L98 (Luna) News Clips, Sightings Reports and Forum comments
Mom L67 with newborn baby Luna close behind, Sept. 1999. Photo by Susan Berta
Map of Luna's location compliments of John and Rene Halliburton
Craig McInnis' treatment of the problems surrounding Luna, the not-so-little orca, (Let's face facts: Luna is a danger to human beings) has a ring of common-sense and thoughtfulness to it, and I think it fairly represents prevailing opinions on what to do about Luna. The analogy of the nuisance bear is the model most people think of when they try to assess the situation.
The problem with that line of thinking is that orcas are far different from bears in some crucially important ways.
I understand that Luna is dangerous right now, even though there is no doubt he is just desperate for company, and sometimes a bit frustrated without it. The primary difference between orcas and bears, which may seem too subtle and invisible to appreciate, is that whereas bears operate largely on instinct and conditioned responses to food etc., orcas are members of specific cultures replete with traditions, social controls and rules of behavior. And Luna knows who he is. He just doesn't have any family members to guide his behavior, so he immoblizes helpless boaters for attention.
Here's where the solution to the problem comes in. That portrait of Luna may be hard to take in, but if Luna's cultural identity is accepted, a way to reduce or remove his mischief can be accomplished. He needs company, so give it to him. He won't "lose his fear of humans" because he never had any fear of humans, nor do any orcas fear humans. Certain, selected and trained people could be designated to keep Luna company, hold his interest and entertain him. I'm sure he'll be very creative, so it could be a challenge, but I'm sure people are up for it.
At some point there will be an opportunity to get Luna close to his family. Because he is a family member and will be remembered as such, there will be acceptance. I'm stating this as certainty fully aware that nobody really knows what might happen, but the vast weight of opinion is that it's too late for Luna to rejoin his family, or it will soon be, especially if we give him the company he craves. This is all based on the bear analogy, now known to be inadequate when trying to understand the behavior of an orca.
Let's face facts: Luna is a danger to human beings
Vancouver Sun (Canada.com)
September 02, 2004
If Luna were a bear, he would have been shot and killed long ago. Bears that lose their fear of humans and become a nuisance or a danger to the public are routinely dispatched in British Columbia by the hundreds each year.
But Luna is not a bear. Luna is an orca, which is the more socially acceptable name we have given killer whales in the past couple of decades.
Luna has not killed any humans yet, but the rapidly growing young whale has scared the bejesus out of more than one fisherman in Nootka Sound, while mauling their boats in the process.
The remarkable tolerance shown by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans toward Luna's dangerous behaviour reflects the radical makeover that has occurred in the public image of killer whales. No longer are they feared as the most efficient killing machines on the planet, capable of hunting in bloodthirsty packs to bring down the largest creatures in the ocean. Now the resident pods are viewed as docile, even fragile creatures that graze contentedly on salmon, while maintaining a life-long commitment to their families.
Marine mammal regulations that keep whale-watching boats from operating too close to pods are not there for the protection of bite-sized tourists, but to keep the whales from being overly harassed. In the same way that early studies of orcas quickly dispelled the stereotypical view of them as simply vicious killers, Luna may now be doing us all a service by stopping the pendulum of public opinion from swinging too far in the other direction.
Through his familiarity with humans, Luna is reminding us that killer whales are immensely powerful, wild creatures that should not be mixing with people, no matter how inspirational or awe inspiring they may be.
As a solitary juvenile whale, Luna is an oddity on the coast, where every resident whale has been catalogued over the past couple of decades. Luna was a member of the L pod. His mother is believed to be L67, known as Splash. He was born in September, possibly the 19th, in 1999. Two years later, he showed up by himself in Nootka Sound in July of 2001.
One theory is that he was with his uncle, Orcan, who died and he subsequently got lost. Since leaving his family, Luna has turned to people and their boats, apparently for amusement and companionship. It has not been a good surrogate, even though Luna seems quite satisfied to remain where he is.
Lately Luna has amused himself by smashing the rudders on boats and pushing them around. The boaters, some reasonably fearing for their lives, have not been so amused. Luna's solitary existence and his increasingly dangerous behaviour have severely tested our notions of how to react to resident killer whales.
A spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says there is no protocol for killing a killer whale that has become a menace to people. That sad end has been made more probable by arguments over how to deal with the solitary whale. After blocking earlier attempts to capture and reunite Luna with his family, the local First Nations band has now signed a "joint stewardship plan," under which they will be paid to try to keep Luna and people apart.
The band believes the lonely whale embodies the spirit Ambrose Maquinna, a former chief of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht who died shortly before Luna appeared. The stewardship plan, which was obtained earlier this week by the CBC, may lessen tension between the DFO and the local band, but it will not solve the problem posed by Luna.
As it stands, DFO is warning boaters to watch out for a hazard they really can do nothing about. If Luna wants to play, he can outrun almost anything afloat and even a gentle caress from the giant mammal can make a pretzel out of a rudder. But even without malice, Luna is a threat to people in boats. He is now so accustomed to humans that simply relocating him so he can be reunited with his pod may not be enough.
As with bears that learn to like dining out on garbage, Luna may now have habits that will make him a menace wherever he goes.
It's time to take action on Luna
September 2, 2004 (Victoria Times Colonist - Op-Ed by Ryan Lejbak) Ryan Lejbak is with the "reuniteluna" group. He wrote this with the support of Anon.org, Earth Island Institute International Marine Mammal Project, Free Willy Keiko Foundation, Luna Stewardship Project/Veins of Life Watershed Society, Orca Conservancy, orcagirl.com/ocean-society.com, Orca Network, OrcaLab/Pacific Orca Society, The Center for Whale Research, The Humane Society of the U.S., and The Whale Museum/Soundwatch.
Luna, the lone, friendly orca of Nootka Sound, is in trouble and needs help. Sensational news stories which focus on his encounters with boats have recently been published worldwide. They make much of the fear Luna has aroused in a few boaters. As a result, some people have called for Luna to be sent to an aquarium, or even killed.
Those options are neither acceptable nor necessary.
Many groups involved in the Luna saga believe there are better choices for Luna than captivity or killing.
Luna's friendliness toward people is unusual, but not unique. Whales and dolphins are social beings, and in the absence of their own kind they seek or accept substitutes, including humans.
Most stories about "solitaries" have disastrous endings. However, research shows that programs using boats with trained personnel to monitor the situation and prevent inappropriate human interactions are successful in protecting both people and solitary whales and dolphins.
Fortunately for Luna, the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have at last agreed to establish a full-time monitoring presence on the waters of Nootka Sound. We believe that such a presence is vital for Luna's survival.
However, we are concerned that the level of funding committed by the DFO is inadequate. Given the urgency, we hereby announce our willingness to assist in raising funds, and contribute equipment, volunteers, and scientific expertise to help make that effort successful.
Months of research we recently conducted on Luna's behaviour clearly indicate that he behaves pretty much like other orcas. He is a great hunter and he has a fabulous voice. He is not, in other words, abnormal. He is healthy, strong, playful. Certainly, he is missing the rich social life he would normally get from his family and community, but it is unfair to characterize him as "malicious" or to use words like "attack" in stories about him.
We believe that in the short term a strong monitoring and enforcement program will help address the immediate problems in Nootka Sound.
Additionally, we strongly urge that all organizations and individuals who care about Luna work together toward reuniting him with his family as soon as possible.
The southern resident community of orcas, to which Luna belongs, is also in serious trouble. Many of its members were captured in the 1970s for public display, and their numbers have declined significantly over the last decade. They are listed as endangered in Canada and in Washington state. Today their numbers stand at just 83.
Being endangered, Luna's community needs him. As a social creature, Luna needs his community. "Resident" orcas are among the most social beings on the planet. Individuals spend their entire lives within the family ("matriline") to which they are born. Luna's voice clearly identifies him as a member of the "L2" matriline, named after his grandmother. Knowing this, we fully expect that if Luna and members of his family hear one another, they will reunite.
This opinion is based on more than 30 years of orca observation, as well as the success of Springer, another solitary orca who was moved from the Seattle area to her home waters of northern Vancouver Island in 2002. Springer was welcomed back into her great aunt's matriline soon after her relocation. She is still with this family today, and has largely lost interest in boats. Last spring, before DFO's attempt to capture Luna in a net, we spent time and money attempting to achieve a more natural reunion, in which Luna would have been led toward his pod if it came near Nootka Sound.
First Nations approved our efforts. That attempt did not succeed, because Luna's pod did not come near Nootka Sound. However, we believe that such a natural reunion should be attempted again this fall, when Luna's pod travels back to the north.
