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The Langley Main Street Association photos of the Welcome the Whales Day Parade, Saturday, April 18, 2015.

Freeland, Wash. (March 10, 2015) Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has named Howard Garrett of Freeland as the winner of the 2015 Rare Life Leadership Award. Eagle Rare will donate $5,000 to Garrett's charity, Orca Network which is dedicated to raising awareness of the whales of the Pacific Northwest and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats. Full Press Release here.


Photo by Amanda Wegner


NOAA Includes The Killer Whale Known As Lolita In The Endangered Species Act Listing Of Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Late on February 3, a new page went up on the NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region website stating: *February 6, 2015: *We announced a final rule that amends the ESA listing of the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population segment by removing the exclusion for captive members of the population, hence recognizing, "Lolita" as a protected member of the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population segment.

The date given seemed incongruous with the date it appeared, but the meaning is clear: The L pod orca called Lolita, brutally captured along with six others in August, 1970, has now been granted status as a protected member of her family under the Endangered Species Act, making it illegal to harass, harm, deliver, receive, carry, transport, or ship her in interstate or foreign commerce, in the course of a commercial activity, or to sell or offer her for sale in interstate or foreign commerce.

This announcement does not lead directly to Lolita's return to her native waters. The terms harass and harm may or may not mean that confinement in a small concrete tank amounts to harm. We certainly think it does. Lolita is in surprisingly good health, which helps ensure that she would accommodate the trip home and re-adapt well when returned to her familiar waters, but all the other 40 or so captured members of her family had succumbed to the stresses of captivity almost 30 years ago, so there is reason to believe captivity is harming her despite her patience, courage, and resilience.

A simultaneous law suit against the USDA, now on appeal and set to be heard the week of March 23 (, could prove that the Seaquarium whale tank violates three provisions of the Animal Welfare Act - the dimensions are unlawfully small, there is no protection from the Miami sun, and she has no orca companionship. These regulations are designed to prevent harm, so if it is established in court that the Seaquarium is in violation of them, the harm done by the violations will also be established, so it may be a violation of the ESA to continue to keep Lolita there.

We believe the only remedy for the harm being done to Lolita in captivity is to return her to a protected seapen within a cove in the Salish Sea, her native habitat Orca Network's Retirement Plan. She would be provided all the care and companionship she experiences now, but eventually would be able to swim long distances in the San Juan Islands she likley remembers well, and have the chance to communicate with and ultimately reunite with the family she was taken from 44 years ago.

Keiko's release was successful except for not finding his family - he was able to fish and survive for five years, independently swimming across the ocean, but without other orcas from his extended family to socialize with he turned to humans for companionship. Lolita is a much better candidate for release - she is in good health, and we know her family - they are one of the best known and most studied communities of orcas in the world.

Our proposal for Lolita's return to the waters where she was born has been available for 20 years and has been refined and improved over the years, and provides the best and most humane option for Lolita's retirement years.

This ruling is a huge step toward interjecting some mandated concern for Lolita's health and welfare that can override the strictly monetary considerations that got her there in the first place. Our society doesn't like animal abuse, and the more we learn about orcas the less we can tolerate seeing them locked up as circus acts. The legal initiatives that led to this ruling have been brilliant and effective, as the mood of the country shifts from acceptance to rejection of captive orca entertainment enterprises. Things that seemed impossible a year ago seem doable today.

Learn more about Lolita and her retirement plan on the Orca Network website.


Howard Garrett & Susan Berta
Orca Network
360-320-7176 (cell)


Contact: Terri Mitchell, 206.937.4259

Seattle to March for Captive Orca Lolita
Grassroots march part of world-wide effort to retire Lolita from performing and return her to Pacific Northwest

Seattle, WA -- Residents of the Salish Sea will gather in solidarity with people around the world who are marching for Lolita's freedom. The Seattle Solidarity March for Lolita is scheduled for Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. at the Statue of Liberty Plaza at Alki Beach (intersection of Alki Ave. S.W. and 61st Ave. S.W.), in West Seattle.

WHAT Seattle Solidarity March for Lolita

A peaceful, accessible march in support of efforts to retire the captive orca Lolita, also known as Tokitae, and return her to the Salish Sea. A member of L-pod of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, Lolita was captured in 1970 and has spent the last four decades performing at the Miami SeaQuarium in Miami, Florida. She is the only survivor of a devastating chapter in Washington State history when approximately 50 orca were captured for marine parks (or killed in the process).

