Orca Network News - April, 2009

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
April 1, 2009 through April 30, 2009.

SLIDESHOW: Whale examined on Whidbey beach likely struck by ship
April 30, 2009 (Whidbey News Times)
A gray whale that was dissected on a Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Wednesday afternoon likely died from being struck by a ship in Puget Sound.
Jessie Huggins, a stranding coordinator with Cascadia Research, led the colossal necropsy, with help from a team of helpers from Fish and Wildlife, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and the Orca Network. She found bruising in the animal's blubber and internal organs, as well as a great deal of bloody fluid inside the whale. The whale also had a stomach full of undigested food, which helps rule out illness.
"Sick animals don't eat," she said.
The results of the examination aren't yet conclusive. Huggins and other researchers took a number of specimens for testing, but results won't be back for a couple of months.
The 41-foot, 5-inch male wasn't one of the "regulars" that visit Puget Sound for a snack of ghost shrimp during the annual migration. Huggins said she hopes to identify him with the help of an expert this week.
The dead whale's long, strange trip came to an end Tuesday night when a boat from Deception Pass Tour towed the body to the Polnell Point beach, which is a restricted area owned by the Navy.

Experts: Gray whale found near Point Whitehorn likely died of trauma, not starvation
April 30, 2009 (Bellingham Herald)
Whale experts have determined that a young gray whale that washed ashore just south of Point Whitehorn Monday, April 27, likely died of "acute sudden trauma."
The exact cause of the trauma is not yet known.
The whale, a 2-year-old male, had bruising in its tissues, and there was evidence of internal hemorrhaging, said John Calambokidis, a research biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective.
The whale's kidney and heart were liquefied, said Mariann Carrasco, principal investigator from Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Whale found off Camano Island likely killed by ship
April 30, 2009 (Everett Herald)
A large ship likely struck and killed the gray whale found Sunday floating off Camano Island State Park.
Necropsy results showed Wednesday evening that a ship strike is most likely to blame for the otherwise healthy whale's death, said Susan Berta of Greenbank-based Orca Network.
Volunteers coordinated by the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network had just a short window Wednesday to find out why the whale died. The tide began creeping toward their feet by 5 p.m.
This is the first time Garrett witnessed a necropsy, and he's excited by the opportunity to see the anatomy of the whale.
"Whale anatomy shows every organ in huge proportions," he said. "It's a fascinating experience."
"Every minute the sun hits it, it heats up," he said. "The decomposition produces a big whale balloon."
"You get smart and stand upwind," Berta said.
The second gray whale found dead in Birch Bay earlier this week also was healthy and died from some kind of trauma, Berta said. Specialists found no connection between the two deaths.

Gray whale dies near Point Whitehorn, necropsy results pending
April 29, 2009 (Bellingham Herald)
Whale experts are trying to figure out how a young gray whale died and why it was in the area before washing ashore just south of Point Whitehorn.
A necropsy was performed Tuesday, April 28, on the whale, estimated to be less than 2 years old, but results were not immediately available.
It was the second whale in the last few days to show up dead in the Puget Sound area. On Sunday, a dead whale was found floating near Camano Island.
Residents living near Point Whitehorn reported seeing the whale feeding for about two to three weeks prior to its washing ashore Monday, said Mariann Carrasco, principal investigator from the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Second dead gray whale beached near Oak Harbor
April 29, 2009 (Associated Press)
A dead gray whale that had been floating near Camano and Whidbey islands has been moved to a beach near Oak Harbor for a necropsy.
Howard Garrett of the Orca Network says a Deception Pass Tours boat towed the carcass Tuesday to the beach for the examination Wednesday by experts from Cascadia Research.
The researchers from Olympia examined another dead gray whale Tuesday on a beach near Ferndale. It could take weeks for tests to indicate what killed the 2-year-old male. John Calambokidis (cal-um-BOH'-kee-dis), told KOMO-TV it had quite a bit of oil in its blubber, usually a sign of good health.
Four gray whales have been found dead this year in Washington waters. A half-dozen typically die each year in the state.

Whale watch boats often break rulesWhale watch boats often break rules
April 28, 2009 (Victoria Times Colonist)
"There's a warrant out for my arrest? No kidding."
However, Smith -- while scrambling to try and put the court situation to rights -- is not ready to admit he did anything wrong last year when the whale watching boat he was operating was surrounded by northern resident killer whales feasting on salmon.
"I was shut down and drifting for almost a solid hour before those whales literally came up all around my boat and were feeding on salmon," said Smith, who has guided whale watch tours for a decade.
Smith, 37, of Quadra Island is one of only a handful of whale watch boat operators who have been charged with disturbing or harassing marine mammals. "I was told I should have started up the engines and moved, but that goes against every instinct as a mariner and guide," said Smith, who was working for Eagle Eye Adventures when he was seen by a Straitwatch employee, near Windy Point in Johnstone Strait.
Usually boats break whale watching guidelines that say they cannot approach closer than 100 metres or put their boats in the path of whales, he said.
"It's not necessarily intentional. Sometimes they don't notice whales are present," Sandilands said. Private boats are 400 per cent more likely to be breaking the guidelines than the whale watching fleet, he added.
"There are about five or six incidents in a summer that we forward to DFO [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] and those are the ones that we are pretty sure were deliberate," Sandilands said.
It is vital that everyone on the water respects the whales as they struggle for survival with shrinking runs of chinook salmon and high levels of toxins, Sandilands said.

Interior Dept. Reinstitutes Independent Reviews on Endangered Species
April 28, 2009 (Washington Post)
The Obama administration announced today that federal agencies will once again be required to undergo an independent scientific review if they embark on projects that might affect threatened or endangered species, marking yet another reversal of a last-minute Bush administration environmental regulation.
In mid-December, former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne issued a rule allowing government agencies to decide on their own whether a project would harm an imperiled plant or animal without consulting with either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, depending on the species. At the time, Kempthorne said the move would streamline the bureaucratic process without harming protected species.
President Obama called for a review of the rule last month. Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Kempthorne's successor, and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a joint statement that scientific evidence justified restoring the independent reviews that Fish and Wildlife and NOAA had conducted for decades.

Cause sought in death of whale
April 28, 2009 (Everett Herald)
Researchers will begin trying to learn what killed a 30-ton gray whale found floating in the Saratoga Passage this past weekend.
Several dozen people spotted the adult whale's body, half submerged in the waters just off Camano Island State Park, beginning about 10 a.m. Sunday, said Susan Berta, co-founder of the Whidbey Island-based Orca Network.
The Orca Network tracks the movements of a small population of about a dozen gray whales that migrate into local waters each year. It's not clear if the dead whale belongs to that group, she said.
The dead gray whale had what appeared to be wounds on its body consistent with strike marks from orcas, also called killer whales, Berta said. They won't know the exact nature of the wounds until the dead whale is examined, she said.

Dead gray whale found near Cherry Point, necropsy done today
April 28, 2009 (Bellingham Herald)
Whale experts are trying to figure out how a young gray whale died and why it was in the area before washing ashore just sound of Point Whitehorn.
A necropsy was performed Tuesday, April 28, on the whale, estimated to be less than 2 years old, but results were not immediately available.
It was the second whale in the last few days to show up dead in the Puget Sound area. On Sunday, a dead whale was found floating near Camano Island.

Boat can't budge 30-ton gray whale near Camano Island
April 28, 2009 (Everett Herald)
Researchers who tried to snag a dead gray whale yesterday floating in the middle of Saratoga Passage had to cut it loose after their boat had trouble towing the 30-ton creature.
“The boat was too small and the whale was too big,” said Howard Garrett, co-founder of the Whidbey Island-based Orca Network.
For three hours, the pilot of a crabbing boat tried to haul the 40-foot long gray whale through the waters off the northwestern tip of Camano Island. The plan was to pull the whale onto a restricted Navy-owned beach on Whidbey at high tide last night, where researchers could perform a necropsy.
The boat moved the massive carcass only about 400 yards in three hours of towing, Garrett said today. Researchers took measurements of the whale and a blubber sample and noted it was a male, before tying it to a marker buoy and setting it loose.

2 dead gray whales in Puget Sound
April 28, 2009 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
A whale expert says it's a little unusual to have two dead gray whales in Puget Sound at the same time.
John Calambokidis (cal-um-BOH'-kee-dis) of Cascadia Research in Olympia planned to take part in Tuesday's necropsy on the whale that washed ashore Monday near Blaine.
Another dead gray whale was found floating Sunday near Camano Island. Howard Garret of the Orca Network on Whidbey Island says an attempt to tow it to a beach for a necropsy was unsuccessful. He says it drifted across the south end of Whidbey Island Monday night, and the network is still hoping to locate it again for testing.

Second dead gray whale found in Puget Sound
April 28, 2009 (Seattle Times)
A second gray whale has been found dead in Puget Sound. KIRO-TV reports the carcass washed up Monday on a beach near Blaine.
Members of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network plan a necropsy today to determine the cause of death.
Another dead whale was found floating Sunday near Camano Island. An attempt to tow it to a beach for a necropsy was unsuccessful.
A few gray whales typically die each year in Washington waters during their migrations between waters off Mexico and Alaska.

Environmental groups say Idaho gravel mine violates laws
April 28, 2009 (Idaho Statesman)
Images obtained by the environmental groups show heavy equipment and earth-moving activity in the river channel near White Bird.
"There are plenty of places to mine gravel in Idaho without risking one of Idaho's prized gems, the Salmon River," said Jonathan Oppenheimer, Senior Conservation Associate with the Idaho Conservation League.
Oppenheimer said visits to the site and documents obtained under the Idaho Open Records Act show the Camas Gravel Co. of Grangeville is operating without appropriate permits and is impacting water quality in the Salmon River.

Feds: New floodplain rules to go unenforced
April 28, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which provides insurance to those who build in flood plains if they meet baseline rules to reduce risk, offered to adopt improved guidelines for building in flood plains. But none of the more than 120 local governments who oversee development in Puget Sound would be required to follow those guidelines.
When a federal judge ruled five years ago that building in Puget Sound flood plains helped drive orcas, chinook and chum salmon toward extinction, federal officials agreed to make development in flood-prone areas more fish friendly.
But the latest attempts to transform a program that makes such building possible instead has frustrated scientists, confused Puget Sound advocates, annoyed builders and convinced environmentalists that little is changing.
Scientists and environmentalists have complained for years that filling or building in flood plains near rivers from the Nisqually to the Stillaguamish can destroy the stream-side channels that fish flee to when trying to escape rushing floodwaters. Constructing streets and parking lots in flood-prone areas also increases the amount of pollution that drains into salmon-bearing streams after heavy rains.
Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which provides insurance to those who build in flood plains if they meet baseline rules to reduce risk, offered to adopt improved guidelines for building in flood plains. But none of the more than 120 local governments who oversee development in Puget Sound would be required to follow those guidelines.