This approach to reuniting Luna with his family simply holds the door open and offers him a choice. Orcas can hear each other through many kilometres of ocean, so if Luna's pod passes Nootka Sound it would be simple to offer him a choice by leading him just a short distance.
That lead-out might best be conducted by First Nations paddlers who have already established a powerful bond with Luna.
The Mowachaht-Muchalaht believe that Luna chose to come to Nootka Sound. He may choose to remain in Nootka Sound. But the door should not be closed on giving him the option of rejoining his family whenever the opportunities occur. Our conviction remains that Luna's survival depends on reuniting with his orca community.
A natural reunion will rely on both planning and luck. In order to improve the odds, Luna's pod should be tracked this fall as it leaves its summer waters.
It will not be easy to accomplish this, but for Luna's sake it should be tried.
The effort could also provide critical information that will help the recovery of the endangered southern resident population. We therefore urge DFO, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, and others to make the required effort.
We also urge the Mowachaht-Muchalaht people, who have shown courage and resolve in protecting Luna's freedom, to give him the additional freedom of choice if the opportunity arises.
As Chief Mike Maquinna said in a speech to his paddlers shortly before they took to their canoes to prevent Luna's capture: "It's not about us. It's about the whale."
Petitions supporting Luna's reunion, and urging DFO and First Nations to work together to protect Luna in the meantime, are at www.reuniteluna.com and www.anon.org.
Maturing orca endangers boats
August 28, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) 'Stewardship plan' aims to ease contact between Luna, public
Days after Luna, the lonely killer whale, damaged three boats during separate encounters off Vancouver Island's west coast, a Canadian fisheries official said yesterday that his agency will issue a formal "stewardship plan" early next week that spells out ways to ease contact between the public and the wayward orca.
In late June and early July, the Canadian fisheries agency's efforts were thwarted by the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, a local band that regards Luna as the embodiment of its late chief. During efforts to lead the orca into a holding pen for capture, members of the band paddled canoes nearby, leading the whale out to sea.
Since scrapping its plans, the fisheries agency is now negotiating with the tribe on a cooperative agreement for the whale, which remains undecided.
To some, though, such as environmental activist Fred Felleman, president of the Seattle-based Orca Conservancy, the Canadian agency "should have had active management in place" to deal with such issues much earlier.
Radford, the fisheries manager, yesterday disputed criticisms such as Felleman's, saying his agency and the tribe have made great efforts to educate the public about Luna. He noted "there have been a number of non-interactions" between Luna and boaters because of such action.
The tribe has posted warning signs, has restricted some dock access and has distributed brochures to the public about the whale, Radford said. And Fisheries and Oceans continually issues radio broadcasts over maritime frequencies, he said.
Still, Luna continues to seek out contact. And his latest encounters were highly publicized in Canadian media reports.
The Victoria Times Colonist carried an Aug. 21 story headlined, "Growing ever more wild, Luna menaces gillnetters." And The (Vancouver) Province characterized the whale's recent 12-hour encounter with a sailboat as an "attack."
Luna's frolics leave fisherman all at sea August 28, 2004 (Toronto Globe and Mail)
August 20, 2004
Hello Chief Maquinna,
In light of the recent information that has come out this week concerning Luna and his interactions with boats, I'm sorry to say that I don't believe that monitoring and public education will be enough to keep Luna safe. Clearly, his loneliness and want for social interaction is an additional issue that monitoring alone cannot solve.
I truly understand your concern and wish that Luna reunite with his pod on his own. For everyone who cares about Luna, and more importantly for Luna himself, this would be best. For whatever reason or circumstance, this hasn't happened. Luna cannot find his way back to the pod on his own, they haven't found him on their own and each year that Luna has spent in Nootka Sound has cost him more of his wildness. I am concerned and frightened that any more time away from his own family, his own culture and all that can teach and remind him what it is to be wild and truly free will be lost to him forever. It's an awful reality that we've come closer to as these last 3 years have passed. That along with the time that's yet to come for Luna living without the nurturing family structure that is natural to him, brings this reality closer still.
I also understand the importance that your family and your people feel for Luna in your traditions. The majesty and grace of these animals is a true gift to behold and you are so privileged and blessed to have such a rich history with them. Their role in your culture is honorable and profoundly moving but in saying this, I cannot help but feel a deep sadness. Your people have such high regard and respect for Luna and all Killer Whales but in traveling your path of sorrow for the loss of your Father, a path I have traveled myself, Luna's culture and his need seems to have become secondary to your own. I say this with no disrespect to you or your people but with genuine concern for Luna and what is happening to him. Your thoughts and beliefs of what brought Luna to Nootka Sound differ from my own but the reverence for him that we both feel, is the same. The bond and familial uniqueness these animals hold for one another is the foundation of their lives, what keeps them continuing and filling the ocean with their own songs. With all due respect to you, I believe deeply that this is more important than any feeling that we can have for them. They enter our world for a moment, but they are the world to one another for all time.
Human emotions have run high, angry words have passed and feelings have been hurt over the difficulty that Luna has found himself in and what can be done to help him. With much sadness, the importance of Luna's existence has become lost in the struggle of opposing opinions. As time for discussion passes for us, Luna's need for companionship, attention and affection increases, often putting him in great danger. He has obvious physical and emotional need for what we as humans cannot give him, while his family lacks the rich contribution that his inclusion to their society would bring. Luna has a role to play within that society that's more than simply additional genetics. It's the strength of their life bond that keeps them together through generations and their inherent need for one another that gives them the natural, peaceful rhythm of their lives. As difficult as it is for us to know what fills Luna heart and mind we do know that the life he leads now, alone and without the companionship of his own kind, is not a normal or healthy existence for a Killer Whale who was born to the culture and society that he was.
I sincerely ask that you join together with DFO and the NGO's to help Luna by returning him to the life he was meant to have, to the society he needs that also needs him. Luna cannot find his way back to his family on his own. It's not a path he knows to travel alone. His life is worth this effort and the sooner he can be reintegrated with his pod, the more stable and natural his life will be. I understand if you cannot join in the effort but I beg you, if you can't, please don't stand in opposition of it. Luna grows bigger, stronger and bolder just as a healthy male Killer Whale should. But in doing so, he also finds greater danger by depending on the companionship of human beings. Luna's need should be the most important issue that's considered. We have our families and each other from which to draw strength and solace when we are in need. Right now, Luna has no one. Please, reconsider your desire that Luna remain in Nootka Sound and that he have no assistance to find his way back to where he belongs. It will be devastating to us all if Luna should perish when we had the chance to help him but didn't. Returning Luna to his family is the right thing to do, for Luna, if not for us.
Peace be upon you.
Luna SHALL Be Free@Sea!!
Growing ever more wild, Luna menaces gillnetters
August 21, 2004 (Victoria Times Colonist) Fears are growing that Luna the lonely orca will be harmed by an angry or frightened boater or that the whale will accidentally hurt or kill someone on the water after a week of orca mayhem.
A gillnet fishery in Nootka Sound, off Vancouver Island's west coast, was thrown into disarray and two gillnet boats disabled by Luna Wednesday evening.
The thousands of dollars of damage to the commercial fishing boats and loss of fishing time for the owners came the day after Luna broke the rudder off an expensive sailboat and continued to play with the disabled vessel for 12 hours.
But, so far, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it has no plans to embark on another capture attempt and a yet-to-be-signed joint stewardship program with the Mowachaht-Muchalaht band will continue as the main method of managing the wayward whale.
Greg Savard, DFO director of conservation and protection, said he hopes the stewardship agreement will be signed next week, but in the meantime, some elements are already in place.
A brochure is being distributed on the Gold River dock by First Nations, more signs have been put up warning people to stay away from Luna and marine advisories are going out on the vessel traffic channel and the weather channel, he said.
Gillnetters in the area have had only five days fishing this year so far, so the loss of the day's fishing for the boats broken by Luna is a huge hardship, said Les Rombaugh, president of the Area D Gillnetters Association.
The next fishing opening for the gillnet fleet in Nootka Sound is likely to be in October, for a chum salmon fishery.
More has to be done to protect fishermen, recreational boaters and the whale, Rombaugh said.
"I think we have a very serious problem here. I'm afraid someone is going to get killed or someone will kill him," he said.
Most fishermen realize the orca is playing, but, financial consequences are escalating and people in small recreational boats may feel they are threatened, Rombaugh said. "It would be along self-defence lines."
The chinook fishery this week was a good one and anyone who missed out is probably looking at a $10,000 loss in addition to the cost of repairing the boat, he said.
Most of the gillnet boats are about 13 metres long and travel between 12 and 15 knots, but Luna was able to keep up, said one observer. Boats would set off at top speed attempting to get away, but Luna apparently regarded it as part of the game, said Rombaugh.
