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News Archives - 2014

News © 1994 Dave Ellifrit

2014 Orca News News, updates and events about the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats

Births/Deaths | Sonar and whales | Events Page | Orca News Archives

Orca News is updated when there is news to report.

Current News

January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014.

Newborn orca a good sign for imperiled pod

30 December 2014

(10/30/2014)A newborn orca in the endangered pod that frequents Puget Sound is an encouraging sign following the death earlier this month of a pregnant killer whale from the same group.

"That was a pretty hard hit," Howard Garrett of the Whidbey Island-based Orca Network said Wednesday. "It's good to see a positive sign."

The baby orca was discovered Tuesday by Center for Whale Research scientist Ken Balcomb and another scientist monitoring members of J-pod off the Canadian Gulf Islands of British Columbia.

Death of orca off Courtenay sums up southern residents' plight

6 December 2014

(10/21/2014)J32's body was spotted by Courtenay residents on Thursday. "Her death doesn't bode well for the southern resident population and certainly not for that matriline," Balcomb said. "Her mother died young. Her aunt had two sons and she's probably post-reproductive. She hasn't had any babies in the last 12 years. So there's no future." Howard Garrett of Orca Network said news of the whale's death was heartbreaking.

Hope of seeing larger orca population dashed by calf's death

21 October 2014

(10/21/2014)As we talked on the phone, Ken was peering through the large windows of his home on San Juan Island and watching a large purse seine vessel scooping up chum salmon and possibly other species as bycatch. "I look at this every day, and I've seen this for almost 40 years," Ken said. "There is no letup on the human part. Virtually no fish are getting past the outlet. We know the Fraser River runs are in poor shape, and our management doesn't seem to take any kind of ecosystem approach."

New baby orca spotted in Washington waters

8 September 2014

(08/26/2014)SAN JUAN ISLANDS - "The resident orcas that eat salmon are declining because the salmon population is also endangered," Balcomb said Monday. "What we have to do is get really serious about wild salmon restoration and recovery, which is the food supply for these guys."

Two deaths reduce orca population to lowest level in 30 years

29 August 2014

(08/26/2014)SAN JUAN ISLANDS - The endangered killer whale population in Puget Sound continues to decline, with the confirmation of two new deaths this year. The number of whales in J, K and L pods has dropped to 78, a level not seen since 1985, according to Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. No new calves have been born to the three pods since 2012, he said. And, alarmingly, the social structure among the orcas appears to be splintering.

Only debris left to clean up as Elwha River is free to travel its own path

26 August 2014

(08/26/2014)OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK - The Elwha River is free. The final 30-foot section of the Glines Canyon Dam was destroyed by an explosion at 4:12 p.m. Tuesday when crews with Barnard Construction Inc. of Bozeman, Mont., detonated charges at the site. The older, already destroyed Elwha Dam downriver was completed in 1913. With both monoliths gone, the Elwha River is free to cut its own course - except for debris from Tuesday's explosion - for the first time in more than a century. Salmon runs on the river were reduced from more than 400,000 - including records of 100-pound chinook salmon - to only a few thousand, breeding in the lower tributaries and riverbanks.

Washingtonians Could Safely Eat More Fish Under New Water Pollution Rules

9 July 2014

(06/09/2014)Washington's pollution standards would be made much tougher - making water clean enough that people can safely eat a daily serving of fish - under a plan laid out by Gov. Jay Inslee. The governor announced Wednesday that he wants Washington to use the same fish-consumption standards that guide water pollution rules in Oregon.... In the new plan the governor called on the State Department of Ecology to limit zinc, PCBs, pthalates, plasticizers and other chemicals commonly found in household goods, building materials and runoff from paved surfaces. Inslee said expanding the use of permeable pavement and rain gardens, while boosting research on eco-friendly roofing and green chemistry, will help stymy pollutants before they get into waterways. Tribal members and environmental groups said the new plan was a step in the right direction, but they cautioned that the new plan allows for a slight increase in cancer risk for fish consumers. Ashley Ahearn reports.

Key To Saving Endangered Orcas: Chinook Salmon, Says Local Expert

25 June 2014

(06/09/2014)Ken Balcomb, whom many regard as the godfather of whale conservation, is the director of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor. For almost 40 years now, the center has been keeping track of every individual whale in the three pods that make up the southern resident population of the iconic orcas that live in Puget Sound. Balcomb says among the risk factors outlined in the report summarizing a decade of research, the orcas' food is what matters most. They are very picky eaters, and scientists now know that about 80 percent of their diet consists of chinook salmon, another endangered species. So, if we want to recover orcas, says Balcomb, we need to focus on recovering that specific species of salmon.