Refuge project wins federal aid
April 28, 2009 (Olympian)
Nisqually: $3.4 million in stimulus money completes funding for tidewater restoration work.
All the money is secured to complete a major estuary restoration project at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, refuge officials announced Monday.
The project to return tidal influence to 762 acres of diked refuge property on the Nisqually River Delta received $3.4 million from $280 million of federal economic stimulus money earmarked for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service projects across the country, refuge manager Jean Takekawa said.
That money, combined with $1.45 million in the refuge’s 2009 budget, completes the funding package for the $12 million, three-year effort that will bring Puget Sound tidewaters back into the refuge for the first time in 100 years.

Salmon Standoff
April 27, 2009 (Oregonian)
They hunt all the way up to northern Alaska's near-freezing waters, lightning quick predators with triangles for teeth, devouring herring, krill and sardines, preparing for the journey home.
Guided by signals that biologists still don't fully understand, they hit the mouth of the Columbia River and turn left. For fishermen, they're a herald of spring as rhythmic and mysterious as a crocus poking through Northwest soil.
Their firm flesh, prized on barbecues and white tablecloths from Portland to Atlanta, is loaded with oil and omega 3s, a stockpile that will push them over as many as eight dams and leave them with enough power to dig through layers of gravel with tail fins left in tatters.
They're Columbia River spring chinook, the first up in one of the world's greatest salmon rivers. Waiting for them are the fish people, men and women with livelihoods, religious ceremonies and lifelong passions that depend on their arrival.
The spring chinook, pound for pound, are the Columbia's most valuable fish. But the wild salmon among them, down to an estimated 70,000 this year from millions not so long ago, are also one of the most likely to go extinct in the massive Columbia River system.

Dead gray whale spotted off Camano
April 27, 2009 (Everett Herald)
A dead 30-ton gray whale was floating mid-channel in Saratoga Passage just northwest of Camano Island today, a sea mammal education group reported.
Several dozen people spotted the adult whale's body, half submerged in the waters just off Camano Island State Park, beginning at about 10 a.m. Sunday, said Susan Berta, co-founder of the Whidbey Island-based Orca Network. KIRO 7 TV posted video of the floating carcass.
The Orca Network tracks the movements of a small population of about a dozen gray whales that migrate into local waters each year. It's not clear if the dead whale belongs to that group, she said.
The dead gray whale had what appeared to be wounds on its body consistent with strike marks from orcas, also called killer whales, Berta said. They won't know the nature of the wounds until the dead whale is pulled up on the beach and examined, she said.

Dead Whale Seen Floating Off Camano Island
April 27, 2009 (KIRO TV)
A dead gray whale was found floating mid-channel in the Saratoga Passage Sunday morning off Camano Island State Park.
Susan Berta with Orca Network said the whale will be towed to shore Monday and a necropsy will be performed Monday or Tuesday to determine the cause of death.
SLIDESHOW: Whale's Body Floats Off Camano Island
While Berta said it was too early to tell what happened, she said the whale had "tooth rakes" on its pectoral fin that indicated it had been attacked by orcas at some point.
She said they also believe the whale was one that was known to have been sick but won't know for sure until the necropsy results are in.
Video from Chopper 7 showed the dead mammal floating in the water Monday morning.
There are an estimated 10 to 12 grey whales that come to Puget Sound every year. All are tracked and photographed by Cascadia Research, the organization that will be handling most of the investigation once the whale is towed to shore.

Dead whale found near Camano Island
April 26, 2009 (KING5 TV)
CAMANO ISLAND, Wash. – Whale watchers were heartbroken on Sunday when they found a dead gray whale on the west side of Camano Island.
The whale was reportedly drifting several miles from shore.
The Coast Guard said two other whales were swimming around the body.

'Bad boy' orcas have arrived off the Oregon coast
April 23, 2009 (Oregonian)
"The mother and baby grays start showing up about the 15th of April, and the orcas seem to know that and start showing up at the same time," says Morris Grover, spokesman for the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay. "They're rarely seen in these waters except at this time of year."
Of course, that's not good news for the grays, seals or sea lions that hang out there.
"They are here on the hunt," Grover says of the orcas. "They travel fast and silent. They try to sneak up on food. They prefer whales because a whole family can feed on those for a week. A seal is enough for one orca; a sea lion is a little bit better. But the whale is their prime target.
"They can't take on a healthy adult, but what they will do is some of the orcas will distract the mother while others will gang up on the baby. We've never seen it, and we're glad."
Unlike their more gregarious cousins in the Puget Sound, these orcas aren't interested in putting on a show. Spotting them is more difficult, and once you do, they can disappear fast.

Rockfish: Puget Sound's latest endangered species?
April 23, 2009 (Seattle PostGlobe)
Years of badgering the federal government to take steps to save Puget Sound rockfish from extinction may finally pay off for retired fish biologist Sam Wright.
This week the National Marine Fisheries Service announced it will do as the retired fish biologist suggested: Consider protecting three local species of rockfish -- canary, yelloweye and boccacio -- under the Endangered Species Act. The fish have been caught at high levels, depleting their numbers.
It’s a big moment for Wright. While other retirees spend major hours playing golf or the like, Wright has devoted a big chunk of his golden years trying to save fish from extinction. He’s the guy who petitioned the government to protect Puget Sound steelhead -- and was successful. Ditto for Puget Sound chinook.
Now he wants to save rockfish. But despite years of trying, he hadn’t broken through on saving the fast-depleting fish. Over the years he submitted three detailed petitions to try to get the federal government to protect rockfish, but was turned down each time. “They’ve been sitting on this problem for over 10 years,” Wright said.
The federal fisheries agency is still a long way from handing Wright and the rockfish a win. The agency now will take comments from the public through June 22 (at http://is.gd/tYHu), and is expected to hear opposition from recreational anglers. Wright expects battles to come, just as critics emerged against the steelhead and chinook listings.
A final decision on whether to designate boccacio as “endangered” and the other two rockfish as “threatened” is expected to be made a year from now.
Orcas remain the most famous critters protected under the Endangered Species Act. Chinook salmon, chum salmon, steelhead and bull trout also already are protected in Puget Sound under the act.

Whale Tale Wins Animation Award
April 22, 2009 (California Chronicle)
Lauren Kimball saw Lolita as a child, and the experience troubled her.
"To see her in these outdated conditions just broke my heart," she said.
Her film, "Perchance to Dream," is the stuff of which Lolita might dream -- freedom, the open oceans, interacting with other whales -- after audiences leave the aquarium each day. It gives the film audience a view of how Lolita sees the world from her small tank.
Kimball's combined passions led to international acclaim in March when she received the Golden Flamingo under the Viewers Choice Award category at the 2009 South Beach International Animation Film Festival in Miami. , Fla. It's the highest award audiences viewing films in the festival can bestow upon a contestant.
Kimball, 21, competed against veteran companies and directors in the animation industry, such as Aardman Animation Ltd., which has won Oscars for its animation work.

Orca pods protected
April 22, 2009 (BC Local News)
A new federal government order to protect critical killer whale habitat off B.C.’s coast is being hailed as a major victory by environmental groups.
Until now, Ottawa had been reluctant to regulate orca protection under Canada’s Species At Risk Act – it instead argued the whales’ habitat was adequately protected under existing laws and regulations.
But that has changed after a coalition of groups, led by Ecojustice, went to court alleging the government shirked its duties under the act.
“It’s the very first time the federal government has issued an order protecting critical habitat,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Lara Tessaro.
The area defined as critical habitat for southern resident killer whales covers much of the Strait of Georgia off the Lower Mainland, running through the Gulf Islands and up the east coast of Vancouver Island.
Much now depends on what specific measures the federal government sets out to prevent the destruction of the defined orca habitat.
If environmentalists get their way, it could mean much more stringent regulations governing toxic contamination, boat traffic and perhaps even the allocation of salmon stocks.

Stimulus money will speed Elwha dam removal
April 22, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The long-awaited demolition of two dams blocking the Olympic Peninsula's Elwha River will happen a year sooner than expected, courtesy of federal stimulus money.
Olympic National Park, where the dams stand, will get $54 million to accelerate related projects, pushing the start of removal work from 2012 to 2011, the U.S. Interior Department said Wednesday.
That's welcome news to the National Park Service, the nearby Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, who has worked for years to see the dams come down.
This is just the sort of thing that should get money from the $787 billion stimulus package, Dicks said.
"It's going to put people to work. It's also going to improve the salmon runs. I think it's a classic project," said Dicks, who had lobbied the Park Service to direct some of the new money to the dam.

Documentary examines role of man in killer whales’ demise
April 22, 2009 (Chronicle)
Happy Earth Day? Not if you believe filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau, and it’s pretty hard not to believe him when he and other scientists make the case that unless we do something fast, killer whales will be extinct by the end of the century.
Call of the Killer Whale, a two-hour documentary airing at 8 tonight on PBS, begins by focusing on the story of the world’s most famous killer whale, Keiko, the star of the film Free Willie, who was famously set free after being rescued from a Mexican circus. Keiko’s story is useful to illustrate the challenges of reintroducing an orca into the wild.
The second part of the film looks at the drastically shrinking orca population around the world and attributes the decrease, inevitably, to pollution and human enterprise that upsets nature’s delicate balance.
Although PCBs were banned in the ’70s, the chemicals, as well as other contaminants in the air and water, can remain in orcas’ systems for decades, which has resulted in calves born with birth defects.
The more challenging issue, and the one that even more tellingly shows the fragility of nature’s interconnectedness, has to do with the fate of the salmon population. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, salmon have been the orca’s main source of food. Cousteau and other scientists contend part of the reason the fish are decreasing is that man has created salmon farms that have actually hurt wild salmon because the cultivated fish hog all the food in shared waters.