In June, DFO and scientists from the Vancouver Aquarium teamed up in an effort to catch four-year-old Luna in a net pen and truck him to Pedder Bay to reunite him with his pod.
But the plan was scuttled after members of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht, who believe the whale embodies the spirit of their dead chief, led Luna away from the net pen with canoes.
Chief Mike Maquinna could not be contacted Friday.
Savard said the question of Luna's future will be revisited this fall, although no date has been set. Options could include another shot at relocation.
In the meantime, although DFO is concerned about the safety of the whale and the public, liability does not fall on any particular group, he said.
"We look at this as a wild animal that we don't necessarily have any control over," he said. But, as Luna's love of boats intensifies, the chance of a successful reunion with his family is shrinking and fears are growing that he could end up in an aquarium.
Clint Wright, Vancouver Aquarium vice-president, who helped organize the aborted relocation, said he does not believe it is viable for Luna to remain in Nootka Sound, but it is increasingly unlikely he will give up his boat habit, even if he is with other whales.
"Whales don't live in a Disney sort of world and people who know whales say he will keep doing these behaviours over and over again," Wright said.
Wright is worried that Luna or a boater will get hurt. "It really is an accident waiting to happen . . . We all want a happy ending, but it's beginning to look like a dead end," he said.
B.C. First Nation proposing plan for Luna
July 8, 2004 (Globe and Mail) A B.C. First Nation is proposing a stewardship plan for a nuisance whale in Vancouver Island's Nootka Sound.
The Mowachaht-Muchalaht band wants to take the lead role in keeping Luna the lonely killer whale from interfering with boats and floatplanes.
Natives envision daily canoe patrols of Luna's habitat until mid-September.
Band leaders plan to meet tomorrow with the RCMP and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to discuss the orca's future.
The natives have been involved in a tug-of-war with the department over its plans to relocate the whale.
The DFO wants to capture and truck the whale to southern Vancouver Island, with the aim of reuniting Luna with his U.S.-based pod.
The natives believe the five-year-old whale embodies the spirit of a former chief.
A whale's story begs good ending
July 5, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial) We see the makings of a nautical soap opera: A lost orca and its pod.
In every episode there's a dramatic new twist to what was once a simple plot -- help a lost orca find its way back to its pod.
The story so far:
Luna, the overly friendly killer whale, has been declared a danger to himself and to the public. So, Canadian fisheries officials have been trying to relocate the 5-year-old orca some 200 miles south where he can hook up with his pod.
This plot -- simple as it sounds -- has become awfully complicated.
First there's the issue of a Native Canadian band because they don't want the whale captured. A native band believes Luna, who appeared in Nootka Sound in 2001 after separating from his pod, embodies the spirit of its late chief.
Then there's the love interest. Too many people "love" Luna in inappropriate ways. Just last week the friendly whale broke off a sailboat rudder in Mooyah Bay. Before that, Luna surfaced near a landing floatplane -- and he has become "dangerously friendly" with boats and people. All reasons to make the pod whole in far-off waters.
The problems raised by Canadian Native groups can be resolved -- and they should be, quickly. But that means true partnership -- listening to the concerns and finding solutions that work for Luna as well as for the other parties.
This story deserves a happy ending.
Danger issue grows after Luna damages boat
July 2, 2004 (Victoria Times Colonist) Luna, the orca in Nootka Sound who has been the subject of a tug-of-whale between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, has disabled a saiboat in the middle of Mooyah Bay.
The solitary killer whale, who has developed an affinity for boats and planes because he does not have other whales to play with, broke the rudder off the Georgia Dawn on Wednesday morning, meaning the boat could not be steered.
The coast guard responded to the incident and the boat was towed into the nearby Tuta Marina by the Wi-Hut-Suh-Nup, an aluminium boat belonging to the Mowachaht-Muchalaht.
Luna's behaviour has again raised fears about how the playful orca can be controlled as boating season picks up in Nootka Sound.
DFO decided earlier this year that the four-year-old orca should be caught, transported to Pedder Bay and released when his pod was within acoustic range, because he had become a danger to himself and the public.
However, the plans went awry because the natives, who believe Luna embodies the spirit of their dead chief Ambrose Maquinna, lured the orca away from the net pen in their canoes.
The plans are on hold until DFO and the Mowachaht-Muchalaht come to some agreement on the future of the whale.
The natives want to lead Luna down the west coast of Vancouver Island in their canoes to rejoin his pod.
DFO spokeswoman Lara Sloan said Luna's disabling of the sailboat is a reminder to everyone why it was decided to move him.
"This is not unusual behaviour for him and it is the reason why we wanted to go ahead with the relocation in the first place," she said. "He is a public danger."
Sloan said DFO wants to remind everyone to keep as far away from Luna as possible and not habituate him to human contact any more than he already is.
Shirley Andrews, owner and manager of the Tuta Marina, referring to the sailboat incident, said, "This happened last year as well and it's why I would really like to see him reunited with his pod.
"He's a baby. He's just playing. He doesn't mean to be a danger, but he is."
Luna also dislikes fish finders, ripping them off boats even if they are turned off.
"They emit some kind of wave which he doesn't like," Andrews said.
However, there are ways to avoid Luna when you are out in a boat, she said.
"You simply accelerate out of there and get away. If you happen to be fishing, you crank your motor and back out of there."
Luna the whale breaks boat's rudder
July 2, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) An overly friendly young killer whale that Canadian fisheries officials have been trying to relocate has disabled a sailboat.
Luna broke the rudder off a sailboat in Mooyah Bay on Wednesday. The Canadian coast guard responded, and the boat was towed into a nearby marina by an aluminum boat belonging to local Indians.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans decided earlier this year that, because Luna was a danger to himself and the public, the orca should be caught, relocated to a bay 200 miles south of here near Victoria, then released when his U.S. relatives were close enough for him to hear their calls.
But the plan was put on hold last week after a dispute escalated with local Indians who don't want the 5-year-old whale captured.
They believe the whale embodies the spirit of their late chief.
Luna's rescue turns into a tug of war
July 1, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) What started out as a well-intentioned rescue mission -- to capture a killer whale stranded in British Columbia and reunite him with his Puget Sound relatives -- has dissolved into a public-relations nightmare.
Forced to suspend the operation a week ago after running into stiff resistance from local Indians, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans is now being chastised by members of its own international advisory panel.
The plan to capture the orca, named Luna, was abruptly called off after a band of Vancouver Island Indians derailed the effort for more than a week by entering Nootka Sound in dugout canoes and drawing the whale to them by making a racket -- singing and banging paddles.
Critics say the aquatic tug of war waged by the Mowachaht/Muchalaht band with the government may have been averted had First Nation representatives been included in the planning process, as recommended.
"The band has a legitimate grievance here," said Paul Spong, a member of the advisory panel and executive director of OrcaLab, a B.C.-based research group.
The band's chief, Mike Maquinna, has offered to lead Luna down the Vancouver coast in canoes to reunite him with his family. He wants to see the original plan scrapped and the process started over.
Some of the advisory panel's scientists also supported the idea of leading Luna by boat.
"That was my plan from the beginning," said Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Friday Harbor-based Center for Whale Research. Catching Luna in a pen "wasn't the preferred way, as far as I was concerned. I don't think there was a consensus."
"I didn't see any threat to people," Balcomb said of past visits to see Luna. "He's in total control of himself and what he's pushing around."
Besides, he said, there are still relatives out in the ocean that could swim past Luna's location and possibly entice him back.
Luna rescue called off for now
June 25, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) Luna, the wayward killer whale, will stay put in Nootka Sound for the time being.
Maquinna said he hoped renewed negotiations would make things go more smoothly.
"The strength of our people was more apparent than anything," Maquinna said. "Our wish is that Tsuxiit is treated with respect."
The chief said he still supports the idea of leading the whale by canoe on a 140-mile journey down the west coast of Vancouver Island to meet up with his pod, but he is open to other ideas. His main objections have been to placing Luna in a net pen, moving him by truck and attaching a tracking device with pins through his dorsal fin.
"We'll get some rest and start talking next week," he said.
Plan to reunite Luna with whale pod is put on hold
June 25, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Plans to capture Luna and reunite the lone orca with his family in Puget Sound were postponed indefinitely yesterday by the Canadian government in hopes of settling differences with Indians opposing the action.
"We have had a number of discussions with them and have attempted to accommodate their needs and views in our operations," the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a statement.
"It is evident however, that further discussions are required, and in the interest of public safety and the well-being of the whale, we will be meeting with First Nations over the coming days to review options."
