Some thoughts about L98, Luna,
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beginning September, 2003
Luna Fact Sheet
Many people are very interested in what happens to Luna, who is now lost, out of contact with his family and in danger in the far reaches of Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
October 30, 2003
Orca Network News Release
Contact Susan Berta or Howard Garrett
Today's news release from Canada's Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans has a "good news" title - that Canada is finally willing to put money toward Luna's relocation; but the real news and outcome of this poorly informed decision is that DFO is still stalling Luna's return, and forcing him to spend another winter away from his family, which will make any real attempts at his reunification much more difficult and could be a death sentence for Luna, given threats that are out there (see email we just received below the news release).
It is simply incomprehensible that DFO could now be saying that after consulting with "experts" (though most of their own appointed, scientific panel believe Luna should return NOW!), they say it is best to wait until spring to return Luna to his pod. But last spring and summer, their reasoning was that he couldn't be returned during spring or summer because of boat traffic and human interaction opportunities.
DFO now has two viable plans for Luna's relocation in hand, and funding from both sides of the border to carry out the plans. Only one week ago DFO said they had everything they needed except the funding to move forward. Now they have the funding, but have come up with another excuse not to move Luna, an excuse that is in direct contradiction of their earlier reasoning that Luna should be moved during the fall/winter months. At this time it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that DFO has Luna's return or best interests at heart, and it makes it very difficult for those of us who would like to be raising funds to assist in this effort.
There is no reason for the US and Canadian governments to wait until next year to return Luna to his pod. Luna's immediate family will be in the area through January, possibly into February. Luna doesn't need an extended period of time in a net pen before being moved, and the move could be made quickly, getting him here by the end of November or early December, giving him several months to connect with L pod. If there are no interactions with L pod during these months, J pod remains in the inland waters throughout the year, and there is good reason to believe Luna would hook up with this extended family until L pod returns next spring.
What will be the next excuse? Will DFO EVER give the green light for Luna's return? How can we ask for contributions to a project that is being stalled every step of the way?
Here is the news release
Susan and Howard
October 26, 2003
Orca Network News Release
Contact Susan Berta or Howard Garrett
Senator Maria Cantwell, NOAA Fisheries, US Navy, and WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife partner to help Luna
Today Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, Northwest Regional Director of NOAA Fisheries Bob Lohn and WA DFW Director Jeff Koenings held a joint news conference to announce their combined effort to partner with Canadian Fisheries officials to bring Luna back to his family, L pod of the Southern Resident orca community. Lohn announced that $100,000 may be available immediately, with more funding likely after an appropriations bill is passed in Congress, possibly in two to three weeks. Sen. Cantwell also revealed that the Navy would participate in the project by helping with tagging and tracking, and may help monitor the Southern Residents year-round.
This development amounts to a breakthrough that may finally get some movement to transport Luna to where he'll hear his family in their normal travels in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and he'll have a chance to call to them and be heard. There is no record of a Southern Resident family member being rejected, and there is no reason to think that Luna will have forgotten his mom or his other relatives, or that they will have forgotten him. The reunion should go fairly smoothly, even if it takes a few days, providing Luna is promptly placed in an exposed location like Pedder Bay, and is allowed to go free as soon as there is an obvious vocal connection between him and his family. The precedent is of course the release of the two-year-old orphan orca Springer when she connected with her family and seemed eager to go with them.
Senator Cantwell has taken a creative and important step to partner with NOAA Fisheries, US Navy and WA DFW to jointly offer assistance to DFO in their efforts to bring about Luna's reunion. This cross-agency, cross-border collaboration is a testament to the widespread public appeal among the human residents around Puget Sound, the Northwest Straits, the Gulf Islands and Georgia Strait, and beyond to help Luna and in so doing help restore his family.
We applaud DFO's earlier decision to intervene and bring Luna back to his home waters this fall or winter. This is the perfect time for a reintroduction - his pod is still around, and it is the time of year where they travel throughout the sound, so are not in one place for any length of time (as opposed to the summer months when they can almost always be found off the west side of San Juan Island). This decreases the chance for Luna to become habituated to one marina or location, and makes it difficult for people to converge upon Luna or his pod; and there are less recreational boaters out and about this time of year as well.
Moving Luna now would give him time to readjust to life with his pod before they take off for the winter months. Waiting until next spring would not only endanger Luna's life through the winter, but would make the reintroduction more risky by placing him back with his pod when they are most subject to interaction with humans and boats.
There are also several compelling scientific purposes served by reuniting Luna with his family. If he is radio-tagged his travels, and therefore his family's unknown winter itineraries, can be far better understood, which directly informs efforts to protect and restore the whales' habitats and prey sources. Considering the Southern Residents have been listed as “endangered” by Canada, and as “depleted” by NOAA Fisheries, and are in the process of being listed as “endangered” by the WA DFW, such critical information is invaluable.
As Bob Lohn pointed out in the press conference, there are further potential gains in scientific understanding to come from the project. Luna’s reunion may help show whether “orcas that have been accustomed to human contact can return to a condition where they don’t continue to seek human contact.” This could be important information for the prospect of returning the other “missing” L pod member, “Lolita”, who has been on display at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970.
In other words, Luna will help answer whether there is still a strong bond between him and his family and whether they will teach him to “just say no” to humans even in the presence of boats. Springer demonstrated all that and more, and presumably her resoundingly happy reunion with her family is contributing to the public’s confidence in Luna’s ability to resume a normal orca lifestyle.
The lifelong family bonds found among both male and female Resident orcas of the Southern and Northern communities are unprecedented in the annals of animal behavior, so it’s not surprising that public figures in the US and Canada are reluctant to base a high-profile rescue operation on the prospects that the lost juvenile will fully reintegrate with his family. We couldn’t expect that for virtually any land mammal save humans. But orcas are a special case. Luna, like Springer, can show people that orcas possess qualities we thought were limited to us.
Washington Senator Maria Cantwell today announced a bilateral cooperation between National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Washington Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Senator Cantwell’s office.