Governors seek salmon disaster declaration
April 22, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The governors of Oregon and California are asking the federal government to declare another West Coast salmon fishery failure - the third in four years.
Commercial salmon fishing has been closed off California and most of Oregon because of dangerously low returns of fall chinook to the Sacramento River, the second largest producer of salmon on the West Coast.
Federal scientists blame it on a combination of climatic conditions that produced very little food in the ocean, and an over-reliance on hatchery fish, which do not have the genetic diversity to cope with changes to their environment.
If approved by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the declaration would open the way for Congress to appropriate aid for salmon fishermen.

Biologists say 3 pesticides harm salmon
April 22, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Three pesticides used on agricultural crops jeopardize the survival of many Pacific salmon and steelhead listed as threatened or endangered in the West, federal biologists said Tuesday.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is recommending labeling restrictions, buffer zones near salmon waters for ground and aerial spraying, and a ban on the pesticides' use in windy conditions and during storms that wash them into the waters.
The pesticides — carbaryl, carbofuran and methomyl — can kill fish outright in certain concentrations and impair the ability of fish to smell, swim, avoid predators and grow.
But the biggest effect is the harm to aquatic insects that salmon rely on for food, said Angela Somma, who heads the service's endangered species division.

Research shows flow of many rivers in decline
April 21, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The flow of water in the world's largest rivers has declined over the past half-century, with significant changes found in about a third of the big rivers.
An analysis of 925 major rivers from 1948 to 2004 showed an overall decline in total discharge. The reduction in inflow to the Pacific Ocean alone was about equal to shutting off the Mississippi River, according to the new study appearing in the May 15 edition of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.
The only area showing a significant increase in flow was the Arctic, where warming conditions are increasing the snow and ice melt, said researchers led by Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
"Freshwater resources will likely decline in the coming decades over many densely populated areas at mid- to low latitudes, largely due to climate changes, Dai said. "Rapid disappearing mountain glaciers in the Tibetan plateau and other places will make matters worse."
In the United States, the flow of the Mississippi River increased by 22 percent over the period because of increased precipitation across the Midwest. On the other hand, the Columbia River's flow declined by about 14 percent, mainly because of reduced precipitation and higher water usage.

PBS To Debut JEAN-MICHEL COUSTEAU: OCEAN ADVENTURES - Call Of The Killer Whales (Parts 1 and 2) On April 22
April 21, 2009 (Reality TV)
The most complex marine species on the planet is the orca, the ruler of the ocean. Though they number fewer than 100,000 worldwide, orcas, also called killer whales, extend from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and learning more about them is a global endeavor.
In this episode, Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team of explorers travel to both the northern and southern hemispheres as they seek out killer whales in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The team discovers that people and orcas share surprising similarities, even similar needs; they relate their findings to the captivity and release of Keiko, of Free Willy fame, whose survival depended on pioneering efforts to re-introduce Keiko into the wild.
Intriguing detours in the expedition arise, leading to critical examinations of our environment, of the food on our dinner tables, even of our own health.
JEAN-MICHEL COUSTEAU: OCEAN ADVENTURES - Call of the Killer Whales Debuts Wednesday, April 22, 9-11 pm ET on PBS.

"Poisoned Waters," including an exploration of Puget Sound, is a Tuesday TV pick
April 21, 2009 (Seattle Times)
PBS' "Frontline" series examines America's contaminated waterways (including Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound). Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hendrick Smith interviews scientists, environmental activists and everyday people affected by the pollution problem. Heavy stuff, but informative viewing. 9 tonight, KCTS

Raging River forest acreage to fill gap in I-90 Greenway
April 21, 2009 (Seattle Times)
More than a decade after Jim Ellis took Ron Sims on a walking tour of the Raging River and showed him the cabin he built and lived in during the 1940s, the men returned Monday to the headwaters of the river.
This time they stood on a hillside overlooking the forested valley south of Snoqualmie and unveiled a plan that would preserve 7,000 acres and add it to a corridor of public land stretching along Interstate 90 from Bellevue to the east side of the Cascades.
"It's wonderful to stand here and say that we are finally going to get this property," said Ellis, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust's first chairman. "This is the culmination of a tremendous amount of investment in surrounding lands that makes this the key piece of the puzzle."
Ellis, 87, fished for chinook salmon on the Raging River as a youth (and later watched the fish runs decline), built a cabin at 15 with his younger brother John, and built a fancier cabin after World War II for himself and his bride.
The river, a tributary of the Snoqualmie, supports one-fifth of the larger river's chinook runs, county officials said. Ellis is hopeful the once-plentiful runs will return under state ownership.

WWF: Energy giants ignore pleas to help save whales
April 20, 2009 (InTheNews - UK)
Two of the world's biggest energy companies are refusing to cooperate with a major consultation aimed at protecting some of the world's most endangered whales, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) claims.
BP and Exxon have failed to reply to invitations from the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP) to join the discussions over how to minimise the danger to gray whales off Sakhalin Island, in far-east Russia, an area with extensive oil and gas reserves.
BP, however, say they have little to contribute as their activities in the region are "very insignificant" compared with Shell and Exxon. Experts estimate only 155 gray whales are thought to remain in the wild, just 25 of which are breeding females.
Observers are adamant the number of gray whales in Sakhalin area is declining. Sakhalin Energy (a subsidiary of Russian giant Gazprom) and Shell have entered into negotiations with the WGWAP about the need to protect the whales' feeding environment.
Heather Sohl, WWF species officer said: "The continuing refusal of BP, Exxon and (Russian company) Rosneft to even consider joining other parties on the gray whale advisory panel is hampering conservation efforts and the flow of information - with potentially disastrous consequences for the whales.

Documentary's wake-up call rings for Puget Sound
April 20, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith examines ecological distress in the nation's estuaries in a two-hour documentary called "Poisoned Waters" airing on "Frontline" at 9 p.m. Tuesday on KCTS 9.
The former New York Times reporter and author of such books as "The Russians" and "The Power Game," about how Congress wields influence, focuses largely on Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound.
Smith acknowledges that many of the details about the Sound will be familiar to Pacific Northwest residents. But he found similarities in estuaries, lakes and rivers across the country interesting. We sat down with Smith to ask about the documentary.
Q: What compelled you to tell this story?
A: This is a personal project as well as an investigative project. I have lived on and sailed and swum in and boated and crabbed in both bodies of water. For a long time I had a house on one of the main rivers flowing into Chesapeake Bay — 15 years or so.

1,000 turn out for Duwamish restoration
April 19, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Standing atop a hill on the banks of the Duwamish River in Tukwila, James Hallissy surveyed the thorny, pesky plants he had offered to help remove as part of a major restoration effort, and he wondered, "Where are the sheep and goats?"
Clearly, he thought, more than a shovel was needed for such a big task.
But two hours later, the 28-year-old Boeing engineer marveled at how much he and some 280 volunteers accomplished before sitting down to a picnic lunch Saturday: The hill, now cleared of blackberry bushes and other invasive plants, was ready for mulch — the second of a three-part process that, if all goes well, will restore habitat for fish and wildlife and ultimately make Puget Sound a little healthier.
An estimated 1,000 people turned out Saturday to pull weeds, lay down mulch and plant native vegetation at 12 sites along the Duwamish, which flows into the Sound. The event's main organizer, People for Puget Sound, billed it as part of "Earth Month," since Earth Day is April 22.
Executive Director Kathy Fletcher noted that People for Puget Sound has been working to restore the Duwamish since 1994, "when it was basically an industrial wasteland."

Chinook fishery drought is over
April 17, 2009 (Skagit Valley Herald)
The last time was back in 1993.
The chinook fishery drought, however, is about to end for anglers looking to hook trophy kings in one of the state’s premier rivers. During the recreational fishery this summer, tribal and sport fishermen will divide the week equally, with each fishing for 3 1/2 days.
The Skagit River will open to recreational fishing for Chinook July 9 and close at midnight on July 11. At that time, the tribes will be allowed to net fish for the next three days. That schedule will be repeated for the remainder of the season before closing Aug. 9.
There will be a two fish bag limit comprised of one adult chinook of any size and one ‘Jack’ of less than 24 inches. The run is expected to be strong. About 23,000 wild summer and fall chinook are expected to return to the Skagit. The next largest chinook run in any Puget Sound river is fewer than 10,000 fish.

Researchers building largest Gray Whale photo library
April 17, 2009 (NW Cable News - video)
Prominent whale researcher John Calambokidis of Olympia-based Cascadia Research is on board and working. He and two of his co-workers are enjoying the comforts of an Island Adventures Whale Tour Boat and gathering important information at the same time.
Cascadia is building the most comprehensive library of Gray Whale photos in the world. He and his team catalogue and study the photos making it possible to, in many cases, identify individual whales by sight.
The information allows the group to track the incredible annual migration of the Gray Whales. Also, if one gets into any kind of trouble, they can instantly inform authorities of its age, sex and health.

Agency seeks to tap public knowledge of Inlet belugas
April 17, 2009 (Anchorage Daily News)
Federal biologists are deciding what parts of Cook Inlet are vital to the survival of the area's population of beluga whales, and want to know what you know about the animals.
The National Marine Fisheries Service listed the belugas as an endangered species last October. Now scientists have to designate "critical habitat" for the whales.
Once that happens, federal agencies will have to make sure they don't fund activities or projects in those habitat areas that further endanger the whales.
Studies have shown Cook Inlet's belugas are a genetically distinct species and don't interact with belugas in other parts of the North Pacific. A 1979 survey put the population at about 1,300 animals, but during the 1990s their numbers plummeted and a survey in 1998 estimated about 350 whales remained in the inlet.
Subsistence hunting of the whales was largely curtailed, and scientists hoped their numbers would recover. That has not happened. The population now is believed to be 300 to 400 animals.

Stimulus funds will aid irrigation, fish passage
April 17, 2009 (Yakima Herald)
Farmers, fish and workers in the Yakima Valley will benefit from nearly $44 million in federal stimulus spending.
The money is earmarked for three projects to make efficient use of irrigation water in the Sunnyside Division and improve fish passage at Roza Dam, a key spot in the basin for fish migration.
The funding from the stimulus package announced this week will speed the start of the three projects. All had been close to construction, a requirement for stimulus consideration.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Yakima Irrigation Project, proposed the projects be considered for stimulus funding, said Dawn Wiedemeier, project field office manager in Yakima.