On January 17, people around the world are rallying for her retirement, in anticipation of the decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on whether and how the Endangered Species Act should apply to Lolita (decision due by January 24, 2015). The Miracle March for Lolita in Miami is expected to draw over 1000 people from around the country, making it the world's largest one-day gathering in support of a captive cetacean. Other events will be held in San Diego, CA; Colorado Springs, CO: Las Vegas, NV; as well as in Canada, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

WHO Public - families welcome. Rachel Carbary, of Seattle, founder of the world-wide Empty the Tanks movement, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Volunteer, and a two-time Cove Guardian witness to the Taiji Japan Dolphin Hunts, will lead off the march.

WHEN Saturday, January 17, 2015 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

WHERE Statue of Liberty Plaza at Alki Beach (intersection of Alki Ave. S.W. and 61st Ave. S.W.), West Seattle, Washington
For more information, please contact Terri Mitchell at 206.937.4259 or, or Janine Anderson at 425.457.1258 or

December 30, 2014

Orca Network/Center for Whale Research
Susan Berta
Howard Garrett

J16 Slick with her newborn calf, J50. Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research.

New calf discovered in J pod of the endangered Southern Resident orca community.

This afternoon Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research confirmed seeing and photographing 42-year old J16 (Slick) with her newborn baby - now known as J50!

During an encounter off the south shores of North Pender Island in Canadian Waters Ken discovered J16 with her newborn calf, only a day or two old, snuggled in her slipstream and looking healthy and energetic.

No other female has given birth at over 42 years of age in the four decades of demographic field studies of the Southern Resident orcas. J16 was not expected to be carrying a calf due to her advanced age.

Researchers probably won't know the calf's gender for many months, until they are able to see and photograph the calf's ventral markings.

The Southern Resident community was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, after dropping in population to only 78 members, but had recently lost a pregnant female, J32 Rhapsody, bring their numbers down to only 77 members. This birth brings the So. Residents up to 78.

Most of J pod was seen on December 24 west of Orcas Island, but J16, known as Slick, and her family were not among them. Then on December 26th the Orca Network Sightings Network received a photograph of J16's oldest offspring, 23-year old J26 (Mike), and another orca off the north end of Lopez Island, indicating that J16 was probably nearby, because maternal families remain in close proximity their entire lives.



December 4, 2014

Orca Network/Center for Whale Research
Susan Berta
Howard Garrett

**Photos available upon request

Young adult Southern Resident female orca found dead in Georgia Strait

A deceased orca was found earlier today near Courtenay, BC in northwest Georgia Strait and was identified as 18-year old J32, known as Rhapsody. Photos sent by Canada's Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans were identified by Ken Balcomb at the Center for Whale Research. J pod last visited Puget Sound in late November, and J32 was last identified and photographed with her family November 26 east of Victoria BC by the Center for Whale Research.

J32 was thought by many to be in the late stages of pregnancy last summer due to her wide girth when she breached, as she often did.

A necropsy Saturday led by Dr. Stephen Raverty will reveal if she was indeed pregnant and hopefully will find the cause of death. She was believed to have died in the past 24 to 48 hours.

J32's mother was J20, who died in 1998 when Rhapsody was only 2 years old. She was raised by her aunt, J22 Oreo. She is survived by J22 and her cousins J34 Doublestuf and J38 Cookie, leaving only three survivors of the former J10 matriline, and only 77 members of the Southern Resident Community.

We cannot express how tragic this loss is for this struggling, precariously small, family of resident orcas of the Salish Sea. This loss bring the overall number of Southern Resident orcas below their number in 2005 when they were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The loss of J32 marks the fourth death of a Southern Resident orca in 2014. The last surviving Southern Resident baby was born in August of 2012.


October 20, 2014

L120 - 7-week-old Southern Resident orca - has died

L120 Photo by Carrie Sapp

Orca Network
Susan Berta/Howard Garrett
360-661-3739 (cell)
360-320-7176 (cell)

The Center for Whale Research has confirmed that baby L120, only about seven weeks old and the third known offspring of a 23-year old Southern Resident orca known as L86, was not with his or her mother when she and other members of L pod were photographed recently in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research said "L86 was seen and photographed on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, all without L120."