Luna may spend winter alone
October 24, 2003 (Seattle Post_Intelligencer)
Click here for the audio transcript of the October 8 Forum at the Seattle Aquarium to discuss the plan to relocate and reunite Luna with his family (Using Real Player or QuickTime).
From the Whale Museum regarding clarification of recent media reports on the Luna situation:
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has been receptive to two proposals to implement the plan to relocate L-98. The two groups that submitted these proposals are The Vancouver Aquarium, and the Seattle-based Global Research and Rescue. The Whale Museum submitted a proposal for Phase III with The Vancouver Aquarium. In this proposal the Vancouver Aquarium would be serving as the "principal" on Phase I (initial capture, transport and relocation) and Phase II (holding, tagging and release), and The Whale Museum serving as the "principal" on Phase III (post release monitoring and stewardship). The Whale Museum also sent in the Phase III portion of the proposal separately to DFO so that The Whale Museum could be considered as a sub-contractor for Phase III, whomever received the final contract.
It has been recently suggested in the press "that both groups that propose to move 4-year- old Luna have concluded spring could be a better time to make the move." For clarification, The Whale Museum has always maintained that releasing Luna this Fall was the best approach for success, and has not changed it's position. The Whale Museum does not think releasing Luna next Spring or Summer has as much chance for success. Left in Nootka Sound over the Winter again, for a third year, would further Luna's habituation to people and isolation from his own kind. In addition, the increase in boating traffic that he would be exposed to in Haro Strait during the Spring or Summer could severely distract his reunification and would make the logistics of the plan much more difficult and costly to implement.
The Whale Museum
Senator Maria Cantwell wrote a letter about Luna that was read at the Luna Forum October 8. A representative from Sen. Cantwell's office attended the public forum in Seattle to discuss efforts to rescue Luna.
Aquarium's plan to save orca orphan short funds
October 15, 2003 (Vancouver Province) The Vancouver Aquarium today will announce a proposal to help reunite Luna, the orphaned orca whale, with its family pod.
But aquarium spokeswoman Angela Nielsen said that so far, a "proactive" fundraising push has only raised $2,400 toward a rescue that could cost as much as $600,000.
"We're responding within the limits of our resources," she said. "We are non-profit and self-supporting, which means we can't afford to fund this entirely on our own."
The aquarium was putting the finishing touches to its plan yesterday afternoon before presenting it to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Nielsen said that when Springer, another orphaned orca, was rescued last year, the aquarium spent about $100,000 in the $600,000 operation.
She said Luna's rescue could cost about the same.
"It could be around that or a little bit less or a little bit more," she said. "Donations are coming in rather slowly. We're only at just over $2,400 so there's a long way to go."
In Springer's case, the female orca was taken from the waters around Seattle to northern Vancouver Island.
Luna has been living in the waters off Gold River for two years and has become too friendly with people.
People have poured beer down Luna's blowhole, and run-ins with boats last month left two deep gashes on the whale's head.
In May, a Gold River woman was fined $100 for petting Luna.
The DFO is looking to move Luna from Nootka Sound to Pedder Bay near Victoria where the whale can link up with its family.
"It's important to get going fairly soon because his family pod is there now and will be leaving the area in December," she said. "It's got to be soon."
Mark Pakenham of the Luna Stewardship Project said his group is looking at supporting the aquarium's proposal.
DFO spokeswoman Michelle Imbeau said more details should be announced today.
Groups plead for more time to arrange transfer of lonely orca Luna
October 13, 2003 (CanadaEast) If no one steps forward to move a lonely orca so he can rejoin his pod, the extreme options left for Luna are captivity or euthanasia, scientists say.
The clock runs out Tuesday for organizations with the expertise and deep pockets to move the four-year-old orca, but one group that's been watching Luna for more than a year says that's not enough time.
"I'm feeling less optimistic with each passing hour," said Mark Packenham, of the Luna Stewardship Project.
"We know that the captivity option is one that has raised a lot of interest from the captive industry. I think the public would go wild over a captive future for this whale."
It costs an aquarium about $1 million to buy a whale, but a captive whale is worth about $50 million in gate receipts, said Packenham.
The Vancouver Aquarium no longer has orcas after the city's parks board passed a bylaw banning them.
Luna has been living in the waters off Gold River, on Vancouver Island, for the past two years. The whale was doing well in his lonely environment away from his pod, but has lately become too friendly with people.
He's now become a nuisance animal and scientists are concerned he will injure or kill someone in his efforts to cozy up to humans. If that happens, like garbage bears who eventually attack, Luna would have to be put down.
"If an incident ever did take place where human life was at risk, then there was discussion of lethal force as an option," said John Ford, a scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
"But it's such a remote contingency that we're not really spending any time on it," he added.
People have reportedly poured beer down Luna's blow hole and tried to brush his teeth. Run-ins with boats last month left two deep gashes on his head.
The Fisheries Department issued its request for proposals to move Luna Oct. 3, giving anyone wanting to try the tricky and costly operation just over a week to respond.
By last Friday, no one had.
"The detail . . . and the implications in that reunification plan are fairly extraordinary," said Packenham.
"It's unrealistic to allow five working days to respond to such a comprehensive request for proposals."
The department is looking for an organization that would move the one-tonne whale some 250 kilometres down the coast from Nootka Sound to Pedder Bay, near Victoria. There, Luna would wait until his pod swims by and hopefully, make a connection to his long-lost family, which includes his mother.
Luna's pod is due in the neighbourhood sometime around December.
The plan is similar to the successful effort last year to move Springer from the busy waters near Seattle to northern Vancouver Island. She reunited with her pod after the $600,000 effort.
Ford said the complex operation requires a complicated and detailed set of obligations from any organization wanting to attempt the move.
"It's really whether a group can come forward with the right personnel and resources to implement the plan," he said.
"There's all sorts of different contingencies. It's really quite a complex operation, the whole idea of coralling or capturing this whale, holding him for medical screening, transporting him to southern Vancouver Island, holding him for a bit longer to adjust for the transport and then hopefully releasing him when his pod is going by."