Puget Sound cleanup only succeeds with public involvement
April 17, 2009 (Seattle Times editorial)
Cleanup of Puget Sound picked up important momentum in the nastiest economy and tightest state budget in more than 20 years.
The Legislature endorsed with bipartisan votes and scarce dollars a vitally important to-do list. Lawmakers, such as Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, helped turn the action agenda of the Puget Sound Partnership into a working plan to repair a beloved but polluted estuary.
Legislators endowed capital projects to remove dikes in the Nisqually River delta and launch dam removal on the Elwha River. Another project will study phosphorus loading into Lake Whatcom, where half of Bellingham and Whatcom County residents draw their water. The goal is a model for stopping pollution before it enters the Sound.
Also missing is a robust investment with the highest return per tax dollar: public education and citizen involvement.
Recruiting, organizing and training volunteers pays enormous dividends. Equally important is teaching the nearly 4 million residents around Puget Sound about the direct role they have in the pollution and cleanup of the Sound.
The importance of engaging individuals in Sound cleanup and helping them accept their responsibility in keeping pollutants out of sewers and storm drains was a repeated theme in a powerful documentary previewed this week at Town Hall.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith looks at the ragged health of Puget Sound and Chesapeake Bay three decades after the federal Clean Water Act. His two-hour "Frontline" presentation, "Poisoned Waters," will air Tuesday on KCTS-TV at 9 p.m.

EPA takes first step toward climate change regs
April 17, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a danger to public health and welfare, taking the first step to regulating pollution linked to climate change, The Associated Press has learned.
Such regulation would have widespread economic and social impact, from requiring more fuel efficient automobiles to limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial sources, changing the way the nation produces energy.
The EPA will announce its proposed finding Friday, triggering a 60-day comment period before issuing a final ruling, said congressional officials who have been briefed by the agency. They spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement had not yet been made.
The EPA has concluded that the science pointing to man-made pollution as a cause of global warming is "compelling and overwhelming." The blame goes mainly to carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.

Earth Day work party at Union Slough could draw up to 200
April 17, 2009 (Everett Herald)
A man-made wetland area along Union Slough in Everett will be the site of an Earth Day work party Saturday.
Some 200 people are expected for the event, which will involve planting trees, staking up some earlier plantings that started to grow sideways, mulching and doing some weeding of non-­native species, according to Keeley O'Connell of People for Puget Sound.
There also will be guided tours of the 24-acre site at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. The area is an estuary and marsh created to provide habitat for young salmon and other marine life. It's east of Highway 529 between Everett and Marysville at 37th Street NE (Biringer Farm).
For more information or to volunteer, call Brian Slaby at the task force at 425-252-6686.

Saving our region: Nice plans, but...
April 16, 2009 (Crosscut)
A candid look at the efforts to preserve Puget Sound and surrounding lands discovers inconvenient truths. Population growth is not going where planned. Studies replace courageous action on Puget Sound. And land use loopholes invite blockbuster developments in rural areas.
Looking past transient economic tremors, the big questions for our region’s appeal and prosperity two and three decades in the future haven’t gone away: Can the region grow without despoiling both our intimate and grander landscapes? Can we protect Puget Sound’s rich flora and fauna — native plants and wildlife on land and in the water — against decline and disappearance in the face of the rapid, profound changes we are working across the region?
The links among how the land and water are used and how living things respond are as inexorable in lean economic times as in boom periods. Our day-to-day actions still shape the future, even if budget deficits grab headlines and shift our attention to saving schools, health care, public safety and jobs. So let's get back to those big questions in my opening paragraph.

How we’ve poisoned the killer whale
April 16, 2009 (Georgia Straight)
A new study published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry has revealed that the declines in the northern and southern populations of killer whales found along B.C.’s coast can be attributed to environmental contaminants known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These contaminants accumulate in salmon during their time at sea, and subsequently become integrated into the systems of killer whales, which primarily consume salmon. Despite having been regulated, major POPS such as DDTs (pesticide) and PCBs (found in electrical capacitor and transformer fluid) are found in the highest concentrations within analyzed killer whale tissue. This is because any remaining residues of DDTs and PCBs continue to enter the ocean via terrestrial runoff, a process by which rain combines with and carries contaminants into the ocean.
It is also important to note that while industrialized countries such as Canada and the USA have regulated the use of these POPs, with DDTs being banned 30 years ago, and PCBs being limited in their use, these practices have not been adopted universally. Many developing countries still continue to use these chemicals, which subsequently enter nearby bodies of water, eventually reaching the Pacific in less than five to eight days.
Although the current strategy has identified critical habitat, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has yet to formally declare protection of critical habitat of the killer whales under the Species at Risk Act. One can only wonder how long it will take for this strategy to even be implemented, and if, at that point, it will even be effective. As of today, the northern resident killer whales have a designated “threatened” status, while the smaller southern population has slipped to a more dire “endangered” status.

Signs point 'up' for Rogue chinook, steelhead
April 16, 2009 (So. Oregon Mail Tribune)
The angling glass is starting to look more half-full than half-empty on the Rogue River, where chinook salmon and steelhead returns should finally tick upward after a string of poor showings.
A boost in ocean feeding conditions in recent years means this year's in-river returns of spring chinook and summer steelhead should both begin to rebound.

EPA Will Test Pesticides' Effect on Endocrine System
April 16, 2009 (Washington Post)
The Environmental Protection Agency announced today it will order pesticide manufacturers for the first time to test 67 chemicals contained in their products to determine if they disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates both animals' and humans' growth, metabolism and reproduction.
Researchers have raised concerns that chemicals released into the environment are interfering with animals' hormone systems, citing problems such as male fish in the Potomac River that are growing eggs. The chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, may interfere with the hormones that humans and animals produce or secrete.
"Endocrine disruptors can cause lifelong health problems, especially for children," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a statement. "Gathering this information will help us work with communities and industry to protect Americans from harmful exposure."

Washington House approves limits on gas emissions
April 16, 2009 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Working into the early hours, the state House passed a bill Wednesday taking steps toward curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But creating a regional "cap and trade" system for pollution credits was not among them.

Aquatic reserve proposed off North Whidbey Island
April 16, 2009 (Whidbey News Times)
A proposal to create an "aquatic reserve" around Smith and Minor islands west of Oak Harbor will be aired at Oak Harbor High School April 29 at 6:30 p.m.
The state Department of Natural Resources is considering making the move at the request of the non-profit People for Puget Sound.
The tiny islands are located off West Beach, out from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Smith Island once was home to a lighthouse built in 1858, and today it is home to a weather station owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Miner" island, as Wikipedia spells it, is smaller.
The islands, connected by a low spit that covers at high tide, are usually closed to the public.
The DNR states that by making the area a reserve, it can work with the community to develop a management plan that specifies uses within the reserve, "and may limit the activities that can take place on the site."
People for Puget Sound started the reserve process last year, according to the DNR release, pointing out that the shorelines and deep waters surrounding Smith and Minor islands are important areas for a wide variety seabirds as well as salmon, halibut and other fish.
Recreational and commercial fishing is managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and treaty tribes, and would not be affected by management of the reserve, the DNR states.
The proposal covers 25,000 acres that extend from the shores of Joseph Whidbey State Park and Fort Ebey State Park. Supporters include the SeaDoc Society, Wildfish Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy.
Without the reserve designation, the DNR could consider other uses for the area. Though it does not specify any such uses, the news release notes that state-owned aquatic lands are used in a number of ways, including marinas, net pens for fish rearing and energy projects.

Salmon conference kicks off
April 16, 2009 (Olympian)
Ten years of state funding directed at salmon recovery has netted a lot of improved salmon habitat, but most salmon populations still lag well beyond targeted recovery levels.
Accomplishments to date identified by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board include:
• 1,000 miles of new stream habitat opened to salmon through the removal of 220 fish barriers, such as road culverts.
• Permanent protection of more than 28,400 acres of quality habitat.
• Repair of more than 9,000 acres of wetlands, estuaries and streamside riparian areas.
• Construction of 456 fish screens to keep salmon the rivers and out of irrigation ditches.
"We've gone from the easy, obvious projects like replacing road culverts to the more complex projects like estuary restoration," said Jim Kramer, an environmental planning consultant who helped shape the state's Puget Sound chinook salmon recovery plan completed in 2005.
But the challenge of salmon recovery remains a formidable one, according to key indicators tracked by the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office. For example:
• Two-thirds of the chinook salmon stocks in the state were considered to be in depressed, critical or unknown condition in 2008.
He also predicted that the system the state has in place for salmon recovery should give it a leg up on other states competing for federal economic-stimulus funding earmarked for salmon recovery and marine habitat repairs.

Two state Superfund sites get stimulus money
April 16, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will use a portion of $582 million in federal stimulus money to speed clean up at two Superfund sites in Tacoma and on Bainbridge Island.
Between $5 million to $10 million will be spent to remove contaminated soils from residential backyards and park areas within a mile of the former Asarco smelter along Tacoma's Commencement Bay.
The EPA says another $5 million will be used to remove old wood-treating equipment and clean up groundwater at the Wyckoff-Eagle Harbor site on Bainbridge Island.

In the wild, Shamu has bigger fish to fry than bony you
April 15, 2009 (Arizona Central)
I was pretty interested the first time I saw a trained orca, but after about three minutes, I started wishing I was doing something else. The whale jumps up in the air. The whale falls back into the water. The whale jumps through a hoop. The whale jumps through another hoop. Etc., etc., etc.
Anyway, there are few reports of killer whales bothering people in the wild. They prefer salmon or seals or even other whales to skinny, bony eats like us.
However, there are numerous accounts of orcas in captivity attacking their trainers and even drowning them.
For example, in 1991, a 20-year-old part-time trainer at a marine park in British Columbia fell into a pool where three orcas set upon her and eventually drowned her.
There are a number of explanations for why this and other incidents might have happened, but if you ask me, we don't have any business cooping up beasts just to put on a show.

Tidal-energy project stays on course after UW's tests on Puget Sound
April 15, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Researchers from the University of Washington spent four days last week on board a vessel collecting data, capturing underwater video and measuring velocity in Admiralty Inlet between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island. The channel likely will host one of the nation's largest tidal-energy projects.
UW researchers said last week's tests confirmed the location is ideal for capturing tidal energy. The team gathered some initial data and will return two more times this year to monitor the site.
Strong currents in Puget Sound are considered among the best in the country for harnessing tidal energy. But the industry is young, and experts acknowledge the technology and its possible impacts on the environment must withstand further testing.
That's why the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) is pursuing a pilot project in Admiralty Inlet. In two years, officials expect up to three turbines will be placed on the seafloor to produce 1 megawatt of energy, or enough to serve about 700 homes.
The PUD has chosen a turbine design that spins either way depending on the tide's direction. An underwater cable would feed energy to transmission lines on Whidbey Island. The blade tips are enclosed, and the turbine can be placed on the seafloor with no drilling or pilings, said Craig Collar, the PUD's senior manager of energy-resource development.

