Orca Network News - August, 2002

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats

August 1, 2002 through August 31, 2002.
Federal official asked to look at Keiko's welfare
August 28, 2002 (Newport News-Times) William Hogarth, the top official at the National Marine Fisheries Service, will review the question of what the best thing for Keiko is, now that the famous killer whale is swimming on his own - and perhaps alone - in the North Atlantic.
"He is now about 80 miles away from Norway," Braden told the News-Times Tuesday, "and we are getting procedures in place to do a visual review of him. There's a big difference, just practically, between going 300 or so miles out into the middle of the North Atlantic, vs. going 80 miles off the coast of Norway."
Hogarth was the recipient of a letter, sent last week by the eight scientists who had worked with Keiko in his transfer to Vestmannaeyjar the Westmann Islands of Iceland. The letter questioned whether the orca is adapting to and likely to survive in the wild.
The U.S. government no longer has legal authority over Keiko; that is now in Iceland's hands, according to Gene Nitta, acting chief of the permits division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). But Iceland is obliged to consult with the U.S. in managing the whale's reintroduction to the wild, under an agreement between both nations.

United States turns its back on global environmental degradation
August 30, 2002 (Seattle Times Op-Ed) At present, there is much talk about the unparalleled strength of the United States on the world stage. Yet at this very moment the most powerful country in the world stands to forfeit much political capital, moral authority and international good will by dragging its feet on the next great global issue: the environment.
Before long, the administration's apparent unwillingness to take a leadership role -- or, at the very least, to stop acting as a brake -- in fighting global environmental degradation will threaten the very basis of the American supremacy that many now seem to assume will last forever.

Two-year Puget Sound cleanup plan unveiled
August 29, 2002 (The Olympian) Two-year Puget Sound cleanup plan unveiled
More than $102 million worth of work could be in store for city, county and state governments in the latest two-year plan for protecting and restoring Puget Sound.
The plan prepared by the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team within the office of Gov. Gary Locke lists 177 actions and desired outcomes during the 2003-05 biennium.
The 2,800 square miles of inland marine waters is home to 200 species of fish, 26 kinds of marine mammals, 100 species of sea birds and thousands of invertebrate species.
Its 2,500 miles of shoreline and the watersheds emptying into it are home to some 4 million people, a population expected to grow to 5.2 million by 2020.
Pollution, loss of habitat and the sheer numbers of people have taken a toll on the marine environment where populations of orca whales, salmon, rockfish and marine birds are in decline.

Trust the endangered species in fisheries
August 28, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Desperate people do drastic things. The B.C. commercial fishermen preparing to catch sockeye illegally in Johnstone Strait no doubt recognize the importance of conservation, but altruism goes out the window when the need gets to be too much.
And things have definitely reached that point. The commercial fishery has been nothing short of disastrous for much of the past five years. Long stretches of empty storefronts in communities like Port Hardy, Campbell River and Port Alberni tell the tale.
The biggest run of sockeye in a long time, 5.5 million, is currently making its way through B.C. waters en route to upstream spawning grounds. The Department of Fisheries and Ocean's decision to keep a lid on fishing anyway has left resentful fishermen feeling like beggars at the gates of a feast.

GAO questions spending on salmon
August 27, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) "Recovery efforts have little definite success, says federal report.
The National Marine Fisheries Service responded: "This is an oversimplification of the state of knowledge regarding salmon-recovery efforts." The agency said scientists, for example, have documented that improvements to dams have made them less lethal to fish.
In addition, actions taken to help salmon and steelhead, such as restoring streams and ensuring that enough water is left in streams for the fish to live and reproduce, can take years to pay dividends, the report says.
But environmental activists have charged that the Bush administration's budget for the program falls far short of what the Clinton administration promised and amounts to a double-cross of the fish.
Although no species has fully recovered since the federal effort began two decades ago, none has become extinct either, Wood said.
Report: Recovery efforts to save salmon fruitless August 27, 2002 (Seattle Times)

Some concerned that Keiko's a bit too 'free'
August 23, 2002 (Seattle Times) "The problem is if he goes out there and he can't fend for himself, he's going to gradually starve to death," Jeff Foster, Keiko's former trainer and an author of the letter, said yesterday in an interview.
Vinick and Naomi Rose, Humane Society marine mammal scientist, said data from a satellite transmitter on the orca's dorsal fin show he is travelling long distances and diving routinely, indications that he is feeding. Keiko also appeared to have taken to eating wild food when seen diving with whales earlier this year, Rose said.
"If he wasn't feeding, then he was doing something very energy-intensive for no reason," she said.
Bob Ratliffe, top aide to Craig McCaw, who funded most of Keiko's salvation from a Mexico theme park after the whale starred in the 1993 movie "Free Willy," said he too is confident that the orca is eating. He said the former handlers' view, while well intended, might be clouded by a reluctance to let Keiko go.
"He may have done a better job of pulling away from them than they've done of pulling away from him," Ratliffe said.