The hope is Luna will find his own pod mates more fascinating than boats.
But Ford said it's hard to predict what's going to happen.
"I'm having a hard time putting odds on this. I'm optimistic, but at the same time, realistic in that there is such a different set of circumstances surrounding Luna as opposed to Springer."
Scientists and Luna watchers agree that unlike Springer, Luna is happy and healthy in his current environment.
Brian Gorman, of the National Marine Fisheries Service in the United States, said Luna's loneliness may even be perfectly normal.
"His problem is not health, it's not even location, it's people," Gorman said.
Waterfront meeting addresses proposed move of stray whale
October 9, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The plan to move Luna - a 4-year-old killer whale that has been bothering boats in Canada since he got separated from his U.S. relatives over two years ago - got an airing here Wednesday at the waterfront Seattle Aquarium.
Giving the stray orca a chance to rejoin his community means "we all have to work together," said Marilyn Joyce, marine-mammal coordinator for Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
She detailed her agency's requirements - disclosed for the first time last Friday - for removing Luna from Nootka Sound, on the west side of British Columbia's Vancouver Island, where he has posed increasing risks to himself and boaters over the past two years.
"The outcomes aren't sure here. There are no guarantees," Joyce said. But "we've got to get going."
Canada is accepting bids through Tuesday from those willing to try reuniting Luna with his family. The orcas usually stay in waters between the two countries, near Washington's San Juan Islands, chasing salmon through December and sometimes later.
Bob Lohn, regional director for the National Marine Fisheries Service, hinted at U.S. government financial support, perhaps including resources from a fund designed to cover stranding emergencies.
He also addressed liability concerns from one prospective bidder, saying that whoever takes on the project would be considered a "cooperator" and possibly eligible for government backup. "We'll work with you to give you the best protection federal law allows," he said.
Several in the audience expressed concern that the move was being made too late in the year, but researcher Rich Osborne from The Whale Museum on San Juan Island said that for the past four years, the U.S.-based whales remained in the inland waters into February.
"We thought very hard about this," he said, and in many ways making the attempt now is much preferable to a summer relocation, when the area is packed with boats. Last year, he noted, "all three pods were in Puget Sound in February."
And, Lohn noted, "we are where we are. ... We need to act quickly. There's a general sense of 'the sooner, the better.'"
Canadian officials decided to move the whale due to public safety concerns. Reuniting him with his family is secondary, the agency has said - and life as a solitary wild whale would be acceptable as long as he stays away from boats.
The detailed Canadian proposal provides for oversight of the whale through April if for some reason he cannot be released while his family, or "pod," is in area waters. If he cannot be released, the agency will seek "long term/permanent options."
Some raised concerns about those options, but Joyce urged a focus on the task at hand.
It's "a challenging deadline," said Marc Pakenham of Victoria, who's been overseeing the Canadian government-financed Luna Stewardship Project, monitoring the animal from small boats, for over a year. He was encouraged that fund-raising efforts are under way by his organization, the Vancouver Aquarium and The Whale Museum. "It looks like we're well on our way to developing a strategy for cooperating with any funds that we raise."
Costs are expected to be about $350,000 ($500,000 Canadian) - roughly the tab for last year's relocation of Springer, an orphaned Canadian killer whale reunited with her family after she strayed into busy Puget Sound. That move was declared a resounding success when Springer - also called A-73 for her birth order in A-clan - returned to Canadian waters with her family this summer.
Luna - also called L-98 for his birth order in L-pod - is to be captured and held in a net pen in Nootka Sound while he's tested for disease, and then moved by truck and/or boat to Pedder Bay near Victoria until he makes contact with his family.
A new complication arose this week when one of Canada's First Nations bands raised objections to removal of the whale and the possibility that it could wind up in captivity if reintroduction fails.
Killer whales are sacred to the Mowachaht/Muchalaht community, who believe wolves, the enforcers on land, and killer whales, the enforcers at sea, are sometimes the same, said Roger Dunlop, regional biologist for the 14-band Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council at Gold River, British Columbia, on Nootka Sound.
Chief Mike Maquinna's father, Ambrose Maquinna - who died just before Luna appeared in area waters - had said he believed he would return as a killer whale, Dunlop said.
Joyce said she was aware of the band's concerns.
"We do understand that this animal is significant culturally and spiritually," she said. "We hope we can resolve some of the concerns they have."
Native people feel spiritual bond with wayward killer whale
October 10, 2003 (Bremerton Sun) Citing spiritual reasons, a band of native people in Canada has spoken out against a plan to relocate Luna, the killer whale living alone in a Vancouver Island inlet.
Mike Maquinna, chief of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht band on Vancouver Island, told The Sun that it isn't always easy to talk about deep spiritual beliefs. But it is important for people to understand Luna's place in the world, he said.
"There is a power of the whale that has been offered to us," Maquinna said. "It is a story that needs to be told."
Maquinna's people first encountered the killer whale swimming alone in Nootka Sound the day after their elder chief, Ambrose Maquinna, died. He was Mike Maquinna's father and one in an ancient line of patriarchs.
Before his death, the chief expressed his desire to return to his people as a kakawin, or killer whale, a supernatural being of great significance to native people in both Canada and the United States.
Killer whales are the enforcers of the natural laws of the sea, just as wolves are the enforcers on land, according to a written explanation issued by the Mowachaht-Muchalaht community.
Said Maquinna, "The power of this being is really hard, perhaps, for someone working in the concrete jungle to understand."
It is important to understand the honor of having the kakawin present himself to the people of Nootka Sound, Maquinna said.
Maquinna said he presented the relocation plan with all its contingencies to his people Sept. 22.
"The community affirmed their spiritual and cultural ties to Tsux'iit and resolved that the whale be treated with the greatest of respect in all aspects of its life and our life," according to the written statement.
"It is unacceptable to the Mowachaht-Muchalaht people that Tsux'iit be incarcerated in an aquarium if the experimental relocation fails," according to the statement.