Whidbey Island welcomes new ferry Tokitae

9 June 2014

(06/09/2014)A state commission picked it in 2012 to honor an orca whale captured in Penn Cove off Whidbey Island. Caught in 1970, Tokitae the whale was taken to a Miami sea park, where she has performed for audiences under the name Lolita.Lolita is the subject of a multiyear dispute between animal rights activists and the privately owned Miami Seaquarium. Activists have petitioned the government to list her under the Endangered Species Act. A Whidbey-based whale-advocacy group called Orca Network suggested the ferry's name."She's Lolita now, because she's performing, said Howard Garrett, the network's founder. "When we bring her back, she will be Tokitae; she'll be Lolita no more." In a broader sense, the network hopes the new ferry's name will raise awareness about troubled orca populations in the Salish Sea. "It just opens the window to the whale's presence in these waters so people will know they live here and appreciate that they live here and will want to help them continue to live here," Garrett said.

40 Congress members write to USDA to tighten regulations on captive orcas

30 May 2014

(05/31/2014)Buzzfeed said that 40 members, led by Democratic Congressmen Jared Huffman of San Rafael, had released a letter this week to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding regulations on orca and marine mammal captivity. The bipartisan letter addressed to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, is urging the agency to amend the existing Animal Welfare Act. The viral news site said that the law has not been updated since 1995.

In a phone interview, Huffman told Buzzfeed that the letter was inspired after seeing the controversial documentary "Blackfish."

Feds Weigh Protecting Orcas In West Coast Waters

24 April 2014

(04/8/2014)SEATTLE (AP) A federal agency is weighing whether to protect endangered orcas in the waters off the West Coast. NOAA Fisheries said Thursday it would consider a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity seeking to expand the critical habitat for southern resident killer whales.

Is California killer whale bill dead? Hardly, activists insist

8 April 2014

(04/8/2014)A committee in the California Assembly delayed a vote for at least a year on a bill to make killer whale stunts and breeding illegal. Opponents say the bill is dead. Advocates say it's a necessary step.

NETUNO USA supports freedom for captive killer whales

14 March 2014

(03/14/2014) Today NETUNO USA gave a step forward in socio-environmental responsibility policy donating money to ORCA NETWORK. The Company believes that the only things we must remove from the sea is SEAfood and we will work together against capturing mammals for profit, which is a barbaric way of entertainment, To us at NETUNO USA, this is an unsustainable practice ! Join us to free Lolita, Tillikum and other killer whales kept in captivity worldwide

New ferry Tokitae will serve Mukilteo-Clinton route

21 March 2014

Travelers between Mukilteo and Whidbey Island will be the first to enjoy the state's newest ferry. Tokitae was the original name given to one of several orcas captured in Penn Cove at Whidbey Island in 1970 and taken to marine theme parks. Tokitae's name was changed to Lolita, and she was taken to the Miami Seaquarium, where she continues to perform. The Orca Network, a whale advocacy group based on Whidbey, submitted the name suggestion, state officials said. The group has been lobbying, so far unsuccessfully, for Lolita to be released from the Miami Seaquarium and brought back to local waters. Tokitae, according to the Orca Network, is a Salish Indian greeting meaning "nice day, pretty colors."

Feds want endangered status for captive orca Lolita

25 Jan 2014

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Friday reversed itself and recommended the killer whale held by the Miami Seaquarium be governed by the same law that protects Puget Sound's wild southern resident killer whales. Howard Garrett of Orca Network, which has led the charge for Lolita's release, said that killer whales are such social animals he can't see how NOAA would allow an endangered female orca to remain isolated from other southern residents. "I think this is a very huge first step in the fantastic adventure of returning her to her home waters," Garrett said. "You can't put an endangered species into a circus act."

Expanded Habitat Protection Sought for Endangered Killer Whales on West Coast

16 Jan 2014

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal petition today with the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect more critical habitat for the endangered Southern Resident population of killer whales. If successful the proposal would extend Endangered Species Act protection to the whales' winter foraging range off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.

Satellite tracking reveals info on orcas

14 Jan 2014

A satellite tag attached to one endangered Puget Sound killer whale is yielding some valuable information about the migration of orcas in recent days.Federal biologists tracking a 22-year-old whale, known as L-87, say he and others have moved extensively through the Salish Sea, circling an island in the northern Strait of Georgia and making appearances in Puget Sound and the central Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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