Members of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht band believe that a deceased chief spiritually inhabits the 4-year-old male orca, which arrived in their waters off Vancouver Island three years ago -- about the time of the chief's death.
Leaders of the band say they were not included in the planning of the capture and attempted reunification, which they find disrespectful.
Luna story takes on political overtones
June 24, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) Canadian government officials temporarily called off the tug-of-war involving Luna, a young killer whale on Nootka Sound. But the political and legal battle appears to be heating up rapidly.
Due to conflicts on the water, attempts to rescue Luna were halted Wednesday, but said Marilyn Joyce of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans the operations could resume at any time.
But local First Nations people say the whale, who they call Tsuxiit, should be allowed to swim free. Many believe Luna embodies the spirit of their dead chief, who passed away less than a week before Luna showed up in Nootka Sound. Keeping the whale in a net pen and moving him on a flatbed truck is especially offensive, they say.
With singing and drumming, the local natives of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht Band, or tribe, on several occasions managed to lead the whale away from the capture area, while fisheries officers keep trying to lure him back toward the pen.
Meanwhile, Mike Maquinna, chief of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht Band, has written letters the past two days to high officials in the Canadian government, asking that their aboriginal rights and beliefs be respected.
One letter specifically demands that Joyce be replaced as coordinator of the Luna relocation project. Maquinna said he has lost faith in her ability to communicate with him, the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people and the larger tribal government.
Maquinna said Joyce told reporters that the chief had agreed to a 500-meter exclusion zone for First Nations paddlers, but Maquinna says he did not.
"We are extremely concerned for the welfare of this whale that otherwise is perfectly safe in Nootka Sound if the public is kept away," he wrote.
Luna still elusive, stays near Indian canoes
June 24, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Luna continued to elude his Canadian captors yesterday, swimming with canoes paddled by Vancouver Island Indians who oppose plans to catch the wayward killer whale.
Members of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht, a neighboring band, claim the spirit of a deceased chief inhabits the orca. Since the capture attempts began last week, they have taken to canoes, singing and pounding their paddles to lure the orca away.
On Tuesday, officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans were able to repeatedly lead Luna with motorboats into underwater net pens.
But each time, the 4-year-old orca slipped out before the net was closed. It appeared that Luna, known scientifically as L-98, thought the exercise was a game. He would even push the lead boat into the pen and then escape.
At one point, he corralled three boats into his presumptive cage before slipping away.
Capture efforts are expected to resume today, and government officials and Indian leaders are still in negotiations.
Elusive Luna remains free
June 23, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Close, but no capture.
The elusive lone orca nicknamed Luna remained free last night, swimming in and out of an underwater net pen off the northwest coast of British Columbia's Vancouver Island before swimming off to join nearby Indians paddling canoes.
Canadian officials hope to capture him and house him temporarily in the pen before attempting to reunite the 4-year-old killer whale with relatives in Puget Sound.
Federal fisheries and Vancouver Aquarium officials called off their efforts for the night, but said they would start again today.
"We're getting reports every day that his family is swimming past the mouth of Pedder Bay," Clint Wright, aquarium operations vice president, said of the area where scientists hope to reunite Luna with his pod.
"Every day counts, really," said Wright, still wearing his wet suit. He said the crew allowed about 10 days for the capture and has used about half that.
Since the government set out to capture the orca a week ago, a local Indian band that opposes the plan has been out on the water, singing and pounding paddles on their canoes to lure the whale. The Native Canadians believe a deceased chief spiritually inhabits Luna, which arrived alone in their waters three years ago.
Canadian and U.S. government officials have been working on the relocation plan for months, driven by increasing concerns about the gregarious whale's safety. Film footage of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht band taken last week shows members patting and scratching the orca's head as it nuzzled up to their canoes.
"We've been blessed and honored in his presence and that he's (decided) to come with us," the Indian band's current chief, Mike Maquinna, said last night. "Obviously we are not going to stay here, we are going to head out in the opposite direction of the holding pen."
Luna plays hard to get
June 23, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) After a frantic day of cat and mouse on the wind-tossed waters of Nootka Sound, Luna swam away from the capture pen that he had entered several times late Tuesday afternoon.
In the end, Luna went back to a pair of canoes, in which the native paddlers were singing and drumming and doing their best to draw him away.
Luna seemed to be enjoying the game. He often pushed the lead boat inside and then escaped. Once, he had all three boats inside the pen before making his getaway.
"As we sat here and talked and regrouped, I told the people how proud I am," Maquinna said.
"Generation after generation," Maquinna said, "we have learned that you don't play with nature."
Luna still eluding would-be captors
June 18, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) For a second day, an orca stranded on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island eluded the Canadian captors who are trying to reunite him with his Puget Sound family.
Luna followed an inflatable Canadian fisheries department boat about halfway back toward a series of underwater net pens yesterday, but stopped to eat salmon in his favorite bay, said John Nightingale, president of the Vancouver Aquarium, which is conducting the operation.
Luna remained in the bay into the evening, Nightingale said.
On Wednesday, the 4-year-old killer whale was lured out to sea and away from the net pens by local Indians in dugout canoes. The Mowachaht-Muchalaht band opposes the capture, with members convinced they share a spiritual connection with the orca.
Local Indians lure Luna out to sea
June 17, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Luna headed out to sea off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island with a group of local Indians paddling dugout canoes.
Native Canadians claiming a spiritual connection to the lonely orca lured him away in an attempt to prevent his capture -- the first stage of a planned reunion with his Puget Sound relatives.
Local orcas have about 35 sounds -- screeches and moans -- in their vocabulary. Each maternal group, which includes mothers and their offspring, has specific calls and sounds are shared within pods, Osborne said.
The hope is that Luna will recognize their conversation as coming from his pod while it travels around the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands and up around the mouth of the Fraser River and Georgia Strait. The animals swim about a hundred miles a day.
Scientists and orca enthusiasts closely track the resident killer whales when they're in inland waters, sharing information on the Orca Network. When the network observes Luna's pod within range, the orca -- which will be tagged so his movements can be tracked -- will be released.
Hey! Where you going with that whale?
June 17, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) As authorities were preparing to capture Luna, members of a local native band — believing they are protecting the whale — led him 20 miles away.
It wasn’t a protest, insisted Mike Maquinna, leader of the First Nations band.
“We’re with him to protect him,” he said. “It’s not about us. It’s all about the whale.”
The Canadian government’s rescue plan calls for Luna to follow a boat into a net pen. Following a medical evaluation, Luna was to be taken by truck to Pedder Bay, west of Victoria, where he would be released when his family group comes nearby.
But Maquinna said his people have developed a deep spiritual connection to Luna, who they call “Tsuxiit.”
Their tradition holds that their dead leaders may return to this world as wolves or killer whales. The former chief, Ambrose Maquinna, had expressed a desire to return to Nootka Sound as a killer whale and help deal with what he felt was an intrusion of commercial fish farms in the area. Ambrose was Mike Maquinna’s father.
Within a week of his father’s death, Maquinna said, Luna showed up in Nootka Sound.
“He’s here for a reason,” he told The Sun. “Maybe he’s meant to start a family of his own here.”
Canadian Indians use canoes to thwart scientists' efforts to capture lonely killer whale June 17, 2004 (Enviromental News Service)
Luna Capture Updates 12:07 PST
June 16, 2004 (ReuniteLuna.com) We have received reports that Vancouver Aquarium staff will attempt to lead Luna into the pen around 2:00 pm this afternoon (8:54 PST)
Canoes paddled by members of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation are out on the waters of Nootka Sound this morning. (9:57 PST)
The reason for the delay is to ensure the net pen is ready and to wait for one member of the capture team to get to Gold River. (10:00 PST)
CBC NewsWorld reports that First Nations have led Luna 7 kms down the Muchalaht Inlet - he is following their 2 canoes, away from the net pen (11:47 PST)
Capture likely put on hold for today because Luna is too far away from the net pen, according to CBC News (12:08 PST)
Note: We will do our best to update this page as we receive news. If there are no new updates for a while it is because nothing has changed.
June 10, 2004
LUNA (L98) UPDATE
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre has been authorized to begin the physical relocation of Luna by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
After looking at the movements of L-pod over the past few weeks, and confirming that plans are in place to proceed, DFO approved the initiation of Phase II, the physical relocation. Public safety and the safety of the whale remain the priorities. Recent incidences in Gold River where L98 interfered with floatplanes and boats, affirms that the situation needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Sightings of L-pod in the Juan de Fuca Strait and Haro Strait over the past few weeks indicate that the pod has returned to the area for the summer, and the chances for a natural reunification of L98 to L-pod are no longer viable.