Judge won't halt salmon protection in area waters
August 23, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A federal judge has denied a request by a business and farming group to remove chinook salmon in Puget Sound and the Columbia River from a threatened species list.
An attorney representing an environmental group that has been granted intervener status in the case called Friedman's ruling an important victory.
"For us, it's a good indication that the fish listings (as threatened or endangered) will stay in place, and we'll be able to keep the protections they need in order to survive," said Kristen Boyles.

'Free Willy' orca out with wild ones After 7 years and $20 million, scientists say he's ready to be on his own
August 22, 2002 (San Francisco Chronicle) Keiko, the feisty orca hero of the hit children's movie "Free Willy," seems to be edging closer to a free life at sea.
"Every year, Keiko has gone way beyond the year before," said David Phillips, executive director of Earth Island who has personally worked for the whale's freedom since 1994. "There have been a lot of naysayers over the years, but Keiko keeps proving them wrong.

Keiko Marks 45 Day Milestone, Says The HSUS
August 20, 2002 (Humane Society of the US) The HSUS said today that Keiko has now spent 45 days in the wild. While the possibility remains that Keiko could return to Iceland or that The HSUS would intervene because of indications of distress, each day marks another milestone on Keiko's quest for freedom.
"Even if Keiko's bid for freedom does not ultimately succeed, we have given him a chance for freedom. Several other orcas were actually better candidates for rehabilitation and release, but the marine park industry was not going to consider giving them the opportunity that Keiko has had," said Dr. Naomi Rose, HSUS marine mammal scientist.
"Keiko could easily have been among the whales who have died from the stress associated with captivity," said Paul G. Irwin, HSUS president and CEO. "We're pleased that Keiko has this opportunity, but we wish that others could be following in his footsteps."

Whale watchers spot Springer with her family
August 21, 2002 (Victoria Times-Colonist) Family ties are proving powerful for Springer, the orphaned orca still swimming with relatives more than a month after her release into Johnstone Strait.
"She's basically touring around with the A-4 pod," said Helena Symonds, who co-manages the non-profit OrcaLab on Hanson Island, off northeast Vancouver Island. Springer returned to the waters off Hanson Island Monday afternoon in the company of a cousin and a great-aunt.
The whale had not been seen for three weeks, returned briefly Aug. 17, and then left the immediate area for a few days. Watchers were thrilled with the latest sighting.
"It means that she's with her family. Those bonds are getting stronger daily," Symonds said.

Orphaned orca seen returning to Johnstone Strait -- with family
August 21, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The orphaned orca brought from busy Puget Sound back to her native waters off Vancouver Island seems to have found a place among her relatives, whale watchers say.
The 2-year-old killer whale, known both as Springer and A-73, was spotted last weekend returning to Johnstone Strait after a three-week absence. She was swimming with her aunt and possibly some cousins, said John Nightingale, president of the Vancouver Aquarium.

Restoring the bounty of the seas
August 21, 2002 (David Suzuki) There are simply too many boats bristling with modern technology, catching too many fish in wasteful ways.
One fishing method - bottom trawling - actually involves dragging heavy gear across the ocean floor and scooping up everything that happens to live there.
Any recovery now, however, will take diligent planning. Although our oceans seem massive, their actual productive area is quite small. As Dr. Pauly points out, Canada may be a huge country, but just 5 percent of the land is suitable for agriculture. Similarly, the shallow continental shelves, which support 90 percent of global fish catches, comprise just 7 percent of the total area of our oceans. The rest of the ocean is desertlike in comparison.

Surveying the Elwha: A ‘before' picture of the river
August 19, 2002 (Seattle Times) A splash cuts the smooth, jade-green surface of the Elwha River as 20- and 30-pound chinook head upstream. Moments later the river erupts again, this time with the thrashing of dry-suited biologists, snorkeling the river's last free-flowing run.
Taking out both dams is a restoration project without peer: No bigger dams have been removed anywhere.
Many regard the Elwha as the best chance for salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. The river was home to all five species of Pacific salmon: chinook, coho, pink, chum and sockeye, as well as steelhead.
And its habitat - except for the dams - is pristine, and will remain so. The river's headwaters are the snowmelt of Mount Olympus. About 85 percent of the river the lies within Olympic National Park, protected since 1938.

