian)
B.C. orca experts rush to rescue stranded whale January 4, 2002 (Vancouver Sun)

One killer whale stranded, another dies
January 3, 2002 (Seattle Times)
A male killer whale couldn't find his way out of Dungeness Bay on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula last night even after a rescue crew pulled him into deeper water. Roughly two miles away, a female orca was found dead.
Officials with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife found the male whale stranded in shallow water about 1 p.m. yesterday. Working with biologists from the Olympic Coast National Sanctuary, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a number of whale-research agencies, state wildlife workers waited for high tide and, shortly after 4 p.m., roped the male and pulled him with a boat into deeper water.
Killer whale found stranded
New questions about the transient population the dead mammal near Sequim might raise
January 3, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)
Orca rescued from Dungeness Bay sandbar
Second killer whale dies; necropsy planned for today
January 3, 2002 (Peninsula Daily News)
Female orca dies, another is saved January 3, 2002 (Seattle P-I)
Attempts continue to rescue stranded Orca January 3, 2002 (KING5 TV)
Orca Stranded On Dungeness Spit January 3, 2002 (KOMO TV)
Whale Experts Hope To Learn Why Orca Died January 3, 2002 (KIRO TV)

Navy sonar tests killed 16 whales
January 1, 2002 (Bremerton Sun) The mysterious mass stranding of 16 whales in the Bahamas in March 2000 was caused by U.S. Navy tests in which intense underwater sounds were generated for 16 hours, according to a newly released government report compiled by civilian and military scientists.
The Navy has previously denied responsibility.
The report's conclusions mark the first time that underwater noise other than from an explosion has been shown to cause fatal trauma in marine mammals.

Lolita, Come Home
January 1, 2002 (E-Magazine) Message from Seattle to Miami: Give us back our whale. Seattle wants Lolita, star of the Miami Seaquarium tourist attraction for the past 31 years and the nation's longest- performing killer whale. More than 5,000 people have signed petitions and hundreds of children have scrawled crayon drawings in protest. They are urging a resistant Arthur Hertz-chairman of the Seaquarium's parent company, Wometco Enterprises of Coral Gables, Florida-to return his graceful money-maker to Washington's Puget Sound, where she was captured in 1970 at age six.

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