5 gray whales beached in last 2 weeks
April 14, 2009 (KVAL)
A gray whale found north of Heceta Head last week starved to death, one of five gray whales found dead along the West Coast in the past two weeks.
Biologists say some were hit by ships or boat propellers. Others likely died from illness on their annual migration north.
Several whale deaths so close together might seem unusual, but the whales are migrating right now.
"You're likely to get one month where two or three come ashore all at once," said Brian Gorman with the National Marine Fisheries Service, "then you'll get a period of five or six weeks where none will come ashore."

FOR KIDS: A grim future for some killer whales
April 14, 2009 (Science News)
An oil spill off the U.S. coast 20 years ago still threatens marine life
In 1989, an oil tanker called the Exxon Valdez struck an underwater reef in Prince William Sound, a large body of water in southern Alaska. The ship dumped about 11 million gallons of crude oil into the freezing water, creating the largest spill in U.S. history — and a disaster for animals that lived in or near the water.
Now, 20 years later, the area still has not fully recovered. At the time of the spill, two groups of orcas, or killer whales, were swimming in the area. One of these groups of whales appears to be headed for extinction, and the other is recovering more slowly than scientists had predicted.
The first group, called AT-1, wasn’t large to begin with: When the spill happened, the group had 22 whales. Nine of these whales died during the spill, and since then, no baby whales have been born in the group. The older males — who can live to be 60 — have been dying off. Now, only seven whales remain.
These orcas may look like and live in the same areas as other killer whales, but orcas in the AT-1 group are genetically different and communicate with a different set of sounds. They are transient orcas, which have larger home ranges than the other kind of killer whales, called resident orcas. Transient orcas eat mammals, such as harbor seals, sea lions, porpoises and other whales; resident orcas eat fish. These two types of killer whales don’t breed with each other.

The blue whale follows its food allowing for more sightings off the B.C. coast
April 12, 2009 (Canadian Press)
Research that will soon be published in the journal Marine Mammal Science shows the whales are increasingly being spotted off the coasts of British Columbia, Alaska and Mexico's Baja.
Experts say the massive mammals are following the krill, the tiny shrimp that are its main source of food, as they follow a cool water phenomena known as Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
The El Nino-like pattern of Pacific Ocean climate changes is bringing the krill, and the whales along with them, both north to British Columbia and Alaska and south to Mexico, thousands of kilometres away from their usual home off the California coast.
The report was co-authored by John Calambokidis, of the fisheries science centre Cascadia Research in Washington State, and John Ford, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Once thought to number about 300,000, its believed there are only about 10,000 blue whales left, more than 40 years after commercial whaling was stopped.
One census of the blue whales spotted in shipping lanes says the population is dwindling, but Calambokidis believes the whales have just moved on and aren't being spotted by the ships.
It's a pattern the massive whales might have followed for decades, chasing krill that move with the 20 or 30-year cycle of cool ocean water.
"It's good news to see these whales back in our waters," said John Ford, co-author of the article and a whale researcher with the federal fisheries and oceans department.
In August 2007, Ford was part of survey team that spotted five blue whales off the Queen Charlotte Islands. Researchers believe about 2,000 of the sleek, steel-grey whales live off the west coast, between Alaska and Mexico. Worldwide, there are only about 10,000 blue whales.

Blue whales follow food, increase sightings in B.C.
April 12, 2009 (CTV)
They are the behemoths of the deep, the largest mammal on the face of the earth and, until now, a rare sighting off the coast of British Columbia.
But the blue whales, which can be the length of two school buses and weigh 200 tonnes, are once again returning to where they were slaughtered to near extinction in the last century.
Research that will soon be published in the journal Marine Mammal Science shows the whales are increasingly being spotted off the coasts of British Columbia, Alaska and Mexico's Baja.
Experts say the massive mammals are following the krill, the tiny shrimp that are its main source of food, as they follow a cool water phenomena known as Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
Few people have been lucky enough to see a blue whale in person, which Ford said is "incredibly impressive."
Calambokidis agreed that it was impossible to describe how large the whales really are until you're up close and personal.
"When you get that close, you get a new appreciation."

Navy Exercises Raise New Concerns About Sonar Use
April 10, 2009 (Kitsap Sun)
The Navy's use of sonar this week in the Strait of Juan de Fuca has again raised concerns about the appropriate balance between Navy operations and protection of marine mammals.
The USS San Francisco, a fast-attack submarine, left Bremerton on Tuesday and conducted "required training dives," including the use of sonar, according to Navy spokeswoman Sheila Murray. The sub and its escort ship took required steps to avoid marine mammals, she said.
Hydrophones (underwater microphones) operated by researchers in the San Juan Islands picked up loud sonar "pings" from about 7 p.m. Tuesday until after 3 a.m. Wednesday.
Val Veirs, a San Juan Island resident and retired professor of physics at Colorado College, reported that sound levels coming from the San Francisco could be heard underwater from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island to the San Juans and beyond.
"The received levels of the signals at Lime Kiln Lighthouse (on San Juan Island) were about the most intense sounds that the hydrophones there have recorded in the past several years of continuous operation," Veirs said in a written statement.
Based on an estimated distance of 10 nautical miles, sound levels were on a par with those from the USS Shoup during a 2003 incident that triggered an interagency investigation, he said.
Howard Garrett of Orca Network, which keeps track of whales through an organization of professional and amateur observers, said he received reports of transient killer whales, a minke whale and two gray whales on the day the San Francisco left. Conducting operations at night makes it difficult to see marine mammals, he said, and transient orcas are known for their stealthy hunting with little noise for passive sonar to pick up.

Navy sonar use stirs commotion among whale advocates
April 10, 2009 (Watching Our Waterways blog)
Concerns about the Navy’s use of sonar Tuesday night in the Strait of Juan de Fuca are reverberating among environmental groups, whale advocates and researchers.
Meanwhile, Val Veirs, professor emeritus of physics at Colorado College, has calculated that the highest levels of sound received at Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island was about 140 decibels, according to a press release issued this afternoon by The Whale Museum. Veirs is president of the board for The Whale Museum.
“The received levels of the signals at Lime Kiln Lighthouse were about the most intense sounds that the hydrophones there have recorded in the past several years of continuous operation,” Veirs said a written statement.
The sonar pings were about as intense as those recorded in May 2003, when the Navy’s guided missile destroyer USS Shoup moved through Haro Strait, Veirs said.
Biologists observing killer whales at that time believe that the animals responded to the sound by moving away at a rapid pace. As a result of that incident, the Navy changed its protocols on the use of sonar.

Good salmon news for state, not so for California, Oregon
April 10, 2009 (Wenatchee World)
California’s commercial chinook salmon fishing season will be called off again after a record low number of the fish returned to the Sacramento River to spawn last year, federal fisheries managers announced Wednesday.
The decision by the Pacific Fishery Management Council will almost completely curtail commercial fishing in Oregon as well, but allows the sport and commercial seasons in Washington to proceed.
In this state, a historic expansion of selective fishing for hatchery-marked salmon in Puget Sound was the most significant item from the council meetings.
Quotas have been lifted in northern and central Puget Sound for the first time since 2007 and there will be a longer season in many parts of Puget Sound.
Selective fishing is where anglers catch only those salmon with a missing adipose fin, indicating they are of hatchery origin, while releasing wild stocks of concern.
Chinook salmon populations returning to California’s Central Valley to spawn in 2008 continued a precipitous decline seen in recent years. The council estimated that 66,264 salmon adults returned in 2008 to the Sacramento River. The estimate was down from 90,000 in 2007, which had dropped from a high of more than 750,000 adult salmon counted in 2002.
The Sacramento River chinook run often provides the bulk of salmon caught off the coasts of California and Oregon.

Comment time extended on Puget Sound recovery plan
April 10, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The public has another chance to weigh in on the state's recovery plan for Puget Sound.
The Puget Sound Partnership released more on its cleanup plans at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
EPA ecologist John Gabrielson says the agency wants more specifics on how the state plans to carry out its plan.
He says the partnership didn't give the public enough time to comment on the plan when it was released last fall after an 18-month process.
The current 30-day comment period ends April 20.

Oregon senators question Navy training off coast
April 9, 2009 (Oregonian)
U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon have sent a letter to the secretary of the Navy about concerns over the potential environmental and economic impact of expanded training off the Pacific coast.
The two Oregon Democrats said in their letter to Secretary B.J. Penn that the training may pose substantial risks.
The expanded warfare training proposal includes underwater minefield testing, explosive ordnance use, expanded land and air-based exercises and widespread sonar use.
The senators cited four specific concerns: irreparable harm to fisheries, sonar impact on marine mammals, possible threats to endangered species and the potential release of hazardous materials into sensitive marine ecosystems.
A public comment period ends Saturday.

Navy confirms underwater voices in San Juans
April 9, 2009 (NW Cable News - VIDEO)
U.S. Navy has confirmed an unofficial report swimming through the region's expansive whale protection community.
A Navy Spokesperson says a submarine, The USS San Francisco, was conducting underwater exercises in the Strait of Juan De Fuca Tuesday evening.
Several underwater listening devices operated by area whale groups picked up what they described as very loud sonar pings, as well as what sounded like human voices.

Dead Orca Calf Washes up Near Monterey Bay
April 9, 2009 (Marine Mammal Center - CA)
Last Sunday a report of an orca (more commonly known as a killer whale) found floating on the rocks near Monterey Bay came into The Marine Mammal Center. Due to weather conditions the carcass was inaccessible until Wednesday, April 8. When news that the orca would be towed to shore came in, the Center's lead veterinarian Dr. Frances Gulland and team along with a team from Moss Landing met at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories to perform a necropsy on the remains. The orca, although partially decomposed, was identified as a female calf weighing approximately 300 kg or about 660 lb. The cause of death remains unknown as does the pod/sub-species origination. While all orcas may bear the same black and white markings, there are actually three distinct sub-species of orcas. Transient orcas, known to swim as far as 250 miles a day travelling in groups of up to 7 individuals; eat other marine mammals and are commonly seen along the western coast. Offshore orcas typically travel in groups of 30-60 individuals, are rarely seen, and eat a diet consisting primarily of fish. Resident orcas, such as the southern (endangered) and northern residents, reside 9 months out of the year in the Pacific Northwest, but have been known to travel as far south as Monterey Bay in search of plentiful salmon runs. While this small calf is an orca, more identification studies will need to be conducted to see which pod she originated from. It is rare to find a dead orca because they typically sink, however, information gathered from the carcass could give whale researchers new insight into toxin levels and other useful information that could otherwise not be gathered. The Marine Mammal Center and other whale researchers hope to learn more about the cause of death and origin of this small calf.