Salmon return: A public conversation about the future of a Northwest icon
August 18, 2002 (Seattle Times Op-Ed) (link expired) The Northwest already has plenty of commotion. Billions of dollars have been spent to reverse declining salmon runs, with no guarantee of success. What's needed here is a new kind of public conversation about salmon and their place in our future.
As metaphor, Salmon Return could be the catalyst for such a conversation, reconnecting us to the astonishing narrative that is the salmon story, prompting us to think in new ways about our role as stewards of the place we call home.
But stark loss demands bold imagination.
We tend to forget the scale of what has been lost. Salmon is readily available at fish markets and in restaurants, so what's the big deal?
The big deal is this: Pacific salmon have disappeared from 40 percent of their historic range outside Alaska. For every 50 salmon the Columbia River basin supported 150 years ago, today it is estimated to support about seven. Only one or two are wild, or non-hatchery-reared fish.

Is Willy free?
August 16, 2002 (Northwest Cable News) The former captive "Free Willy" star has been swimming with a pod of wild whales off the coast of Iceland for the past 41 days. Researchers believe the group of whales is Keiko's family pod.
Researchers also tracked dives as much as 100 meters deep. They said this mirrors a technique whales use to corral herring for food. Orcas feed primarily on herring in the North Atlantic.
Ken Balcomb, founder and director of the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, referred to the tracking results as "stunning."
Scientists plan to use research compiled through Keiko's reintroduction project to save other captive whales as well as protect wild orcas already in Iceland.
"Keiko's fantastic leap to freedom shoots down the marine park industry's myth that reintroductions won't succeed," said Howard Garrett, president of Orca Network.
He said the next candidate for release, with fewer complications and a far better chance of success, is Lolita, (aka Tokitae) now held captive in a tank in Miami.
Keiko Acting Like a Wild Whale August 16, 2002 (KGW-TV Portland)

New Report: Climate Change Threatens the Future of Marine Ecosystems
August 14, 2002 (Pew Center on Global Climate Change) "Climate change could likely be the 'sleeper issue' that pushes our already stressed and fragile coastal and marine ecosystems over the edge," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "Particularly vulnerable are coastal and shallow water areas already stressed by human activity, such as estuaries and coral reefs. The situation is analogous to that faced by a human whose immune system is compromised and who may succumb to a disease that would not threaten a healthy person."

There is a way to save our oceans - but is there a will?
August 14, 2002 (Toronto Globe and Mail) The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) recently unveiled its long-awaited "Oceans Strategy," the latest apparent effort to implement the Oceans Act passed in 1996. Minister Robert Thibault stated: "Our aim is to ensure that decisions about every activity in or around Canada's oceans are co-operative, environmentally and economically sustainable, and socially responsible."
To the uninitiated, this sunny announcement might easily give the impression that Canada's ocean resources are in good hands. Think again.
From the cod in Newfoundland to the salmon in B.C., DFO has presided over the decimation of the major commercial fish stocks on both coasts. Thousands of people, especially from the more sustainable inshore fishery, have been thrown out of work. Sadly, this need not have happened. Our government has long had the legal tools to prevent these disasters but it has simply not used them.
All of this was definitely a good idea given the perilous state of the world's marine ecosystems. However, as a law, the Oceans Act is only what is termed "enabling legislation" -- similar to a car without an engine. Without designated management plans or marine protected areas, it is just a piece of paper.

Nooksack salmon comeback demonstrates vital role hatcheries can play
August 12, 2002 (Tacoma News-Tribune) In 1990, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimated that only 10 wild adult spring chinook salmon returned to the North Fork of the Nooksack River to spawn. Less than a century before the run numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
In 2001, through the careful use of science and thousands of volunteer hours protecting and restoring critical fish habitat, the department reported the run had grown to 2,185, with similar or greater numbers expected this year. We are on our way to recovery.
Washington Trout Will Sue State Hatchery Program for Breaking Environmental Law June 27, 2002 PRESS RELEASE - WASHINGTON TROUT

Keiko swims with wild orcas
August 11, 2002 (Vancouver Sun) Keiko, the killer whale who starred in the Free Willy movies, is becoming increasingly independent, says a B.C. man who now has the job of watching over the tame orca in Icelandic waters.
Until this year, Keiko had only short visits with wild whales when they arrived in late spring and summer to follow spawning herring.
But the whale surprised workers by joining other orcas in July and staying with them virtually continuously since then, sometimes swimming up to 160 kilometres a day.