Vancouver Aquarium staff continue to prepare the site and operational logistics for the safe capture, holding, and care of Luna (L98).
Although all required funds are not in hand at this point, DFO and the Aquarium agree there are sufficient funds to begin the capture and transport of Luna to Pedder Bay. Overall funding needs ultimately depend on how long Luna is held in Pedder Bay before acoustical contact is made with his pod, and he can be released. If this period is relatively short, the current funding provided will be sufficient.
As this time frame is impossible to predict, DFO and the Aquarium will continue to seek funding, even as the operation proceeds. Donations can be made to 1-800-663-0562, or on-line at www.vanaqua.org/mmrr/luna
The US and Canadian Governments have each committed $130K, $60K in cash has been donated, and there has been $290K in in-kind donations. Given the situation with Luna in Gold River, DFO and the Aquarium believe the operation must proceed immediately.
The plan involves leading Luna into a net pen; this is likely to take place over several days, as time is needed to allow Luna to get used to the log booms, boat and other parts of the operation. Success will depend, in part, on having a quiet and normal environment. For this reason, an exclusion zone for boats and aircraft will be in place.
A media update will be provided each day by the capture team describing what was attempted and accomplished that day.
While it is hoped that Luna will reunite with his family group and no longer be a risk to the public, scientists agree that, while a successful reintroduction cannot be guaranteed, this is the best approach to give Luna the opportunity to reunite with his pod, while protecting public.
The best way the public can help Luna is to stay away. If he is distracted by boats, aircraft or people, his chances for reuniting with his family group may be compromised.
For more information, please contact:
Orcas touch base in U.S., then leave again
June 1, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) About 30 orcas, including Luna's mother and his younger sibling, took a quick jaunt into U.S. waters Saturday, but by Sunday night they were headed back out to sea.
As a result, plans to reunite Luna with his family remain on hold, officials say.
Luna's family had not been seen in Puget Sound since last fall — which is fairly typical for two of the three Puget Sound groups, or pods. K and L pods spend their winters on the outer coast.
Luna, a 4-year-old killer whale, has been alone for nearly three years in Nootka Sound along the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
Ken Balcomb and Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research spent most of the day Sunday with the 30 members of L-Pod that came south along the eastern shore of Vancouver Island and approached the San Juan Islands. Lara Sloan, spokeswoman for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said a group of orca handlers has moved to the town of Gold River on Nootka Sound to prepare a net pen for Luna's capture, but that operation remains on hold. Everyone hopes the boat-follow method can succeed, she said.
Howard Garrett of Orca Network, a group that keeps track of whale sightings, said several organizations of orca supporters are expressing reservations about some elements of the capture-and-truck plan.
For example, tying a rope around Luna's tail to force him into the net pen — listed as a last resort in the rescue plan — could result in injury, Garrett said.
Also, attaching a tracking transmitter by inserting a steel pin through Luna's dorsal fin could cause him harm. And the idea that Luna might end up in an aquarium if he fails to take up with his family weighs on everyone's mind, he said.
Garret said several groups hope to clear up these kinds of issues before the rescue moves forward.
"Most of the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) find the capture option to be distasteful," Garrett said.
Canadian and U.S. officials have agreed that the rescue should move forward because Luna, who appears to be lonely, has been pushing against boats, which could lead to a serious accident.
Garrett said the 30 or so L-Pod whales that returned to the San Juans Saturday may have found too little fish for their needs. Salmon runs in the islands are expected to increase soon.
"We're still hoping they (Luna's relatives) will go by Nootka Sound and pick up a passenger," he said.
Keep an eye out for Luna's pod: officials
May 12, 2004 (Vancouver Province) U.S. and Canadian officials working on a whale reunification plan are asking boaters to keep an eye out for Luna's pod.
The killer whale has been living alone in Nootka Sound off Vancouver Island for more than two years.
The orca's relatives are expected to return from the Pacific Ocean to inland waters around Washington's San Juan Islands within weeks.
But fisheries officials told a meeting of about 50 whale advocates in Seattle last night that nobody has seen the pod yet.
Luna has managed to feed himself in Nootka Sound but has also taken to socializing with people, cozying up to boats and nuzzling sea planes.
The U.S. and Canadian Navy, along with coast guard vessels, are also being asked to report any sightings of the so-called 'L' pod.
It's hoped the reunion can take place by June.
If you have any information or a suspected sighting, contact 1-866-ORCANET (672-2638), or e-mail email@example.com.
Desperately Seeking L pod!
Report whale sightings to: 1-866-ORCANET (1-866-672-2638)
Orca Network would like to receive whale sightings, especially orca sightings.
Our Whale Sighting Network covers US & Canadian waters year-round, but at this time we are particularly looking for L pod sightings off the BC, Canada and Washington Coast. We are working with other organizations and agencies to get more whale reports from the west Vancouver Island and coastal areas to help determine the winter/spring travel patterns of the Southern Resident Community of orcas, and to help in the effort to rejoin Luna/L98 with L pod, who may be traveling those waters during the spring.
If you have or know of a business or public bulletin board where flyers could be posted with our whale sighting number, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll email you a flyer to print out and post.
The lone orca calf Luna has been in Nootka Sound for several years, somehow separated from his pod. There are efforts by Canada's Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans and the US NOAA Fisheries to reunite Luna with his family this summer. The best plan would be to get Luna in acoustical contact with L pod if/when they are near Nootka Sound. However, we rarely get sightings from west Vancouver Island, and we have few reports on L pod's travels during the winter and spring, so we are asking for your help. Information on the winter travels of K and L pods are also the focus of recent research efforts in the US and Canada, so any orca sightings year-round are appreciated.
If you see any orcas, please call us toll-free at: 1-866-ORCANET or email us at: email@example.com. We are also happy to receive sightings of any kind of whale, in any NW location as well! If you would like to be on our Whale Sighting Network Email list, contact us at the above email address, or sign up on our website.
For more information on Orca Network's Whale Sighting Network, go to: www.orcanetwork.org
For more information about Luna, go to www.reuniteluna.com
Thank you for your help
Susan Berta & Howard Garrett
May 6, 2004
For immediate release
Solitary orca Luna doing well in Nootka Sound
New fish farms could threaten natural reunion
A research project conducted over the past two months has been observing Luna, the orca whale who has been living alone in Nooka Sound for nearly 3 years, with a view to assessing his behaviour in the absence of summertime recreational vessels. The OrcaLab study has the approval of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation and operates under a Scientific Licence issued by Canadas Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). The project is supported by a coalition of Canadian and US non governmental organizations. Results show Luna to be a normal orca fully capable of managing on his own.
Luna is a great hunter and is certainly able to make a living by himself,said OrcaLabs director Dr. Paul Spong. He sounds like a normal orca and in most respects he behaves like a normal orca; he even has a social life though its an odd one in that its with sea lions and not other orcas. He knows every detail of the scene in Nootka Sound. Were it not for the summer boating season Luna would be fine living on his own and could take his own time finding his way back to his orca community.
The problem for Luna is that summer is coming. By the end of June Nootka Sound will again be crowded with recreational vessels. On them will be many people who want to see Luna, and among them some who want to engage Luna as if he were a pet or a captive whale. Thats the biggest problem Luna faces,said Spong. Were it not for people wanting to engage Luna, I think he could carry on by himself without getting into trouble. At four years old he is maturing rapidly and is definitely capable of handing himself around boats. If people could learn to leave Luna alone and just ignore him, hed probably be ok. Of course, given what happened last summer, thats probably unrealistic.
OrcaLabs research approach with Luna is the same at that of its Johnstone Strait project, observation without intrusion. An observation camp site was established on a high cliff and two hydrophone stations installed. The hydrophones have enabled day and night monitoring of Lunas acoustics in the main areas he has been spending time. Over 60 hours of recordings have been made. Luna has a fabulous voice that echoes through the deeps of Nootka Sound,said Spong. His calls clearly identify him as a southern resident orca and more precisely as a member of the L2 matriline. That means with virtual certainty that L67 is Lunas mother, and because she is alive it gives great hope for the ultimate outcome of Lunas journey, should he rejoin his orca kin.
The winter whereabouts of much of the southern resident orca community are largely a mystery to scientists. The largest group, L pod, is often not sighted for months on end. During the winter and spring. However, the summer arrival of L pod is fairly predictable. The group of more than 40 orcas usually arrives in the waters off southern Vancouver Island in late spring, and their arrivalis usually from the north via west coastal waters off Vancouver Island. There is a good chance the pod will be off the entrance of Nootka Sound sometime during mid to late May. If that happens, there is a possibility that Luna could hear the other orcas or they could hear him, and that a naturalreunion could take place. Luna has been spending much of his recent time foraging in parts of Nootka Sound that have an acoustic connection to the outside ocean,said Spong. That means there is a chance that he and the other orcas could solve Lunas problem by themselves. If that happens, everyone will be happy.