Researchers Analyze Navy Sonar From Sub
April 9, 2009 (KING5 TV)
Researchers who recorded sonar from a Navy submarine near the San Juan Islands Tuesday night say the sounds were loud enough to potentially harm whales. KPLU environment reporter Liam Moriarty has more.

Navy confirms underwater voices in San Juans
April 9, 2009 (KING5 TV)
The U.S. Navy has confirmed an unofficial report swimming through the region's expansive whale protection community.
A Navy Spokesperson says a submarine, The USS San Francisco, was conducting underwater exercises in the Strait of Juan De Fuca Tuesday evening.
Several underwater listening devices operated by area whale groups picked up what they described as very loud sonar pings, as well as what sounded like human voices.
Puget Sound is wired with an elaborated network of hydrophones, underwater listening devices that can pick up marine mammals and just about anything else making noise under water, including people.
The Navy spokesperson explained the voices were probably those of Navy personnel communicating between the submerged sub and a ship on the surface. The Navy said its spotters were scanning the area for any signs of marine mammal activity and found none so felt it was safe to conduct standard underwater exercises.
Whale protection groups say the noises are capable of causing harm to killer whales and other marine creatures.
Sonar noise is blamed for confusing, injuring, possibly even killing marine mammals like whales and dolphins.

Whale advocates concerned about sonar in Strait
April 9, 2009 (San Juan Journal)
Orca advocate Jeanne Hyde reports on her blog, whale-of-a-porpoise.blogspot.com, that loud pings believed to be from a ship's sonar were recorded over an eight-hour period in Haro Strait Tuesday and today.
The pings were recorded over hydrophones stationed at Lime Kiln State Park and about three miles north of Lime Kiln. Hyde reported she was told by the U.S. Coast Guard that the sounds came from a U.S. Navy submarine.
The Navy is taking public comment until April 13 on possible expansion of the use of sonar in the Northwest.
In a letter to the Navy, the Whale Museum board of directors asked that the Navy "incorporate better techniques to improve their detection rates of marine mammals, extend their exclusion zones around detected marine mammals, and utilize exclusion zones based on specific areas and times in their mitigation strategies."
"The Navy can and should do better at knowing where marine mammals are within the Navy’s training region. It would be preferable that a third party organization conduct this monitoring and that the sightings be reported and made available to the scientific and management communities," the letter states.

Panel to focus on Navy's testing expansion plans
April 9, 2009 (Whidbey Examiner)
Howard Garrett of Orca Network and Fred Felleman, a member of Ocean Advocates, will speak about the effects on the Puget Sound environment of the Navy's proposed expansion of the Northwest Training Range Complex during a meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9, at the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St., Port Townsend.
Garrett will address the effects of sonar on the local orca population, and Felleman will discuss the impacts on endangered species of munitions testing/training. Others invited include Kyle A. Loring, Friends of the San Juans; Michael Jasny, Natural Resources Defense Council; Kurt Beardslee; Wildfish Conservancy and People for Puget Sound. The Navy has also been invited.
Much of Washington's coastal waters (out 200 miles) are part of the proposed operations area, which includes the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary. Training in EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) is proposed in Port Townsend Bay, Crescent Harbor (off Whidbey Island) and Floral Point, Bangor. Underwater detonations would take place for training and testing exercises.
The training and testing exercises would include testing new weapons systems on ships, jets and submarines; underwater detonation of a wide variety of explosives, including radioactive depleted uranium and other hazardous materials; and active sonar, which has been shown to damage whales and other marine life.
The comment period on the Navy's proposals ends April 13. For information and to comment on the project, visit www.NWTRangeComplexEIS.com.

New Concerns Raised Over Navy Sonar in the San Juans
April 8, 2009 (KPLU audio)
Underwater microphones meant to monitor killer whale sounds in the San Juan Islands have recorded what appears to be a naval sonar exercise. This raises concerns about the sonar's impact on the region's endangered orca whales and other marine mammals. More from KPLU environment reporter Liam Moriarty.

Ottawa takes first step to protect orcas
April 8, 2009 (Eco Child's Play)
Environmentalists declared victory Wednesday after learning that the federal government has issued an order setting out the boundaries of critical habitat required for the recovery of two killer whale populations considered at risk in B.C.
"It is precedent-setting ... the first time the federal government under the Species at Risk Act has issued an order to protect habitat," said Gwen Barlee of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
The order this week by Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea sets out the legal boundaries for critical habitat in B.C. of endangered southern resident killer whales and threatened northern resident killer whales.
The boundaries for endangered residents include the area of Canadian water from Juan de Fuca Strait through the southern Strait of Georgia and Gulf Islands to the mouth of the Fraser River.
Lance Barrett-Lennard, a Vancouver Aquarium scientist who co-chairs the killer whale recovery team, said he was not celebrating until he sees more details on how Ottawa plans to protect the critical habitat. "This has been such a difficult road so far getting this through," he said, noting the aquarium was not part of the law suit.

Flame Retardant Whales
April 8, 2009 (Eco Child's Play) Jean Michele Cousteau (son of Jacques Cousteau) would call himself an ambassador of the environment. I would call him a hero to us all.
Most recently Cousteau has discovered many populations of killer whales are contaminated with toxic, synthetic chemicals known as PBDEs, or flame retardants. I understand the wisdom of not wanting your children’s pajamas to catch fire, but how many of us are living in gaslight districts? At what point do we ask for change, and at what point do we demand it?
Please take a look at a wonderful new site, Toxic Flame Retardants. Without our oceans, we are nothing.

Human voice heard underwater last night in San Juans
April 8, 2009 (Watching Our Waterways blog)
I have asked a Navy public affairs officer to help me track down an unusual incident involving a human voice heard underwater last night in Haro Strait near the San Juan Islands.
Val Veirs, who operates hydrophones in the San Juan Islands, picked up odd sounds that he and his computerized monitoring system have never heard in at least seven years of operation.
As best as anyone can tell, the sounds consist of a human voice interspersed with loud sonar pings. Click here for one of many sound files that Val saved.
“I have never heard anything like this before,” Val told me this morning. “I have computer codes that try to reject the usual things. The Shoup came out of that, and these programs are getting better at discriminating unusual sounds. They were telling us last night that this was something very different.”
One of the concerns among whale observers is that transient orcas were seen in the area two days ago yesterday afternoon. Of course, the Navy is supposed to follow procedures to make sure marine mammals are not within a range where sonar could harm them.
Reports from Scott Veirs, Val’s son, and Jeanne Hyde, can be read on their respective blogs HERE and HERE.

Lower Snake 3rd most endangered river, group says
April 8, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Four dams that are blamed for damaging salmon runs on the lower Snake River in Washington place the waterway third among the nation's most endangered rivers, according to an annual report by American Rivers.
The conservation group on Tuesday said the Sacramento and San Joaquin river system in California topped this year's list.
Environmental groups for years have sought the removal of the four dams on the Snake as the only way to restore the salmon. They contend the dams and the slackwater reservoirs they create are hostile to the migrating fish.
Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor dams were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the middle of the last century. The dams are along the Snake in southeastern Washington from near Pullman to the Tri-Cities.
The Bush administration supported the dams, but environmentalists are hoping the Obama administration will seek removal.
"Taking out the four lower Snake River dams and giving an endangered river a much-needed chance to recover is smart business," Paul Fish, head of Mountain Gear, an outdoor retail company based in Spokane, said in the American Rivers report.
Every year, the four dams kill as many as 90 percent of juvenile salmon and steelhead that migrate downstream to the ocean, American Rivers said. All the river's salmon runs are either threatened with extinction or already extinct.
Columbia Basin salmon returns have historically been the West Coast's largest. They numbered 10 million to 30 million per year, but overfishing, habitat loss, pollution and dam construction over the past century caused the numbers to dwindle.

Rogue River dam to be removed
April 8, 2009 (Seattle Times)
GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Within weeks, jackhammers will start knocking Savage Rapids Dam into rubble, and with it two decades of bitter battles over whether to keep what had become a crumbling symbol of a bygone era when rugged pioneers bent nature to their needs.
When irrigation season starts next month, 12 modern pumps will fill the canals serving 7,500 acres of the Grants Pass Irrigation District. By December, the northern half of the dam on the Rogue River will be gone, allowing salmon and steelhead to swim freely past the site for the first time since 1921.
Winter storms will start washing downstream the 250,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel built up behind the dam.
Adult fish swimming upstream will no longer struggle with the poorly designed fish ladders. Young fish migrating downstream will no longer get shunted into irrigation ditches or a turbine to die.

Powerful sonar causes deafness in dolphins: study
April 7, 2009 (Yahoo News)
Very loud, repeated blasts of sonar can cause a dolphin to temporarily lose its hearing, according to an investigation into a suspected link between naval operations and cetacean strandings.
Numerous beachings of whales, dolphins and porpoises have occurred over the past decade, prompting a finger of blame to be pointed at warship exercises.
A theory is that the mammals' hearing becomes damaged by the powerful mid-frequency sonar used by submarines and surface vessels, prompting the creatures, which themselves use sound for navigation, to become disoriented.
A paper published in the British journal Biology Letters on Wednesday provides the first lab-scale investigation into this idea, although its authors stress it does not provide proof that warship sonar is to blame.
Marine biologists led by Aran Mooney at the University of Hawaii exposed a captive-born, trained Atlantic bottlenose dolphin to progressively louder pings of mid-frequency sonar.
The experiment took place in open water pens at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and in the presence of the dolphin's trainer.