Early salmon migration baffles experts
August 8, 2002 (Vancouver Sun) Late-run salmon are spawning now in the Adams River; if that continues, up to 90 per cent of the sockeye will fail to reproduce
Some of B.C.'s premier sockeye salmon runs, including the world-famous Adams River run, are in danger of disappearing because of unusually early fish migrations that have scientists baffled.
Normally, so-called "late run" salmon, which include sockeye that spawn in the Adams River, Cultus Lake and Weaver Creek (near Harrison), don't begin swimming upstream until late September or early October.
But in the mid-1990s, they started their migrations early. This year, however, for reasons no one understands, those migrations began up to two months early, and that is threatening the salmon's survival.

Groups sue to stop Navy from using sonar, fearing harm to mammals
August 8, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A group of environmental organizations is trying to stop the U.S. Navy from deploying a powerful low-frequency sonar system it says can hurt or kill whales and dolphins.
The coalition led by the Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit yesterday against the Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service in U.S. District Court, seeking to block use of a sonar system that identifies enemy submarines. The groups say the sonar can harm marine mammals by interfering with their ability to communicate.
In July, the fisheries service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, gave the Navy a five-year exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act. That allowed the Navy to use the sonar, known as Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active sonar.
"Despite the public and scientific outcry, the National Marine Fisheries Service, under whatever pressure, has licensed the U.S. Navy to basically break the law," said Jean-Michel Cousteau, founder and president of Ocean Futures Society, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "It is a license to kill."
Environmental groups say anti-sub device harms whales and other ocean mammals August 8, 2002 (San Francisco Chronicle)
To whales, sonar just sounds like a bad idea August 8, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Activists to sue over decision not to list orcas as endangered
August 7, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Northwest environmentalists yesterday announced plans to sue the federal agency that denied endangered-species protection for Puget Sound's orcas if the decision isn't rescinded.
The National Marine Fisheries Service determined in June that the resident orcas are at risk of becoming extinct, but decided the killer whales didn't meet the requirements for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Patti Goldman, an attorney with the Earthjustice law firm, said the fisheries service erred by adding another requirement that the orca population had to be "significant." Goldman called that "unprecedented and not allowed under the act."
Legal action threatened over not listing orcas August 7, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)
Groups seek court order to protect killer whales August 7, 2002 (Tacoma News-Tribune)

'Free Willy' orca out with wild ones
August 7, 2002 (San Francisco Chronicle) Keiko, the feisty orca hero of the hit children's movie "Free Willy," seems to be edging closer to a free life at sea.
After a life of captivity, the 23-year-old whale has been traveling for nearly a month with wild orcas near Iceland, scientists said, raising hope that this is the summer he'll break away from dependence on humans.
Tracking the high-profile marine mammal with a radio signal and a satellite tag, experts have seen him moving up to 100 miles a day with a congregation of about 40 orcas, or killer whales. The number is down from 80 a month ago, before they started to leave the Iceland feeding grounds to follow the winter herring in the North Atlantic.
But scientists can't confirm whether he's feeding on his own -- a crucial factor for his winter survival.
The scientists know Keiko can vocalize in an Icelandic orca whale dialect. But their underwater microphone cannot distinguish his sounds from those of other whales as the noisy congregation feeds and communicates and breaks up into smaller pods for the journey.
Free Willy star Keiko heeds call of the wild August 7, 2002 (Environmental News Service)

Cleanup targets industrial waste in Duwamish
August 6, 2002 (Seattle Times) It's been straightened, dredged and used as an open sewer for untreated industrial wastes. Now the lower Duwamish River, a maligned and murky waterway serving the heart of Seattle's industrial hub, is targeted for cleanup.
Some responsible for years of neglect - the city, King County, Port of Seattle and Boeing - yesterday announced a multimillion-dollar strategy to dredge and cap hot spots in the lower six miles of the river with clean fill.
Work on the river, which still supports one of the biggest salmon runs in the area, could begin next year if the cleanup plan is approved by state and federal environmental agencies. It could take six years to complete.

Taking steps to return salmon to Denny Creek
August 5, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Denny Creek Neighborhood Alliance member Share Reeves made it sound simple.
"Any neighborhood group can do this," she said, walking uphill from Denny Creek in the woods of Big Finn Hill Park.
In this case, the neighborhood group included several biologists and a civil engineer who donated about $150,000 in time analyzing and designing a fish ladder to help bring coho salmon back to the creek.