"We have consistently told people to remember to have high respect for the whale," Maquinna said. "We should let nature take its course. If the whale chooses to be here in this territory, then that is its choice."
If the government wants to intervene, the goal should be to keep people from bothering the whale, he said.
Maquinna said Luna has been expanding his travels as he gets older and may one day choose to leave Nootka Sound and search for his family.
A Whale Of A Move
October 8, 2003 (KOMO TV) As U.S. and Canadian officials and environmentalists met Wednesday night at the Seattle Aquarium they watched a short video of Luna the orca set to music. Marc Pakenham of the Luna Stewardship Project joked he hopes the next video is set to "I'll be Home for Christmas."
After two years of wrangling between U.S. and Canadian groups government agencies finally laid out the plan to move L-98 from Nootka Sound to Pedder Bay near Sooke, B.C. on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Marilyn Joyce of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans explained Canada's proposal Wednesday night in Seattle to a group of about 100 people involved in the effort to reunite Luna with the L-pod.
"I hope we don't see these young whales leaving their pods anymore because it distresses us all," said Joyce. "But I think we just have to take one step at a time."
Orca watchdog groups have been distressed for months because those steps have come more slowly than they would prefer. The L-pod could leave its home range of the San Juan and Gulf Islands in mid-winter and head to the open ocean. The goal is to get Luna within vocal range of his pod, and his birth mother L67, before that happens.
"We all care for Luna. That's why we're here," said Howard Garrett of Orca Network. "We want the best for that little guy."
Band claims spiritual bond with lost orca
October 8, 2003 (Vancouver Province) Natives oppose plan to return Luna to his pod
Members of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht band are telling fisheries officials to keep their hands off Luna the killer whale because he has a strong spiritual connection to one of their dead chiefs.
The Gold River band is angered that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans plans to capture the isolated L Pod orca from Nootka Sound and ship him to the San Juan Islands to be reunited with his family. Chief Mike Maquinna said officials have made little effort to consult with his band about Luna's future.
"[People are jumping] to conclusions, and also to feel or think that they know what's best for it," Maquinna said yesterday. He said Cuuxitt, as the natives call Luna, appeared in his band's territory at about the same time that his father, Chief Ambrose Maquinna, died more than two years ago.
Orcas and wolves are revered in coastal First Nation societies as carriers of the souls of individuals and chiefs.
Forum about Luna's return set for tonight
October 8, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) How should the young orca Luna be reunited with his pod near the San Juan Islands?
As Canadian officials await proposals for how to accomplish the task, the public is invited to a forum tonight in Seattle to discuss the planned reunification.
The forum, featuring speakers from the Canadian and U.S. governments as well as environmental groups and the whale-watching industry, is scheduled from 7-9 p.m. at the Seattle Aquarium, Pier 59 on the Seattle waterfront, 1483 Alaskan Way.
More information is available at 360-678-3451 or at email@example.com
A reunion for Luna?
October 8, 2003 (Seattle Times) Fisheries agencies from the U.S. and Canada will meet with the private Luna Stewardship Project and Whalewatch Operators Association in Seattle this evening to discuss what to do about the 4-year-old orca nicknamed Luna. Authorities would like to reunite Luna with his family in Washington waters.
Today's meeting, 7 p.m. at the Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59, 1483 Alaskan Way, is open to the public.
For a couple years, Luna has been frolicking solo up north, on the west side of Vancouver Island in Canadian waters and outside the normal boundaries of his pod. Authorities are weighing options for reuniting him in Washington waters with his group, known as L-pod.
L98/"Luna" Public Forum Oct. 8th in Seattle
Donate to the Luna Stewardship Project:
Veins of Life Watershed Society/Luna Stewardship Project
1153 Esquimalt Rd
Victoria BC, V9A 7J5
The Vancouver Aquarium Luna page includes information on how to donate to help Luna.
Tax deductible donations in the U.S.:
The Whale Museum/Luna Stewardship Project
PO Box 945
Friday Harbor, WA 98250
Luna plan requires plenty of loonies
October 7, 2003 (Bremerton Sun) The rush is on to recruit experts, mobilize equipment and raise money to bring Luna, a lonely killer whale stuck in Canada, home to his family in Puget Sound.
Environmental groups are exuding optimism, yet a shortage of time and money threaten to sink the rescue project before it gets started.
The Canadian agency called on private organizations in the United States and Canada to submit proposals. The deadline: Monday of next week.
"They've put a short fuse on this thing," said Ken Balcomb, a longtime whale researcher who helped develop the plan. "I think they put that out to see if any save-the-whale organizations can come up with the expertise and money."
Balcomb, who runs the Center for Whale Research in the San Juan Islands, said the Canadian government has decided to act quickly, apparently because Luna is rubbing up against boats and even seaplanes, creating a safety risk for people and himself.
"I'm personally disappointed that DFO didn't take us up on our offer to do something in the spring," he said.
Balcomb said he wanted to try "behavioral modification" to extend Luna's range of travel and discourage him from bothering people.
Now, if someone doesn't come up with a plan quickly, Luna could be headed for an aquarium "or some sort of jail," Balcomb said.
Funding sought for whale move
October 7, 2003 (King 5 News)) The Canadian government says that it has no money to move L98, Luna, to a position off south Vancouver Island, to link up with his home pod.
The U.S. national Marine Fisheries Service also says they have no cash.
"The long and short of it, is there's unlikely to be any U.S. Tax money available for the Canadian Side of this operation," said Brian Gorman of the Natioinal Marine Fisheries Service.
Orca rescue: the price of saving Luna
October 7, 2003 (Seattle Times Editorial) But it will have to be without major financial support from either the Canadian or U.S. governments. The two governments last summer successfully reunited Springer, a 2-year-old orphan orca that had wandered into Puget Sound, with its family pod off Vancouver Island.
Plenty of reasons to take Luna home
October 7, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial) It's risky but right to reunite an orca with his family, which spends much of its time in Puget Sound.