California salmon fishing season likely shut down for second straight year
April 6, 2009 (San Jose Mercury News)
The California salmon fishery will be shut down for the second year in a row due to near-record Chinook salmon population losses in the Sacramento River basin system, fishery regulators decided today.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council tentatively voted to close all waters south of the California-Oregon border to salmon fishermen to protect the dwindling population of Sacramento River Chinook projected to spawn upriver this fall. The council will take a final vote on Wednesday but is expected to uphold today's decision.
Historically low salmon returns prompted fishery officials to shut down all forms of salmon fishing off nearly the entire West coast for the first time last year, which prompted Congress to appropriate $170 million in federal disaster funds to compensate salmon fishermen and fishery-reliant coastal industries for their losses. More than 60 percent of those funds were directed to California, or $120 million.
Scientists predict that only 122,000 salmon will return to the Sacramento to spawn this autumn, twice as many as last year's record-low 66,000 fish but still a fraction of the 800,000 that have returned in historically healthier years.
Scientists testified that Sacramento Chinook salmon runs were likely to rebound slightly in 2010 and 2011, at least enough to allow for some fishing. The current fish crisis is blamed on a combination of factors, including natural ocean variations and a host of problems in the Sacramento River Basin, including dams, loss of natural ecosystems and damaging fish hatchery practices.

Chinook limits proposed on Bering Sea pollock fleets
April 6, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The pollock fishery — North America's largest seafood harvest — would have to shut down if the Bering Sea trawl fleets accidentally caught more than 60,000 chinook salmon under a proposal approved Monday by a federal fishery council.
Chinook are supposed to be reserved for subsistence-sport and commercial-salmon fleets that work in coastal and sometimes inland waters — not the larger trawl fleets that drag their nets through the ocean in search of large tonnages of pollock and other groundfish.
And among Native Alaskans, there is widespread concern about the effects that the trawl fleets may have on declining runs of Yukon chinook, an important subsistence and commercial for some Western Alaska villages.
In many years, the pollock harvest produces more than one million metric tons of pollock that are turned into more $1 billion worth of fillets, surimi paste and other product for a fleet that includes many Washington-based trawlers and factory ships.
But the fleet in 2007 also accidentally scooped up more than 120,000 chinook, and that level of bycatch triggered calls for a chinook limit that if surpassed would trigger an early shutdown of the pollock harvest.
"Chinook salmon are one of the most important fish in Alaska, and we should do all we can to ensure salmon are returning to our rivers to spawn and support salmon fisheries, said Warrenchuk.
Since 2007, pollock fishermen have been working hard to reduce their accidental salmon harvest, sharing information about chinook "hot spots" in the Bering Sea. In 2008, they caught less than 20,000 chinook and so far this year, their accidental chinook harvest is about 10,000 salmon, according to Warrenchuk. Under federal rules, they are not allowed to sell this salmon for profit.
In addition to the Yukon River, some Bering Sea chinook salmon will eventually migrate to spawn in other river systems, including some in the Pacific Northwest.

Researchers Find Dead Killer Whale
April 6, 2009 (KPLU audio)
Canadian scientists have recovered the body of a transient killer whale. This rare find could help shed light on an orca population that's growing at a time when the better-known resident orcas are in decline. More from KPLU environment reporter Liam Moriarty.

In dispute over whales, he tries to bridge the gap
April 5, 2009 (Miami Herald)
It's not easy being the point man for the International Whaling Commission. Trying to mediate 84 nations embroiled in a political dispute takes time away from the real issue: the whales.
When William Hogarth was elected to chair the world's whaling regulatory body in 2006, relations between delegates had grown so rancorous that meetings would erupt into childish shouting matches. Factions accused one another of lying. Petty insults flew, coffee breaks were painfully quiet and few attended evening receptions.
In February, Hogarth and Alvaro issued a report proposing that Japan be permitted to conduct limited coastal whaling off its shores in exchange for reductions in the Southern Ocean. The idea has generated considerable criticism.
"This is sort of like saying to bank robbers, 'We're going to allow you to rob the banks in the North but you really have to cut down on your robberies in the South,'" said activist Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Hogarth hasn't endorsed it yet, and the Obama administration has signaled it will take a tough stance on whales.
"The United States continues to view the commercial whaling moratorium as a necessary conservation measure and believes that lethal scientific whaling is unnecessary in modern whale conservation management," White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley said a statement.
Greenpeace oceans campaigner Paul Kline has called for Hogarth's resignation.
"It doesn't reflect the sentiment of Americans and the position of our new administration," he said of the proposal.

Agreement to boost Columbia River salmon habitat
April 5, 2009 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Washington state has entered an agreement with three federal agencies that would add $40.5 million to protect and restore important habitat for Columbia River salmon.
The partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration and the Bureau of Reclamation was announced Friday. It would nearly double the money available for work on the Columbia River estuary.
The estuary is a critical nursery for juvenile salmon on their way to sea.
BPA is seeking public comments on the agreement through May 4.

Orting hatchery in danger of closure
April 5, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Buried deep within the 298 pages of the proposed Senate operating budget for 2009-11 is the possible closure of the Voights Creek Hatchery on the Puyallup River watershed.
The long-standing hatchery in Orting, which has been producing salmon since 1917, pumps out a massive 780,000 yearling coho and 1.6 million hatchery-marked chinook annually.
While the hatchery is on the table to be slashed as part of state budget cuts, officials like Rep. Jim McCune, R-Graham, are concerned about the potential impact on fisheries and fishermen.
"The tribe wants to ensure it remains open, and it is a vital facility to non-Indians, Indians and many others," said Russ Ladley, the resource protection manager with the Puyallup tribes. "This hatchery makes a huge contribution to fisheries in south Sound, mid-Sound, the Strait [of Juan de Fuca] and Vancouver Island."
Another item on the agenda in the operating budget is the closure of seven of the 88 fish hatcheries that state Fish and Wildlife currently operates, plus a reduction in production of salmon at other facilities.

Beached whales theories are hard to fathom
April 4, 2009 (Sydney Morning Herald - Australia)
The deaths of more than 80 whales which swam onto a West Australian beach last month have again left experts to mull over the phenomenon of mass cetacean strandings.
Hundreds of disappointed volunteers failed in tireless efforts to assist the pod of long-finned pilot whales after they beached at picturesque Hamelin Bay, 280 kilometres south of Perth, before dawn on Monday, March 23.
Just three of 87 beached whales are believed to have survived after 10 of them were herded back out to sea.
In an occurrence mirrored in the stranding of about 200 pilot whales at Tasmania's King Island just three weeks earlier, a group of several dolphins beached themselves along with the whales.
"They are very socially bound and bonded mammals," Mr Coughran said.
"With any animal among them that is sick, they tend to be altruistic like we are.
"They follow and can collectively get into trouble together.
"Whether one or however many make a judgmental error, they all do, and they all end up in the same predicament."
"They start interpreting the environment and they're not getting the right information to make the right judgment and avoid getting into trouble.

Experts to study body of large killer whale that washed ashore in B.C.
April 3, 2009 (Canadian Press)
Killer whale experts are taking advantage of a rare opportunity to study the body of a large, male orca.
The carcass washed up this week near Telegraph Cove, on the northeast side of Vancouver Island.
John Ford, with the Department of Fisheries, says it's a rare event and the first time they've been able to study a transient killer whale in decades.
Ford says the dead whale is one he first identified as a calf back in 1976 and called T-44.
A necropsy didn't determine the cause of death, but Ford says the whales only live about 30 years.
He says they'll do further studies on what was in the whale's stomach and contaminant levels in its tissue.
T44 found dead April 3, 2009 (Orca Network Report)
Transient Killer Whale T-44 Found Dead off Vancouver Island April 3, 2009 (The Whale Museum News)

Study: Arctic sea ice melting faster than expected
April 3, 2009 (San Francisco Chronicle)
Arctic sea ice is melting so fast most of it could be gone in 30 years. A new analysis of changing conditions in the region, using complex computer models of weather and climate, says conditions that had been forecast by the end of the century could occur much sooner.
A change in the amount of ice is important because the white surface reflects sunlight back into space. When ice is replaced by dark ocean water that sunlight can be absorbed, warming the water and increasing the warming of the planet.
The finding adds to concern about climate change caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, a problem that has begun receiving more attention in the Obama administration and is part of the G20 discussions under way in London.
"Due to the recent loss of sea ice, the 2005-2008 autumn central Arctic surface air temperatures were greater than 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above" what would be expected, the new study reports.
That amount of temperature increase had been expected by the year 2070.

Can’t Bear Global Warming?
April 2, 2009 (Eugene Weekly)
Scientists warn that global warming could cause mass extinctions, famine, disease, hurricanes and floods that could kill, sicken or leave homeless, not just polar bears, but hundreds of millions of people.
In the face of such injury on a global scale, what’s a forlorn environmentalist to do? Sue the bastards, says a growing legal movement.
After years of global warming, the protective ice around Kivalina forms months later and melts months earlier, leaving the island exposed and battered by storms. Newell said the island’s permafrost is also melting. “Permafrost melting is a lot like soft ice cream,” he said. Kivalina “is being destroyed and the culture is being overwhelmed by the rapid changes,” Newell said.
Almost half the island has disappeared to erosion, threatening the town’s airstrip, fuel tanks, generators and school. The state spent millions in a failed attempt to build a sea wall. Now the Army Corps of Engineers and the Government Accountability Office estimate that the entire village must be relocated at a cost of up to $400 million.
“It’s over; they must relocate,” said Pawa. “That infrastructure is going to be gone, maybe this winter, maybe next,” he said. “They will become global warming refugees.”
Pawa said the people of Kivalina, some of whom live 16 to a shack without running water, can’t afford the millions of dollars to move their town.
But the fossil-fuel companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., which made a record-breaking $45 billion in profits last year, can. Besides ExxonMobil, Kivalina is also suing companies like Shell, BP, Chevron, Duke Energy, the Peabody coal company and the energy conglomerate that owns Oregon’s PacifiCorp. The corporations are liable for the $400 million global warming “nuisance” they created, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit points to scientific evidence of the threat of global warming dating back to an 1896 report of a Swedish scientist and notes the recent public statements of corporate executive defendants recognizing the problem. Comparing industry PR tactics to the “scientists” employed by the tobacco industry, the lawsuit alleges a previous “nefarious campaign of deception and denial” by the polluters.
“ExxonMobil has channeled $16 million over the 1998 to 2005 period to 42 organizations that promote disinformation on global warming,” the lawsuit states.