Environmental law gets second look
August 4, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) At issue is the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Signed by President Nixon in 1970, it requires the government to study and report how its timber sales, grazing leases, dredging projects and other agency activities would affect the natural world.
The tangible product of NEPA is often an environmental impact statement, a document that details the government's options and catalogs comments from the public and agency staff. A statement can take years to prepare and can run into multiple volumes.
The White House environmental council announced its plan to review NEPA in the July 9 edition of the Federal Register. The council asked for public comments on how to expand use of broad "programmatic" analyses that could cover a series of decisions and of "categorical exclusions" that could apply old analyses to new situations. It also asked for advice on managing databases.

Keiko feeling call of wild, may be ready for freedom
August 3, 2002 (Seattle Times) Keiko the killer whale may finally be headed toward permanent life in the wild.
He has been swimming with wild whales off Iceland for nearly four weeks, and biologists are encouraged.
"He could go this summer. ... His chances are better than even that he will go. He's out there with the whales right now," Naomi Rose, a marine biologist for the Humane Society of the United States, said yesterday from the society's headquarters near Washington, D.C.
Rose said this is longest the 25-year-old orca, star of the 1993 movie "Free Willy," has ever been away from his Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, sea pen, where he was moved in September 1998 from the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.
"No one expected him to make this kind of progress this summer," Rose said. "He's extremely independent. He's made quantum leaps since last summer."
Keiko Makes Progress Towards Freedom; Spends Unprecedented Three Weeks in Wild August 2, 2002 (Humane Society of the United States)
Keiko Watch: The Latest News on the Orca's Return to the Wild July 15, 2002 (Humane Society of the United States)

Too-familiar tale: Orca wants human playmates
August 3, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) It's the story of another isolated young killer whale becoming too friendly with boaters.
Like Springer, the orphan female orca moved from Puget Sound to her home waters off Vancouver Island last month, Luna has taken to swimming right up to boats to be touched and petted.
The 3-year-old male orca, apparently living on his own in Vancouver Island's Nootka Sound, cozied up to a kayak earlier this week in an apparent attempt to keep the craft from leaving the area, said Marc Pakenham, who helps coordinate Victoria's Marine Mammal Monitoring Project.
He said Luna is an orca calf that somehow become separated from his family and was first reported to be living on his own in Nootka Sound last fall.
The calf, known to scientists as L-98, was born in L-Pod, a group of "southern resident" orcas that frequent Washington state's inland waters.
He disappeared from his Washington home waters last summer.

Who's Watching the Water?
August 2, 2002 (Seattle Weekly) What is the effect of the relationships between the Coast Guard's top brass and the shipping industry?
On Puget Sound, as in Alaska, marine-protection and community advocates have long complained that the Coast Guard leadership is too cozy with, and indulgent of, oil and shipping interests. A parallel, perennial issue has arisen anew: the revolving door between the Coast Guard and the shipping industry, through which retiring Coast Guard commanders pass on their way to comfortable second careers representing the businesses they previously regulated.

Orphaned orca sticks with A-pod
August 2, 2002 (Seattle Times) The orphan killer whale that was returned to Canadian waters after she strayed into Puget Sound last winter has been with the same pod and the same surrogate mother for the past two weeks.
At one point, the adult female appeared to prevent her young charge from nearing a researcher's boat - a habit that had raised safety concerns when she strayed into busy Seattle-area waters.
"We're very pleased about this relationship," said the researcher, Lance Barrett-Lennard of the Vancouver Aquarium, who has been monitoring the orphan since her July 14 release east of British Columbia's Vancouver Island.

Argentina's whale won't be sent abroad
August 2, 2002 (Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society) After months of campaigning, environmentalists in Argentina, the US and the UK can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The Wild Earth Foundation of Argentina and WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (two of the groups which have played an active role in the campaign), can confirm that a male orca (killer whale) known as 'Kshamenk', who is currently held in captivity at the Mundo Marino aquarium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, will not be exported to the US for public display.

Study worries tribes that eat Columbia fish
August 1, 2002 (Seattle Times) The EPA found that eating fish once a month was fine. But for adult tribal members eating 48 fish meals a month, the highest level of consumption, the risk was elevated for "cleaner" fish species, such as salmon. But the risk levels rose even higher at some sampling sites for consumption of the most contaminated fish - mountain whitefish and sturgeon.
Ninety-two chemicals were detected in fish samples, including DDT, PCBs and chlorinated dioxin.
Tightly clutching a microphone to her chest, she spoke in her native tongue through an interpreter before Dr. Harold Freeman, a panel member and Columbia University surgeon. "All the things that we cherished as clean no longer are clean. ... If the non-Indian would have stayed within God's law and kept things clean and kept the chemicals away, there wouldn't be so much sickness and illness upon us," Dick said slowly before a hushed audience.

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