The Canadian government wants bids from groups that can safely move Luna back toward his old neighborhood.
The Canadian decision came after considerable study. Authorities had become increasingly concerned about Luna's dangerous attraction to people and boats in Nootka Sound along the coast of Vancouver Island.
Luna will be safer if he can reintegrate into a normal social life with other orcas, rather than habitually seeking human companionship. His return would also augment the dangerously low numbers of orcas here.
The most immediate challenge is for groups interested in Luna to raise an estimated $500,000 in cash and in-kind contributions needed to move him. Because of killer whales' importance to the region's ecology, it's a worthy cause. Cooperation among as many interested parties as possible would help. But assistance from the Canadian and U.S. governments could ease the fund-raising challenge.
The Canadian plans envision the possibility of putting Luna in captivity, if he starts hanging out in the middle of Puget Sound's heavy vessel traffic. That is one of the risks in a plan that has no guarantees.
But the successful return of Springer to her family in British Columbia offers plenty of reason to try to help Luna and his family.
Wrangler hopes to help with wayward whale
October 6, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Luna is the 4-year-old orca that strayed into the remote waterways of northwestern Vancouver Island two years ago, but that belongs to a group of whales that frequent the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound.
Canadian officials announced Friday that they are accepting proposals for how to capture and transport Luna so he can be released into the company of his family, or pod.
Foster said he thinks it will be a fairly simple matter to snare Luna. "He has become so habituated toward people that I think he shouldn't be any problem at all."
Although some have criticized the Keiko release because the whale never was reunited with his family, Foster said the project provided invaluable experience for him and his team. For example, they learned a great deal about attaching tracking devices to whales.
"It brought a tremendous amount of exposure," Foster said. That helped foster a public adoration of killer whales.
That sentiment was strongly in evidence last year when a young, sick and apparently lonely young orca showed up in the waters off Vashon Island. Later identified as Springer, the offspring of whales that reside in Canadian waters, the whale after several months began seeking the company of boaters and incessantly following the Evergreen State ferry.
A public forum to discuss the plan to move Luna will be held at the Seattle Aquarium, on Pier 59 on the Seattle waterfront (1483 Alaskan Way) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. For more information, call the Orca Network: 360-678-3451 or www.orcanetwork.org.
Whale of plan would reunite Luna with pod
October 5, 2003 (Victoria Times-Colonist) The newly released plan to move a killer whale from Nootka Sound south to Pedder Bay offers the young orca the best chance to reunite with his family, says a senior federal marine mammal scientist.
"I'm hopeful. I still have some optimism that it can happen," said John Ford, from Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. "I think it's the best we can do."
The plan was created by the Fisheries Department, a Canada-U.S. scientific panel, and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. Proposals will be scrutinized based on whether they have the necessary expertise, resources and infrastructure, Marilyn Joyce, the fisheries department's marine mammal co-ordinator for the Pacific region, said Friday.
If Luna becomes a threat to human safety then the possibility is there that he could be put in captivity. The plan also allows for Luna to be killed if someone's life is in danger.
Canada invites bids on one whale of a job
October 4, 2003 (Seattle Times) Canada's 10-page plan for reuniting Luna the killer whale with his U.S.-based pod went out for bid yesterday, with an Oct. 13 deadline for applications from those willing to tackle the project.
"The clock is ticking now," said Mark Pakenham, whose Canadian government-financed Luna Stewardship Program has been monitoring Luna for more than a year, watching his increasingly dangerous interactions with boats in Nootka Sound on the west side of British Columbia's Vancouver Island.
"They're looking for the save-the-whale community to save the whale," said veteran whale researcher Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island.
The Vancouver Aquarium, which helped in Springer's release, has already started raising money for the move, spokeswoman Angela Neilsen said.
Relocation costs likely would be comparable to the $500,000 in cash and in-kind contributions required for Springer's relocation, DFO spokeswoman Lara Sloan said.
The proposal calls for capturing the 4-year-old whale in Nootka Sound and placing him in a net pen for tests to confirm his apparently robust health.
Recent underwater tape recordings confirm that "Luna still speaks southern-resident-community whale," said Fred Felleman of the Orca Conservancy in Seattle. "He's retained it even without anybody to talk to."
And his U.S.-based pod is in the area, Balcomb said.
Finally, orca may be going home
October 3, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) After two years of inaction and weeks of official indecision, the Canadian government today plans to say a young American orca lost in the back bays of Vancouver Island should be reunited with his pod near the San Juan Islands.
But formidable obstacles remain.
The most pressing is money. Neither the Canadian nor the American government plans to sink any real cash into the venture.
They're leaving it to environmental groups or others to raise a yet-unknown amount that could total $250,000 or more to move and release the killer whale.
And there's no guarantee that the 4-yearold orca known as Luna will stay free after that. He's developed a nasty habit of rubbing and even bumping boats that, if it persists, could lead to him being recaptured and put in an aquarium, according to the Canadian government's draft plan.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans already is drawing fire from environmentalists, who have said since spring that they needed advance notice to raise money for the operation. Luna's pod generally heads out of the area sometime between November and March.
Today, the agency intends to announce a plan that outlines those details, said agency spokeswoman Lara Sloan.
Big move for lonely killer whale
October 02, 2003 (CBC) The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has announced plans to reunite Luna – the lonely orca – with his pod in Juan de Fuca Strait.
Canadian officials are now consulting with their U.S. counterparts, as Luna's pod swims in both Canadian and American waters.
The DFO says it's hoped Luna can be moved before December.
If attempts at reunification fail, the DFO says it may consider other options, including captivity.
If no takers for Canada's plan, Luna to be captive
October 02, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) (link expired) Canada will try to reunite a stray American killer whale with his family, but if no one volunteers to take on the reunion costs and complications, the orca could wind up in a tank.
Few details of the plan to reunite Luna and his family now salmon-fishing in waters between Washington state and British Columbia have been officially released.
But Canada's cover letter on the proposal sent from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service for input made plain what could happen if Luna does not leave Nootka Sound on the west side of Vancouver Island.