L120 was the first newborn Southern Resident offspring seen since August 2012. In February of that year the the body of L86's second offspring, 3-year old female L112, washed up at Long Beach Wash. with indications of death by severe acoustic or explosive trauma, but no immediate cause of death has been determined.

Research conducted in recent years has shown that Southern Resident orcas depend almost entirely on chinook salmon for sustenance, with a diet of chum salmon during fall months when chinook are especially scarce.

This orca clan has suffered episodic food deficiency for many decades, as chinook salmon runs were depleted by habitat destruction, excessive harvest and dams from Alaska to California. They were also routinely shot at for decades and over 50 were captured or killed for theme parks during the 1960s and 70s, followed by wanton disposal of persistent toxins into Puget Sound that continue to impair fetal development and immune responses, especially when the whales can't find sufficient food.

"We haven't treated these magnificent orcas well at all. As a society we are not successfully restoring this orca community despite the many warnings and legal declarations. Our challenge is clear: bountiful salmon runs must be restored and protected or we won't see Resident orcas in the Salish Sea in coming years." said Howard Garrett of Orca Network.

The loss of her second baby must be especially traumatic for L86, but knowing this young orca will never grow up and reproduce is painful for all who care about this precariously dwindling extended family. Now down to only 78 members, the Southern Resident community is at or below their numbers in 2001 when alarms rang with such intensity that they were eventually listed as endangered under the ESA in 2005.



September 30, 2014

*Photo credit: Orca Network - more photos available upon request

Orca Network
Susan Berta/Howard Garrett
360-661-3739 (cell)
1-866-ORCANET (toll free whale hotline)

Orcas are Coming to Puget Sound!

After spending most of the summer in the San Juan Islands, Southern Resident orca pods are likely to show up any day now venturing south into Puget Sound for the fall and early winter months. They typically travel down Admiralty Inlet to south of Vashon Island chasing chum salmon runs, often beginning around October 1st. The mammal-eating Transient-type orcas are also often seen year around in Puget Sound.

Orca Network has added a new map of north and central Puget Sound for volunteers and citizens to use to observe the whales from land-based viewpoints around the Sound, with descriptions of over 100 public viewing locations and directions to help find them. The new map is based on a Google map that can be zoomed in to each location, and can be accessed from this web page:

Since the Federal listing of the Southern Resident Orcas under the Endangered Species Act, Orca Network has been assisting NOAA Fisheries and the Center for Whale Research to help track the winter travels of the Southern Residents both in Puget Sound and along the outer coast.

Observers can help by calling in whale sightings immediately, so land-based observers can get out to see and photograph whales while they are in Puget Sound. Whale reports may be called in to Orca Network's toll-free number: 1-866-ORCANET, emailed to, or posted on our Orca Network Facebook page:

Whale sightings from the public provide critical information about the travels of whales, and timely reports enable Orca Network to alert researchers who can then obtain photo identification and prey and fecal samples from the whales during their visits into Puget Sound.

Please include species, location, time, direction of travel, approximate number of whales, and if there are any adult males (with large five - six foot dorsal fins). Also include any behaviors you may observe (breaching, spy-hops, feeding, etc). If you are able to obtain photographs, please send those to the email address above.

All sightings are in turn shared with researchers, agencies, and the public through our Whale Sightings Email list, Orca Network website and Facebook and Twitter pages.

This time of year offers wonderful opportunities to observe the orcas from the many miles of shoreline on Whidbey Island, the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas, and the inland waters of Puget Sound. For fifteen years, Orca Network's Whale Sighting Network has encouraged whale watching from shore, or from Washington State Ferries in the inland waters. The Orca Network website shows recent whale sightings as well as archives back to 2001, and now includes the new Sighting Viewpoints map.

The Whale Sighting Network and Orca Network website and Facebook Page also provide up to date information on the latest research and issues related to orcas, salmon, other cetaceans and their habitats, along with federal whale watching regulations and Be Whale Wise guidelines for viewing marine mammals.

To be on our Whale Sighting Network Email List and receive whale sighting information to improve your chances of observing whales off our shorelines, sign up on our website:

Howard Garrett of Orca Network says, "We are very fortunate to live in a place where we can look out from nearby shorelines and see those majestic black fins parting the waters. We are thankful for the hundreds of citizens who report sightings each year, providing valuable data to help in recovery efforts for the endangered Souther Resident orcas."

Susan Berta and Howard Garrett
Orca Network/Langley Whale Center


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