Despite his positive view of Lunas behaviour and his hopes for a rosy outcome, Spong is worried by the imminent installation of 8 new fish farms in Nootka Sound. The farms are going to be placed in the exact area Luna has been using lately,said Spong. This means there will be a whole new set of industrial activities in the area that is now most important to Luna, and it is the area that creates such good prospects for a natural reunion. Luna is accustomed to industrial activity, but this will be a new part of his scene and because it is new it will be a distraction to him. I simply cannot understand why these fish farms have to be installed at this critical time. They could ruin Lunas chances of success.
Dr. Paul Spong/Helena Symonds (250)974-8068, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Audio clips and still photographs available for emailing on request.
Mowachaht/Muchalaht meet with DFO
by Brian Tate
Ha-Shilth-Sa Northern Region Reporter
April 22, 2004
Tsaxana - Marilyn Joyce of DFO and Clint Wright of the Vancouver Aquarium met with Tyee Hawiilth Mike Maquinna and his council on April 8th in Tsaxana to discuss issues surrounding the plans to remove Tsuux-iit (Luna) in May or June.
"Over the past couple years we have had discussions on Tsuux-iit (Luna) and the plans to move him back to his family and we have been pleased on the work that has been done between our two groups," said Marilyn Joyce. "In your letter you have expressed that you are opposed to the plans and I very much respect that. As people we sometimes overstep our boundary in regards to wildlife," said Marilyn.
Jerry Jack then explains how the late Chief Ambrose expressed what he would like to come back as when he goes home. "When I go home, I want to come back as a Kaka win, Ambrose said to me," said Jerry. "That's what happened, this whale showed up shortly after his passing," said Jerry.
"This whale is not going anywhere as long as we are here, he is healthy and we would like nature to take its course," said Jerry with a heavy sigh.
Marilyn replied to Jerry's remarks with "Our first inclination was the same as yours to let him stay, once it was determined that he was healthy I agreed. But my concern is his safety and the safety of the people, you and I know better to leave him alone but there are others that would harm him. Who knows if he will be accepted or not by his pod. And who knows if he came here as your late chief to be with you, but he has done well by bringing us closer at the table," said Marilyn.
Questions of "What if" started to rise towards DFO and Vancouver Aquarium. "What if he doesn't take to his pod, then what?" asked Mike Maquinna. "What if he plays with the boats down there, then what?"
Marilyn Joyce responded with, "I have to come up with a plan if he does not take to his pod in the next couple weeks, and the final decision will be coming from the Ministry."
"With your plans of removing the whale you are infringing on their religious beliefs and they (Mowachaht/Muchalaht) have met the requirements in documentation. Can you lay out all the options you may have?" said Roger Dunlop of the NTC Fisheries.
"Our first option is to help him reunite with his pod if they go by here. Our second option is to let him swim into a pen on his own, or third we use a tail rope to get him into the pen or finally enclose him with a net," said Joyce. "Being a sensitive topic of using an aquaculture pen we have had discussions with Conuma Hatchery to use one of their pens," said Marilyn.
After Marilyn spoke, Clint Wright explained that the Vancouver Aquarium does not want, nor do they have an interest in having a killer whale in their aquarium. The aquarium is only there to lend expertise in the moving of the whale. "It would take approximately one hundred pounds of food per day to hold him in a pen, and I am hoping someone local or from the tribe would help feed him and catch food for him," said Clint.
Discussions around leading the whale down the coast arose, and it was explained that this type of removal is fraught with danger because it would take approximately 74 hours to lead the whale. In order to lead the whale you would have to train it to follow then you would have to untrain him and how do you do that?
"So you are going to do this regardless of what we say, aren't you?" said Jerry Jack.
Hesitantly Marilyn Joyce responded with a "Yes".
Frustration started to rise from the Mowachaht/Muchalaht side and it showed when the statement of "We have been through this process so many times with you DFO, Ministries, Fish Farms and while we are meeting, documents are being signed somewhere else. How can we trust you DFO? When are we going to be equal? When are we going to share information properly? When can we trust you?"
"You are right about one thing," aid Marilyn, "documents on Public Safety are being done," she said.
"Although you are interested in our culture and would like to know more, your policy dictates to you on what to do," aid Mike Maquinna.
Again the beliefs about the Killer Whale and wolves being one came up and explained and that former Chiefs came back as either, and that essentially DFO and Vancouver Aquarium are kidnapping a Chief. The Mowachaht/Muchalaht have unfinished business with the whale, and only when they let their tears go at a "Memorial Potlatch" will that happen.
Regardless of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht distaste for the removal of Tsuux-iit (Luna), DFO and the Vancouver Aquarium are going ahead with their plans to reunite L-pod and the whale.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries (US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) announced a plan to relocate the juvenile killer whale Tsuux-iit, also known as Luna, to its pod in the Juan de Fuca Strait two weeks ago.
Orca Network has received permission to distribute the above article
Copyright Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper, published by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Reproduction of this article or photographs, in whole or in part, is illegal without the written consent of Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper
Two plans for reuniting overly friendly orca with pod
May 6, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Luna the lonely orca will be temporarily confined in a net pen in Pedder Bay near here if an attempt fails to reunite him with his pod at the entrance to Nootka Sound.
An attempt will be made to lead the whale out of the sound just as his pod is passing by, but even the most optimistic supporters of that approach know it is unlikely to succeed.
The killer whale pod, which spends its summers in Washington state's San Juan Islands, covers tremendous distances. Luna's pod is not usually seen in the waters off Nootka Sound, an inlet about 140 miles northwest of Victoria on Vancouver Island's west coast.
"Leading him out into the open water would be best for everyone, and especially for Luna, but the chances are pretty remote," said Ed Thorburn, a field supervisor with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
If that plan fails, the 4-year-old orca will probably be packed into a sling in a tank on a huge truck and, with police escorts and a contingent of veterinarians and scientists, be hauled to Pedder Bay.
Aquarium president John Nightingale said about $160,000 must be raised in cash and $51,000 in donated goods and services for the operation to proceed. That's on top of $95,000 from the Canadian government and $100,000 from the U.S. government.
But fund-raising is going slowly.
"If we don't have it by May 15 or 20 it will put a real crimp in things," Nightingale said. "It would stop it."
ReuniteLuna.com thanks Marilyn Joyce
April 29, 2004
For the past year or so, many people have dedicated themselves to the protection of Luna and the plan to move him closer to his family. Few have put more time and effort into this project than Marilyn Joyce, the Marine Mammal Coordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
For the past two years Marilyn has been working with scientists, NGOs and the public to do what is best for Luna. Up until last summer, it was felt that Lunas best chance of survival was to leave him be, and not interfere with what may be a natural process. However, last summer, Lunas activity around boats and float planes was causing concern for public safety, and a new plan had to be crafted: a plan to attempt to reunite Luna with his Pod. Marilyn took the lead on this plan and successfully melded together the responsibilities of two federal governments, the advice of marine mammal scientists, and the needs of NGOs and the public to develop a relocation plan, which will be implemented later this spring.
Marilyn made herself available to the public from the very beginning of this project, and was ready to answer their questions. In September of last year, Marilyn took the time to address many questions put forward by readers of the ReuniteLuna.com web site. In addition, Marilyn read and responded to every letter and email she received regarding Luna. This is remarkable considering she received thousands of letters.
Despite her diligent efforts, many people viewed Marilyn as a roadblock to get Luna home. That is not the case. She has worked hard to make sure Luna was a priority for senior officials. She has put a lot of extra time into pushing this project forward and making sure that DFO is doing the best they can with the best advice and information.
No one has worked harder on protecting Luna than Marilyn. She has put a lot of sweat and tears into this project and receives little praise for it, though it is much deserved. She is a wonderful lady with a big heart and a bright mind.
Marilyn began her career as a biologist with DFO, and worked for many years in that capacity before becoming the pacific regions first Marine Mammal Coordinator. She works hard because she is passionate about protecting the environment and the preservation of species that share our waters.
ReuniteLuna.com would like to ask the public to stop writing and emailing Marilyn so that she has time to work on getting Luna home.
