SEPTEMBER 4, 2003
OPTIONS FOR LUNA'S FUTURE SHOULD INCLUDE A BAY PEN
Something may be done soon about helping Luna. Marilyn Joyce, Marine Mammal Coordinator for Canada's Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) recently said "We recognize that the window of opportunity is limited and are working very hard to ensure that the options before us do not become limited because of timing." In recent days Luna has sustained two cuts over his eyes. He seems fine and will probably heal, but the incidents could have easily caused serious injury to Luna. A boater reported that Luna bashed his head into the side of his boat repeatedly, and Luna was recently tangled in a fishing net. These events demonstrate that Luna is a hazard for himself and others.
DFO has stated repeatedly that if action is taken there are two options: Either he will be relocated by undetermined means to Haro Strait or the Strait of Juan de Fuca in hopes he will find and rejoin his family, or he will be captured and brought to a marine park, where he would eventually be placed on public display as part of the unnamed park's marine mammal collection.
Public opinion has been clear that captivity should not be considered for Luna, and that reunification with his family--L pod of the Southern Resident orca community--should be given a try. We hope and expect that DFO will soon attempt to bring Luna within range of his family. However, the consensus at DFO seems to be that Luna may not be welcomed back into his family, or that he will be unable or unwilling to rejoin them. Some at DFO believe that, in his two years away from his kin, he may have lost his ability to communicate with them. There is apparently no record that Luna is using characteristic L pod calls, but Luna's vocalizations and behaviors have rarely been studied during his stay at Gold River.
We believe that Luna will rejoin his family, if not at first then gradually over days, weeks or even months. We fear, however, that if he doesn't merge with his family virtually immediately, and if he seeks out boats or humans to relate to during this reintroduction phase, then DFO will declare the effort a failure. DFO seems ready to conclude that Luna is a dangerous nuisance, which would provide sufficient cause to allow him to be captured and taken to a marine park.
Without a doubt there is tremendous pressure on DFO from marine parks to capture Luna for the marine park industry. Trainable orcas are extremely valuable commodities. They are dying faster than they are being born in captivity, and live captures have been prevented worldwide due to a still-rising tide of public opposition. Six Flags amusement park in Ohio, which actively sought to obtain Springer, is believed to be very interested in Luna. Several years ago Six Flags bought the Sea World of Ohio park, but Sea World removed their three orcas at the park. Six Flags recently tried to buy two orcas, but could only get one, so they desperately need a new orca. There are several other marine parks and aquariums in the US and Canada that are very interested in Luna as well.
Springer drifted away from her family in the first few days of her reintroduction before merging back with her family, and Luna should be allowed to set his own pace as well. If he returns to boats he'll be easy to re-capture. If he doesn't go to boats there is no real problem to worry about.
Even if he goes to boats, unless he becomes dangerous, we should leave him alone to make his own choices while providing assistance or boater education patrols as needed. But if a worst-case scenario develops and Luna begins making risky contact with boats, captivity is still not the only remaining option. In such a case Luna could be held in a bay pen at a location where he will be in acoustic range of his family, so he could be given every opportunity to rejoin them.
Realistically, DFO cannot accept the expense or responsibility of setting up and maintaining a bay pen for Luna. We propose that if a worst-case scenario develops, DFO make clear that prior to any move toward captivity for Luna they will accept proposals by NGO's or commercial operations to build a bay pen and oversee Luna's maintenance and continued reintroduction process. All expenses could be generated from public donations.
We believe Luna and his family should be given every opportunity to be reunited, and allowed whatever time is needed for the process to take place, though as with Springer, we believe it will take less time than anticipated by many.