"If no parties come forward with an acceptable proposal to relocate this animal, DFO may have no choice but to seek a captive placement," Paul Sprout, DFO's associate regional director general, wrote in his Tuesday letter to NMFS's regional director, Bob Lohn.
Yesterday's announcement that DFO is moving forward to relocate Luna to his pod was good news, but we need your help to make it happen.
DFO and NOAA Fisheries have both stated full funding is not available for this project, and donations from the public will be desperately needed to make things happen.
PLEASE, if you can help at all, send a donation to one of the Luna Funds (see contact info. at bottom of message). And share this with anyone you know who might have connections with people willing to help, or who are able to contribute to bringing Luna home.
Also, we need to let DFO and NOAA Fisheries know that this needs to happen NOW! We cannot stall this any longer, Luna needs to be brought back immediately to give him the best chance at reuniting with L pod while they are still in inland waters. US and Canadian Governments, researchers, and non-profits all need to work together to come up with a plan and proceed quickly - let's not set Luna up for failure by waiting until December when L pod will not reliably be around. And we need to be ever vigilant that this intervention doesn't lead Luna straight to a tank. There are other alternatives that need to be considered should the reintroduction not work immediately, but most importantly, we need to get Luna back now so there will be time for him to connect with his pod.
(contact info. below, should you wish to send your thoughts or ideas to DFO and NOAA).
And you can now hear recordings of Luna's calls, recorded by the Luna Stewardship Project and posted on the Reunite Luna website.
It is encouraging to know that Luna is using the calls of his clan, and it bodes well for a successful reunion with his pod.
For the latest Luna News & Updates, visit reuniteluna.com and Orca Network's Luna page and Orca Network's Luna forum page
We'll keep you updated as more news comes in -
Susan and Howard
More Delays In Plan To Rescue Luna
September 30, 2003 (KOMO-TV News) There are more delays in the plan to rescue Luna, the killer whale stranded in waters off British Columbia.
Critics warn he's running out of time to be moved back to Puget Sound because of bureaucratic red tape. And they worry more delays mean a greater chance Luna could wind up in captivity.
Luna is a problem. He knocks boats around and wrangles for attention. It's dangerous for both Luna and the boaters.
Scientists agree, sending him back to his orca family in Puget Sound could solve that problem.
But the plan is bogged down.
The plan is simple: Capture Luna in Nootka Sound, keep him in a net pen there for a week to check his health. Then move him south to another pen near Victoria. And then hope, he reconnects with his orca kin.
Early Tuesday, Canada said it was waiting for the U.S. to OK that plan. In the U.S., NOAA Fisheries said they don't have any plan from Canada.
Then by Tuesday afternoon, NOAA spokesman Brian Gorman said: "Just before I came up here I checked my e-mail, I had something from DFO's public affairs office that said you'll receive something from us shortly."
Luna letters a mistake
October 1, 2003 (Victoria Times-Colonist) Despite letters sent by the federal government announcing plans for the solitary orca, no decision has actually been finalized concerning the fate of Luna.
Confusion was created when those letters were accidentally posted, announcing different decisions.
Some correspondence with concerned citizens said that Luna, L-98, will stay where he is in the waters off Gold River while others letters said the decision has been made to move him, said Lara Sloan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada communication officer.
Neither communication was correct, she said from Vancouver Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, negotiations were continuing with U.S. government representatives to finalize a plan to move the four-year-old orca from Vancouver Island's west coast to join up with his pod, which spends summer months in the waters off southern Vancouver Island and Washington state.
Luna to be captured
September 29, 2003 (KING5 News) A decision has been reached to catch Luna, the orphaned whale, who has been hanging around people and boats, and place him in a pen before moving him closer to his pod.
Peter Ross from Fisheries & Oceans Canada, who is on the Scientific Panel, said Monday that Luna will be placed in a seaside net pen at Nootka Sound for seven days. This is to allow scientists and veterinarians to ensure he has no infections or diseases that he could spread to the southern resident whales.
After moving him south, Ross said Luna would be placed in a pen there for another seven days to conclude all tests and make sure he is healthy before his release.
During this time, Luna should be able to hear his pod.
There is some optimism and many experts believe Luna will re-adopt his family, but some critics say this operation may not be as successful as Springer's reintroduction. Springer, an orphaned whale found in Puget Sound, was successfully reintroduced to her pod.
Marc Pakenham from the Luna Stewardship Project said that he believes that Luna would prefer to spend time with his own species, not with boats.
September 24, 2003
This was posted on DFO's Luna page today:
The scientific panel convened today to finalize an approach to reintroduce Luna to L-pod. This plan is very complex and we are pleased with the progress that was made. This plan will now be submitted to DFO senior officials for consideration. We hope to announce a decision early next week.
Luna is four years old September 19! You'll find his birthday party at reuniteluna.com
To: Marilynn Joyce, DFO
From: Peter Hamilton, Lifeforce, 604-649-5258 or 669-4673
Re: Plea to Keep Luna Free. Another Dolphin Stops Human Interactions.
On behalf of the Lifeforce Foundation I urge you to immediately return Luna to her L pod family. Please do not be influenced by pro aquarium forces who want to exploit this situation for financial gains. As they alleged with Springer, who was not on the verge of dying, they will claim that due to her behaviours she should be put in captivity. Once in an aquarium prison she would not be freed.
When dolphins are reunited with their own species they will stop interacting with humans. A False killer whale has stopped this type of rare behaviour even though she has not reunited with other pseudorcas.
False killer whale stops interaction on her own
In addition to Springer who was successfully returned to the A pod and stopped interactions with humans, there is evidence that a lone False killer whale has also stopped similar behaviours. For the past seven years this dolphin has actively pursued boats. Most of her life involved following boats. In 2003, the dolphin had stopped living off the Roberts Banks area and had been reported as far as Alaska this May and June. Since this dolphins return to waters near Vancouver on August 2, I have observed a dramatic decrease in her boat following activity. While he or she may occasionally engage boats for a few minutes, in general, she ignores boaters. It appears that this dolphin has broken any habituation and/or opportunistic behaviour without any human intervention.