Smarten up naval sonar to save the whales
April 2, 2009 (Christian Science Monitor op-ed by Jean-Michel Cousteau and Joel Reynolds)
The Bush administration may be gone, but whales and other marine life along our coasts will be hearing from it for years to come – literally.
On its way out of town, Bush's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Navy released a series of regulations that, during the next five years, could cause environmental harm on a staggering scale. But by acting decisively, the Obama administration can prevent it.
The regulations allow approximately 11.7 million instances of harassment, injury, or even death (the legal term is "take") to marine mammals by exposing them to high-intensity military sonar training in coastal waters around the United States. These estimates – the Navy's own – include 9.7 million takes along the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico; 630,000 off the coast of southern California; 650,000 along the coast of Washington and Oregon; 140,000 in Hawaii; and another 500,000 off the coast of Florida.
Sonar exposure is not, as the Navy suggests, a mere matter of annoyance to whales and dolphins. In fact, the harm ranges from significant disturbance to important behaviors – feeding, breeding, migrating, communicating, finding mates – to hearing damage and even mass stranding and death.
At risk are not only some of the most vulnerable whale populations on Earth – including the last remaining 300 North Atlantic right whales and the 83 critically endangered southern resident killer whales off the Washington coast – but the very fabric of life among species that, over eons in the dark ocean, have evolved to depend on sound as we depend on sight. According to government scientists, the "loss of even a single individual right whale may contribute to the extinction of the species."
Simple steps such as avoiding sensitive areas like marine sanctuaries, critical habitats, and feeding or breeding grounds; adopting adequate monitoring and safety zones around the sonar device; powering down in ocean conditions of particular acoustic risk; and implementing ship based, aerial, and underwater techniques to monitor when marine mammals are present enable a protective response.
But for all of the recent proposed sonar training, the Navy has refused to implement any of this mitigation, instead proposing half-measures dismissed by the federal courts as "woefully inadequate and ineffectual."
New leadership is already in place at NOAA. New leadership, we hope, will soon be coming to the US Navy. Instead of the Bush administration's last-minute attack on whales and other marine life, the new administration should require a uniform protocol of effective safeguards for all Navy sonar training that would prevent the needless infliction of harm.

Supreme Court sides with power plants over fish
April 1, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the government can weigh costs against benefits in deciding whether to order power plants to undertake environmental upgrades that would protect fish.
The court's 6-3 decision is a defeat for environmentalists who had urged the justices to uphold a favorable federal appeals court ruling that could have required an estimated 554 power plants to install technology that relies on recycled water to cool machinery.
By reducing water intake, the closed-cycle cooling also results in fewer fish being sucked into the system or smashed to death against screens. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates water-intake systems at power plants kill 3.4 billion fish and shellfish each year.
The ruling, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, was a victory for the power industry, which has long advocated for the use of cost-benefit analysis on environmental issues. The utilities were backed by the Bush administration.

Wild Pacific Salmon Explained
April 1, 2009 (Natural News)
While most consumers have learned that wild Salmon is preferable to farm-raised, there are many other variables to consider. Even after ruling out Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead Trout, there are still 5 species of Pacific Salmon and each go by several names. Additional factors such as environment, fat content, and processing can make all the difference between top shelf and bottom of the barrel Salmon. This article will summarize the key parameters involved in locating the finest of the family Salmonidae.
The five species of the Salmonidae family are highly unique and each deserves a careful look. Note that fish contain much higher body fat percentage during the early spawning process.
* King Salmon (Chinook) [Oncorhynchus tshawytscha] - The largest of all Salmon, the King Salmon is the most desirable species for several reasons: it has the highest percentage of body fat, the most Omega 3, and (many feel) the best flavor. Only a few fish such as Mackerel and Herring contain a higher percentage of fat than "Chinook Salmon". King Salmon is available in several pigment variations including red, white and marbled flesh. (5 out of 5 stars) 15-35% fat.
* Red Salmon (Sockeye) [Oncorhynchus nerka] - Red Salmon eat only Krill and Phytoplankton as opposed to fish, so they have the most Astaxanthin and obtain a noticeably deeper orange hue than other species. "Sockeye Salmon" are unique in that they require a lake for spawning. (4 out of 5 stars) 10%-22% fat.
* Silver Salmon (Coho) [Oncorhynchus kisutch] - Though having a lower fat content, the smaller Silver Salmon can taste close to Sockeye if from a reliable source but they normally do not contain the same amount of Omega 3 or Astaxanthin. "Coho Salmon" were introduced to the Great Lakes, first in 1873 and then successfully in the 1960's. (3 out of 5 stars) 5%-15% fat.
* Pink Salmon (Humpback) [Oncorhynchus gorbuscha] - The smallest and most abundant of Pacific Salmon, the Pink Salmon have a distinguished humpback. "Humpback Salmon" were more popular in the early 20th century until stocks declined drastically in the 1940`s and 1950`s. Bright silver when in the ocean and turning gray and yellow during spawning, "Humpies" are not as flavorful as premium kinds due to lower fat content and are generally available found canned, They cost only a fraction of what premium Salmon sell for. (2 out of 5 stars) 3%-9% fat.
* Chum Salmon (Dog) [Oncorhynchus keta] - Chum Salmon is the type found at discount grocers in the frozen section. The outer skin of Chum Salmon is unusual and resembles tie-dye. "Dog Salmon" do not naturally obtain the same intensity of orange as the others. "Spring Chum" is said to taste great when obtained fresh. (1 out of 5 stars) 2%-5% fat.
Threats to Wild Salmon
There are several dangerous trends that threaten the Salmon itself, its habitat, the consumers who enjoy them and the communities based on them:
1) Genetically Modified Salmon GMO Salmon are kept in fenced areas in the ocean and ultimately some will escape where they could multiply and overcrowd native fish out of existence, after which they would certainly die off themselves. Bred to grow faster, GMO Salmon eat everything in sight and (some even eat each other!), and this would eventually mean no Salmon at all.
2) Sea Lice A naturally occurring pest, Sea Lice only become a problem in areas where fish are overcrowded into fenced areas. The lice swim through the fence into the ocean where they infect young, nearby wild Salmon.
3) Counterfeit Wild Salmon Superstores often use deceptive marketing techniques, selling "Wild Salmon" that is artificially colored. Some is actually not wild at all. The tell-tale sign of farm-raised Salmon is that it does not stay pink after it is cooked (artificial colors fade under heat, unlike real Salmon pigment). If a restaurant doesn't tell you the Salmon is wild, it's farm raised.
4) Globalism Some fish caught in the Pacific Northwest are actually shipped to China for processing only to be later shipped back and sold in the US! So much for catch of the day. Some even want a new (NAFTA) superhighway to get the fish back here faster!

Fight Brewing Over Who Pays for Neah Bay Tug
April 1, 2009 (Firstofapril news)
When Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the "tug bill" last week, commercial shippers were placed on notice: Beginning next year, their industry would take over the cost of an emergency-response tug in Neah Bay.
The legislation urges the shipping industry to allocate the $3.5 million annual cost of the tug among the hundreds of commercial vessels that make thousands of passes through the Strait of Juan de Fuca each year.
Such an allocation may be easier said than done.
The stage is set for heated negotiations over what types of ships should bear the greater costs. A basic philosophical disagreement between oil shippers and other carriers could make an agreement difficult, officials say, assuming that negotiations don't grind to a complete halt.
"There are a myriad of questions to be answered," said Frank Holmes, Northwest manager for the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents the tanker industry. "Not only must we work out the cost-sharing arrangement, but how it will be administered."
The Neah Bay tug law requires a report on the negotiations by Oct. 31 and again by Dec. 1. The Legislature wants to know if the negotiations are hitting snags along the way.
If negotiations fail, lawmakers could create and enforce its own fee schedule before the new system begins July 1, 2010.

Automobiles roll over country
April 1, 2009 (Firstofapril news)
In a bizarre accident, the United States of America was critically wounded in the late 20th and early 21st centuries when it was flattened and mangled by millions upon millions of automobiles. Recuperation is doubtful due to the severity of the injuries compounded by the inability to breathe successfully after suffering damage to essential climate functions from the addition of billions of tons of poisonous effluents to Earth's atmosphere. Doctors were divided on the diagnosis and prognosis, causing such confusion that no effective remedial actions or treatments were applied. Further complications resulted from the mysterious contagion of the injuries to most other nations in the world and the spread of infected areas worldwide. Attending doctors appear unable to revive the patient.

6,000 Rare Dolphins Found in South Asia
April 1, 2009 (Environmental News Network)
A huge population of rare dolphins threatened by climate change and fishing nets has been discovered in South Asia.
Researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society estimate that nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins, marine mammals that are related to orcas or killer whales, were found living in freshwater regions of Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangrove forest and adjacent waters of the Bay of Bengal.
There has been hardly any marine mammal research done in this area up to this point.
Each discovery of Irrawaddy dolphins is important because scientists do not know how many remain on the planet. Prior to this study, the largest known populations of Irrawaddy dolphins numbered in the low hundreds or less.

NOAA report finds flame retardants in Puget Sound
April 1, 2009 (Kitsap Sun)
Puget Sound was found to contain high levels of toxic flame retardants in the first nationwide survey of chemicals known as PBDEs.
A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found the presence of toxic chemicals known as flame retardants in all U.S. coastal waters, including Puget Sound.
The study released Wednesday found elevated levels of PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, near urban and industrial centers and at more locations than in previous years.
PBDEs are man-made chemicals used in electronics, furniture and other goods since the 1970s. They've been associated with impaired liver and thyroid function and other health effects.
Mussels sampled in several Washington sites between 2004 and 2007 showed high concentrations of PBDEs, including Puget Sound near Edmonds, Commencement Bay and Elliott Bay.
Washington was the first state in the nation to begin phasing out flame retardants.

Puget Sound: One oil spill away from disaster?
April 1, 2009 (Seattle Times)
It's a nightmare scenario: A large freighter bound for Seattle runs aground, pouring 2.1 million gallons of syrupy oil into north Puget Sound.
Today, two decades after the Exxon Valdez dumped more than five times that much oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound, there's still concern that emergency crews would be overwhelmed by a catastrophic spill here.
The sheer difficulty of getting oil out of water, coupled with unpredictable weather, fierce currents and thousands of miles of shoreline, make any attempt to tackle a big spill in Puget Sound uncertain at best.
Despite spending tens of millions of dollars each year preparing for oil spills and cleaning them up — and despite having some of the nation's toughest oil-spill standards — some experts warn the state is not as ready for a big accident as we think we are.
"I strongly feel we need to be better prepared," said Mike Cooper, chairman of the state's Oil Spill Advisory Council, a task force created to police oil-spill programs

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