April 15, 2004
Luna has spent much of his time lately engaged in long foraging sessions in various parts of Nootka Sound. It is likely that he is hunting the big winter spring salmon that are in the Sound at this time of year. At times he can be heard echolocating almost constantly as he hunts (click to hear audio). He often has seagulls flying above him, a sign that they are hoping for fish scraps and therefore that Luna is a successful hunter& on one occasion he was seen with a big fish in his mouth! Luna also calls quite frequently, using the calls of his southern resident orca kin as well as making his own unique sounds. There can be little question that when Luna returns to orca society he will be a competent hunter, and that he will easily be able to keep up with the other orcas. It will also be easy for researchers to identify him acoustically among the crowdof other southern resident voices.
At one point, about a week ago, Luna was not sighted for a period of 5 days, giving rise to speculation that he may have roamed as far as the mouth of Nootka Sound. Doing so would mean that he would have an excellent opportunity to hear L pod if they head south past Nootka Sound during May, and for L pod to hear him. That would of course provide a great opportunity for a naturalreunion to take place. Though such an outcome is by no means certain, it is certainly one worth hoping for and putting effort into.
Another encouraging aspect of Luna's recent behaviour is that he is handling himself around vessels and aircraft very well. Perhaps because most of the vessels he encounters are familiar to him, Luna has been ignoring most of the vessel traffic around him and has been engaging vessels only when encouraged to do so. Thankfully, the sight of Luna interacting with people in boats is rare these days because local boaters are familiar with him and do not seek interactions. However, as we all know, the summer will bring many recreational boaters to Nootka Sound and that is cause for continued concern. Luna has not attempted to interact with an aircraft since an Acoustic Deterrent Device(ADD) was installed at the Air Nootka dock early in March. The device is intended for use only when needed and has not been switched on yet because Luna has not posed any problems for taxiing aircraft. This too is a good sign that Luna is managing himself well.
As previously noted, we continue to encourage all members of the public, including media, to stay away from Luna and give him the best possible chance of staying out of trouble.
April 13, 2004
As a public security measure, DFO has put an Acoustic Deterrent Device (ADD) at the Air Nootka dock in Gold River to help mitigate any risk to public safety. This device consists of speakers that are suspended underwater and emit a sound that slowly increases in volume over time, giving L98 sufficient opportunity to leave the area before the device reaches maximum volume. This device will be activated by authorized personnel only if L98 is actively engaging a moving aircraft, and will be immediately turned off once the aircraft is safely airborne or tied up.
An activation report, including a description of L98's behaviour prior to and during activation, will be sent immediately to the DFO office in Gold River. Protocol for the use of the ADD has been developed to ensure that L98 is not harmed in any way.
It is highly unlikely that this device will be used, but we do need to be concerned about the safety of passengers in the aircraft during taxiing if L98 is interfering with the floatplane.
In the past week, L98 has spent very little time in the vicinity of Gold River and no incidents have been reported. L98 continues to appear healthy and active.
August 28, 2003
I have been in contact with both DFO Enforcement Officers and the Veins of Life Stewardship personnel in Gold River this morning. I am pleased to advise you and your network that Luna is not seriously injured. The Stewards confirmed that Luna has a cut on his head but wound is not of a serious nature and is consistent with other minor cuts Luna has had in the past two years. I note that killer whale do regularly have cuts and abrasions. Luna was sighted on Tuesday swimming and acting very normal. Our Officers and Stewards are on the water again to day and will be looking for Luna and checking on the cut.
I am very much aware of the interest and support from the public to intervene to reunite Luna with his pod. We at DFO do want what is best for this whale. Reuniting him one option is currently under consideration and I will provide you an update once a decision has been made. 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.
Marine Mammal Coordinator
Fisheries Management - Pacific Region
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
200 - 401 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 5G3
Telephone: (604) 666-9965
Facsimile: (604) 666-3341
Cellular: (604) 813-5314
Lone orca's injury in B.C. revives calls to return it to pod
August 29, 2003 (Seattle Times) (link expired) A lone orca living in Canada has been injured in an apparent collision with a boat on the west coast of Vancouver Island, prompting renewed calls to have the killer whale reunited with its relatives in Puget Sound.
L-98, nicknamed Luna, collided with a sport fisherman's boat in Nootka Sound last Thursday or Friday, receiving a deep 6-inch gash in the head. It's unclear whether the boat's propeller was moving or even if the orca hit it, but the impact was hard enough to break its mounting bracket, said Ed Thorburn, enforcement officer for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
Thorburn has seen L-98 cut other times since it first appeared on the west coast of Vancouver Island in 2001, with the orca regularly playing with logs and prawn traps. The orca has been seen since the accident and appears in good health.
Marilyn Joyce, marine-mammal coordinator for DFO, said L-98's cut was small and "certainly is not impacting him at all."
Still, she said L-98's situation has changed since May, when the agency decided to hold off on a relocation.
At the time, the orca was swimming farther afield and the agency hoped it might reunite with the southern residents on its own. Also, the agency feared a failed reunion could lead to L-98 being placed in an aquarium.
But this summer, the DFO saw more people in Nootka Sound paying attention to the orca. DFO will ask its panel of experts to look again at relocation, said Joyce.
Reported injury steps up concerns for stray orca August 29, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Luna injured, hasn't been seen since
August 27, 2003 (National Post) Luna, the orphaned orca living alone in the waters off Gold River, was cut by a boat's propeller blade Monday.
The deep gash is above Luna's eye. It is approximately 15 to 20 centimetres long and about three centimetres deep - deep enough to reveal blubber.
The impact of the collision disabled the boat and it had to be towed.
No one has seen Luna since the incident.
Whale experts have warned from the beginning that the orca's love of humans and boats could put it in danger
Luna, the whale, still a loner
August 20, 2003 (Victoria Times-Coloonist) The solitary orca living off Vancouver Island's west coast was a little different from the rest of the whales right from the start.
Immediately after his September 1999 birth, Luna, also called L-98 for his pod and birth order, split from his mother and spent a week with a female in another pod before returning to his mother.
This was "unprecedented" in what has been seen before among these whales, says Ken Balcomb of the Centre for Whale Research at Friday Harbor, Washington state.
Luna's mother may have had trouble lactating at first and another female may have nursed the calf, he said. "We don't really know what was going on."
For the next several months, everything appeared normal. But as Luna approached his first birthday, he was often more independent from his mother than is usual with calves.
Balcomb speculates this trait may have its roots in Luna's early days. "I guess you can have the parallel in human development where social changes or traumas in certain stages of life can affect the rest of your behavioural repertoire."
This independence might have led to Luna's isolation but it is only a hypothesis.
It's possible that Luna, who travelled a lot with an older uncle, became lost when that uncle died and did not know how to reconnect with his pod, Balcomb said.
Being alone threatens Luna and humans, too
August 17, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) It worked for Springer -- it's time for Luna. The Seattle Aquarium supports immediate efforts to return Luna, the wayward orca from northern Vancouver Island. Since 2001, this 4-year-old killer whale has been swimming alone in Nootka Sound on the island's west coast. This is considered beyond the normal range of its L-pod family members, one of three southern community pods commonly seen in Washington waters.
Without his natural companions, Luna has become dangerously comfortable with human contact and boats. This poses a threat both to his long-term health and to people. In addition, the Puget Sound population of orcas is listed as a "depleted species" by the federal government, with a population of about 82 whales presently compared with an estimate of 120 animals in the 1960s. The number of breeding males is critically low. As Luna reaches maturity in his teens, he will become an invaluable member of the Sound's orca gene pool.
Luna should return home
August 10, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial) Bring Luna home.
As Canadian authorities study what to do with the lone orca, returning him to Washington waters appears to be the best course of action.
It's a decision that rests partially in Canada with federal officials and, to an extent rarely mentioned, tribal nations on the coast. But Americans should have a voice, too.
The lost 4-year-old is from Puget Sound, where orcas number just over 80. We need every orca possible here.
Luna apparently became separated from his pod while swimming past Vancouver Island. Since 2001, he has been alone in Nootka Sound on the island's West Coast.
As a Post-Intelligencer news story reported Thursday, a lot of people look at the killer whale and see loneliness. Probably for good reason: Orcas are extremely social and maintain close family relationships.
They also worry that a return to Puget Sound might cause more risky encounters with busier boat traffic. If things got bad enough, they say, he might have to be placed in an aquarium -- a terrible option.
Online petition drive supports returning Luna to pod
August 8, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Activists have launched an online petition drive to persuade the Canadian government to try to reunite the orphan orca Luna with his whale family, or pod.
The 4-year-old orca, apparently lost, was separated from his pod about two years ago and has been in the back bays of northwestern Vancouver Island.
Because of his aggressively playful antics, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is considering a reunification attempt, along with other options, including putting the whale in an aquarium.
About 1,500 people have signed the petition so far, said activist Rene Halliburton of Campbell River, B.C.