Please advise us of your decision. Lifeforce has offered to supply equipment, such as our trailer command post and 28research vessel. Feel free to call us.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada,
I forward this to you to again express to you my sincere exasperation with your pace of movement regarding assistance for Luna (L98). You MUST allow him to be reunited with his pod. Giving him every opportunity to do so is the only right thing to do!!
Dear "As It Happens",
Having listened to your interview with Ms. Marilyn Joyce from the DFO, may I ask that you consider interviewing someone who wants Luna to be reunited with his pod for another perspective to his situation?
While Ms. Joyce claims to be concerned about Luna's situation, those of us who have been writing for months to plead with the DFO to begin the process can't get a straight answer from them. We are told that they are having "meetings" but are not told anything else except that they have another meeting planned. In the meantime, Luna has been injured twice, assaulted and insulted by a number of selfish and ignorant human interactions. He continues to be a tourist attraction for Muchalat Inlet. Luna has learned any number of behaviors that will do him no favor in the wild should the DFO allow him to return to that world. Had the DFO truly been concerned with what the "right thing to do" was, Luna would have been returned to his pod last year. The process for reunification must begin NOW. Luna has much to remember, much to unlearn and no more time to wait for more meetings.
DFO Minister Robert Thibault and the rest of the DFO have been told by a number of oceanic scientists and experts that Luna has a very good chance at reunification because he is in good health and his mother is still alive. This is of course the total opposite of Springer's situation, who by the way is now doing beautifully living the life that she was intended for. So why the hold up for Luna? That's a very good question, one which we can not seem to get an answer for. Professional experts, volunteers and financing is available to help Luna in the same ways that Springer was aided. The only thing lacking is the official "go ahead" from the DFO. The question of "why" is one that is totally ignored by them.
Please consider interviewing some experts like Howard and Susan Garrett from Orca Network, Michael Harris from the Orca Conservancy, or Dr. Paul Spong from OrcaLab. I'm sure any one of them would be happy to give you a counter point to Ms. Joyce's point.
Thank you for your time!!
Tracy, Missouri USA
Boat-loving killer whale causes problems for town
September 12, 2003 (National Post) Luna the lovable orca may soon be reunited with its pod of whales.
The curious killer whale has become so enamoured of boats and boaters in B.C.'s Gold River that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is now thinking of repatriating Luna to the U.S. San Juan Islands.
"That's the hope, but we have to re-evaluate," Fisheries communications officer Lara Sloan said yesterday.
"It's starting to interfere with everyday life in Gold River."
The department's advisory scientific panel will reconvene next week to devise a reunion plan, but hasn't decided yet whether to proceed.
Ms. Sloan said time is an issue, since the L pod is relatively easy to find now in its island feeding grounds, but will soon depart for the open ocean.
There is a perfect small cove just yards north of Iceberg Point on Lopez Island, for Luna to be held before release and re-unification to his family.
What is the point of DFO announcing that "No decision" has been made? Do we need to be informed of what we already know?
I will not hold my breath for a decision, as I would surely die. And this is the fate of poor Luna's future at the hands of DFO's decision making ability.
The hour draws near for DFO's accountability.
"Captain Hollywood" Dale Martinis
ALERT: Luna's situation has the attention of Washington State Senator
Maria Cantwell's office. Please contact her office immediately and say that you support reuniting Luna with his pod. Please help now! Call, email AND fax today. We want to flood their office with Luna news: Tel: 202-224-3441;
Fax: 202-228-0514; Use this convenient email form If you
are a Washington St. resident, please get your friends and family involved
ORCA NETWORK RESPONSE TO DFO's NEWS RELEASE of September 10.
The Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada news release of Sept. 10th somewhat strains DFO's credibility, as DFO stated weeks ago that "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." After two years of conference calls and meetings, there doesn't appear to be any movement or intention to move to help Luna at all, only promises to do so, or the promise of more meetings before a decision is made.
What is needed now is action, not more meetings and conference calls. Considering the planning that will inevitably go into any actual action, there will be days or weeks of delay even after a decision is made and announced. The time to act is NOW - any further delay places Luna and the public at great risk.
We understand the need to assess the risks involved with a relocation and reintroduction process, but DFO and others have been assessing these risks all along. At this time it seems the risks involved with leaving Luna in his current situation are equal to or greater than the risks of relocation - at least with relocation, Luna has a good chance of rejoining his pod which is likely the only way we can prevent his interactions with boats, seaplanes and people.
There are many individuals, organizations and businesses willing to help financially and/or provide the resources needed for a relocation effort, and DFO is aware of many of these offers and resources. NGO's on both sides of the border are ready to raise additional funds as needed, and Whale Watch operators have stated they will stay away from L pod, and Soundwatch and others can be deployed to keep private boats away should Luna be returned. Alternatives such as a bay pen for Luna have been offered should the reintroduction not happen immediately upon his return.
It is critical that DFO take action NOW, before it is too late for a relocation this season. The past four years L pod has stayed in the inland waters into December or January, but historically they have left the region at the beginning of October. We are hoping they will again remain in the area through January, and with record salmon runs it is likely they will.....but the move needs to happen as soon as possible to give Luna his best chances at rejoining L pod. We plead with DFO to act now before it is too late.
Howard Garrett and Susan Berta
Fisheries & Oceans Canada
L98 (Luna) Updates
September 10, 2003
DFO has reconvened the advisory scientific panel to discuss potential intervention options to reintroduce Luna to his pod. DFO has not made a decision at this time, but is prepared to consider reintroduction if the panel can present options to deal with possible risks.
Lunas behaviour has deteriorated. Scientists report that he is more assertive and energetic in his interactions with boats. Together with the panel we are considering public safety and the likelihood of a successful re-introduction. The purpose of todays meeting was to discuss what an intervention plan might look like. We need to ensure that all possible risks and obstacles are accounted for so the whale and the public would not be put at risk should an intervention be attempted.