Luna belongs to a pod that hangs out around the San Juan Islands this time of year.
The petition is at www.petitionpetition.com/cgi/petition.cgi?id=5960
Luna and his family
By Howard Garrett
August 7, 2003
The decision whether to help L98 (Luna) to rejoin his family rests with Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). The decision-making process has involved a variety of scientists holding various viewpoints, but the final choice is up to the DFO. So far the decision has been to take no action except to assist in monitoring Luna's intrusive behavior and helping to educate the public to stay away from him.
We strongly advocate that Luna be returned to his mother, L67, and her family, the L2 matriline. We believe Luna can recognize his family and will rejoin them if given the opportunity. The central point made by DFO to justify the “no action” option appears to be the speculation that Luna would not rejoin his family, but instead would show up beside boats like he is doing now in Nootka Sound but among much more traffic, possibly causing an accident or injury to himself or others. On July 28 Marilyn Joyce of the DFO said in a televised broadcast: “We're very concerned that if Luna was brought down into the area that he has more opportunity to interact with people and boats which will become even more of a danger for him and the public.” The behavioral model Joyce is referring to appears to be the nuisance bear, rummaging through garbage cans, that has lost its fear of humans and is likely to become ever more aggressive.
We believe this opinion is based on the inability of the DFO to understand the implications of recent studies and events. The primary finding needed to assess Luna’s prospects if returned to his family, that has not been incorporated into DFO's thinking, is that the species Orcinus orca can be expected to act according to cultural influences. We cite “Culture in Whales and Dolphins,” Luke Rendell and Hal Whitehead's pivotal paper published in 2001in the prestigious Journal of Behavioural and Brain Sciences. From the abstract: ”The complex and stable vocal and behavioural cultures of sympatric groups of killer whales (Orcinus orca) appear to have no parallel outside humans and represent an independent evolution of cultural faculties.”
This cultural perspective on orcas opens a vast new field of knowledge on which biologists are ill-equipped to play. With the cultural behavior model now established for orcas, the perspectives of anthropology and sociology are needed to interpret and predict orca behavior. This would be just a fascinating armchair conversation if not for the need to help poor Luna, lost and lonely, clamoring for company far out of range of his family. Any decision on whether to help him and how to do so depends on how we understand the species, yet the biological advisors the DFO has consulted do not have backgrounds in cultural behavior, so they are challenged to make an adequate assessment of Luna’s capabilities, his memories, and the strength of his cultural identity.
Like humans, but unlike any other mammal known (with the possible exception of a few other cetacean species), each orca is born into and grows up as a member of a cultural community, bonded for life. This membership and identity are not lost, regardless of time spent away from the community. Knowledge of self as a member of a cultural community overrides the kinds of instinctual, stimulus-response behavior associated with other mammals, such as bears.
The conclusion is that Luna knows who he is in the context of his family and community. There is no reason to assume he has forgotten his family or the vocalizations they use to communicate, and there is no reason to believe he is somehow an outcast or is undesirable to his family. He remains a member of the L2 matriline. He’s simply out of reach, lost, and when that problem is resolved by bringing him close to his family, he’ll know them immediately and he’ll know what to do. He’ll rejoin them. A lost human child old enough to learn his family’s language would do the same.
Obviously, the most tragic and uninformed decision, now under consideration by DFO, would be to remove Luna to a concrete tank.
For guidance in helping Luna we have only to cast a glance at A73, Springer, who immediately recognized her family and has thoroughly reintegrated with them. There is no longer any sign that she once paddled up to boats, leaned on them, rolled upside down, and generally made a nuisance of herself. She’s an A11 pod whale again. Luna will surely do the same, if the DFO will just understand his capability to rejoin his relatives and allow him to be helped in his search for them.
Future of 'sad' orca presents dilemma
August 7, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Luna and the boat will be back. But the whale is lonely, say folks around here. He's following boats because they're the closest thing he knows to his own kind.
Canadian authorities decided two months ago to leave the 4-year-old orca alone. But now they are reconsidering and plan to announce a decision as early as this week.
If they decide to take action, they could put Luna in an aquarium. Or they may try to reunite Luna with his pod, which hangs out around the San Juan Islands this time of year.
The second look was prompted in part by accusations that a boater, frustrated when the orca prevented him from docking, smacked the animal with a board. Also this summer, the whale kept a fishing party from docking, forcing the men to stay on the water overnight. Then this week, the whale started interfering with salmon fishermen in the area.
"I'd say most people get it -- that he's separated from his family, lonely," Anderson said. "The odd person says he should be shot like a grizzly."
Anderson was at the dock on behalf of the Veins of Life Watershed Society, a Victoria environmental group under contract to the Canadian government to monitor activity at the docks and inform visitors about rules against approaching the orca.
Canadian Officials Dealing With A Whale Of A Dilemma
July 28, 2003 (Q13-TV) Canadian officials are dealing with a whale of a dilemma. What should they do with "Luna?" The young orca is removed from his family and is living in a remote BC inlet hundreds of miles away. Some believe the whale should be brought back to his home in Puget Sound while others say it's too late for that.
Everybody has a story about Luna and whale advocates say that's the problem.
Locals say Luna's gotten extremely friendly, drawing crowds and now more security and warnings from the government to keep your distance.
Paul Spong/Whale Researcher: "Luna's just a big kid, 4 yrs old, healthy from a physical point of view but he's a social creature and he's desperately lonely. His problem is he's seeking contact with humans."
Marilyn Joyce/Dept. fisheries & Oceans: "We're very concerned that if Luna was brought down into the area that he has more opportunity to interact with people and boats which will become even more of a danger for him and the public."
In June the Canadians said they would not move the whale. Now, they are reconsidering that decision in light of what they say is an increase in human-whale interactions.
Help bring Luna home to his family
July 24, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Springer, the once orphaned orca whale, has come home.
Yet as I celebrate Springer's return, I am saddened that another orca, Luna, lingers lost and alone in Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island's west coast. In recent days the news of a brutal attack on this trusting calf has come to light. Three days before he was beaten by a man working for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, I visited Luna in Gold River, the village he has come to call home. I watched as he snuggled up to fishing boats for a whale snooze and scratched his belly along the underside of sailboats and tugs tied up at the dock. These are the same behaviors he would experience in the wild with members of his family. Yet he is alone and, as a highly social animal, he has come to trust humans for attention. The trust seems misplaced.
Now, in Gold River there are rumors that Marine Land Niagara is looking to capture Luna for display in its aquarium. Should he be captured, Luna would be the first calf removed from the southern resident community since the devastating capture era of the '60s and '70, a dark time from which our beloved J, K, and L pods are still trying to recover.
For two years since Luna's mysterious arrival in Nootka Sound, the fisheries department, the government agency charged with protecting Canada's wildlife, has done nothing to help Luna, hoping that his pod would swim by and pick him up.
Luna is still a baby separated from his mother and family, who will protect him better than we ever could. The answer is clear. We must bring Luna home now to live as a wild whale.
Leigh Calvez is a naturalist and a nature writer living in the Seattle area. The Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans can be reached at 604-666-9965.
U.S. activists call for shipping Luna home
July 23, 2003 (Victoria Times-Colonist) U.S. environmentalists say it's time for Canada's orca watchdogs to stop being afraid of failure and to ship Luna, a young killer whale stranded in Nootka Sound, south to rejoin his pod in the San Juan Islands.
Fred Felleman, of the Seattle-based Orca Conservancy, said Luna is important to the biological future of the endangered southern resident population, which has shrunk to 83 animals.
"The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has an obligation to the recovery of the southern resident (orca) community," said Felleman.
A number of Canadians share Felleman's view. Ellen Hartlmeier of Victoria and Rene Halliburton of Campbell River have begun an Internet petition calling for the reunification of Luna with his family.
July 21 - Please sign this Reunite Luna petition
Luna or L98 is a 4 year old Orca that has been seperated from his pod since 2001. It is assumed that he has wandered into Nootka Sound with his Uncle L39, who then presumably died and left Luna stranded away from his pod, which is Lpod, one of the 3 pods that make up the Southern Resident Community.July 19, 2003
If Luna stays where he is, it is only a matter of time before he gets hurt, or worse, killed up there. He needs a chance to get reunited with his family. We realize, that it will not be as easy as it looked with Springer - but we feel that he needs a chance. We have confidence, that when he hears and sees his family, his mother and siblings, that he will learn to forget about boats. He has been starving from attention from his kin for too long.
Some people might argue that the only option for Luna in the event of a reunion not happening, might be captivity... but we have to cross that bridge when we get there... CAPTIVITY IS CERTAINLY NOT AN OPTION!