L98's interaction with boats is increasing and is causing damage to property and putting a strain on normal daily operations in Gold River. While L98 remains in good health, this behaviour is causing concern. The public is asked to review public notices and warnings regarding interactions with the whale and other marine mammals to ensure their safety as well as Luna's.
The panel will re-convene next week to review the advice and options put forth.
At 11:43 AM 9/6/03, Will Anderson wrote:
One of the many considerations left out by Marilyn Joyce in her response to you (below) is the return of Luna to US waters while his natal pod is here. Yes, there is indeed a higher density of human population/activity in US waters, but the other side of that coin is that we also have far more resources for patrolling, monitoring, educating through the media as well as the resources of NGO/GO/ and private business organizations.
Luna needs the support and benefit of his family for the best chance of survival. DFO appears to wholly exclude NMFS, which also bears responsibility for active negligence. It may be that the real stumbling block to Luna's rescue is the unacceptable, stranded political relationship between NMFS and DFO. Perhaps that is the real reason Marilyn Joyce of DFO does not mention anything about getting Luna into US waters.
To date, DFO's biggest contribution to Luna has been enabling his deterioration. It is now September 6.
Feel free to print this if you'd like. I think DFO/NMFS needs to confront our challenges regarding Luna in a public forum.
Orca Recovery Campaign
From: "Judy & Dave"
Date: Sat, 6 Sep 2003 11:48:14 -0700
Subject: Luna Bay Pen ?
This Luna "Bay Pen" option really intrigues me. Not only for Luna, but possibly for Toki or any other Orca that could be deemed fit for reintroduction to the wild.
While I'm not an expert, I can't help to feel that unless the bay pen area has been approved and is ready to go, DFO will not consider that as an option.
When Paul Spong came to the "powers that be", he showed them the bay he had for Springer. That seemed to be the last convincing decision for the plan. That's why I'm thinking that while DFO has to decide to allow the relocation, like Hertz has to allow Toki to leave, waiting for NMFS and/or DFO to find a location, it won't happen. Someone has got to step up to the plate with a solid location and plan. They do not want to make a bad situation worse.
While Vancouver Island has more remote property, I see no way around not having a bay pen located in the San Juans / US waters as the only option. There is simply too much red tape as seen in this Luna situation to manage a US resident Orca in Canada. It would not work. When I contacted Susan/Howard last year they mentioned a possible site on San Juan Island or Whidbey. San Juan Island seems the best place, closest to the residents, but there is so much private land, very populated and not a lot of bays, so I could see where that might be a challenge. Too bad there isn't a wealthy "nature considerate" person that owns one of the smaller islands that has a large bay that could be used. Those kind of people seem to value their privacy, so probably fear people coming to their private island to see Orcas. Does Ralph Munro have any contacts ?
DFO is being very cautious and don't want to be blamed for a relocation effort that didn't work. This bay pen option is truly an incredible opportunity not only now, but for future possibilities.
Sounds like Marilyn and the "committee" is well aware and I was very pleased to see the clarification that aquarium display was not one of the two options. If DFO could just feel comfortable that there was a solid option if the relocation didn't work, they wouldn't have such a hard decision to make.
Thanks for all you hard work !
Battle Ground, WA
DFO's initial decision on leaving an immature killer whale in the wild is not one I would entrust for the fate of my lost child. Especially in light of the Springer reunification success.
They have run out of time and will be held accountable, and in violation of their own marine mammal harassment policy
of ultimate captivity.
Ultimate captivity is why I was initially opposed to the Springer test as I was sure that was going to be the result. I was wrong
"Captain Hollywood" Dale Martinis
The little whale showed up lost in the Sound,
When asked when they'd help him, the Powers That Be said SOON.
A year went by and still the whale remained,
When asked when they'd help him, the Powers That Be said SOON.
When the little orphaned whale got hit with a stick,
The Powers That Be called for a meeting and said a decision would be coming SOON.
When the whale got cut once, then twice and was fed fast food and beer,
The Powers That Be said something has to be done, and we will, very SOON.
Before very long, the little whales family will be gone for the year,
And at this rate all we'll hear is SOON......very SOON.
How much more must we wait, the little whale and those who care about his plight,
Before SOON becomes TOO LATE?
A Big F.O.O.L.
Friend Of Orphaned Luna
Sent: Friday, September 05, 2003 8:28 PM
Subject: DFO Response, RE: Luna News Release
In response to your recent News Release, I would like to clarify
Fisheries and Oceans Canada's (DFO's) current position related to the Luna
DFO is evaluating whether or not intervention is the appropriate
course of action for Luna (L98). No decision has been made, but we are aware
of the time constraints and are working very hard to come to a conclusion as
soon as possible.
I want to assure you that DFO is focusing on two options: either
leave Luna in Nootka Sound or authorize an intervention to reintroduce Luna
to the rest of his pod in the waters off southern Vancouver Island.
However, we have identified that one of the risks of intervening is that,
if it failed, then there may be no other option than to place him in
captivity, as he can be a danger to himself and the public given his current
behaviours. DFO must consider both the protection of this whale and the
public. As you can imagine, this is not an outcome DFO would like to see.
DFO's earlier decision to leave him in Nootka Sound was made with the
intention of allowing him to remain a wild whale in an environment he is
accustomed to. I also want to assure you that DFO has not had any
solicitations or enquiries from aquariums or marine parks about taking Luna.
The situation in Gold River over the summer has been of growing
concern to all of us here at DFO. DFO Enforcement Officers have spent many
hours on the water with the Veins of Life Stewardship Workers to keep boats
and people away from Luna. Unfortunately, neither the public nor Luna are
co-operating, and Luna has become further conditioned to people and boats.
However, despite some minor cuts from pushing around boats, Luna remains in
DFO will announce a decision in this matter once the situation and
options are thoroughly assessed.
Marine Mammal Coordinator
Fisheries Management - Pacific Region
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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.