Orca Network News - March, 2003
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
August 1, 2005 through August 31, 2005.
August 31, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Remember Springer, the killer whale moved from Puget Sound and reunited with her family pod in B.C. waters?
A marine veterinarian involved in the move, Pete Schroeder of Sequim, checked recently on Springer and said the 5-year-old orca is thriving in Johnstone Strait.
"The rehabilitation and relocation of (Springer) is unprecedented and an unequivocal success," he wrote in the report for Global Research and Rescue, a group based in Freeland that says its goal is to assist wildlife that might be in distress.
Springer became a nuisance in early 2002, bumping into boats between Vashon Island and the Southworth ferry terminal. Alone and underweight, she was captured and moved.
Model for the future of conservation flows from the Nisqually River
August 30, 2005 (Seattle Times Op-ed by Gale A. Norton) What is even more eye-opening is this: a watershed-wide web of conservation. Divergent demands in watersheds are often a source of conflict - look no further than Klamath Basin. Yet here, because of the Nisqually River Council, they have been a source for cooperation.
All sorts of different constituencies have a seat on the council: wildlife managers and power companies, and representatives from cities, counties and the Nisqually Tribe. They meet with the common goal of conservation, and find ways to resolve potentially divisive issues like land use and water allocation.
As a result of the council and its web of conservation, people throughout the watershed are working together, planning together, growing together.
Wild fish study says many risk extinction
August 30, 2005 (The Oregonian) Oregon's first status report in a decade finds nearly half of the state's distinctive populations are in jeopardy in the short term
Nearly half the state's unique wild fish stocks are at risk of slipping further toward extinction within five to ten years, Oregon wildlife biologists conclude in a new study.
The native fish status report is the first such accounting in 10 years. It is significant because the risk level it defines will set priorities for protecting fish and restoring streams.
Biologists with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife considered 69 distinct populations, including all varieties of the state's salmon and steelhead as well as most trout populations. They assessed selected sturgeon, lamprey, dace and chub species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Of the 33 salmon and steelhead populations, 11 are at risk of irreversible decline, and seven are potentially at risk, a draft of the report says. The Oregon Native Fish Status Report is online here.
Deep-sea drama captured on camera: Killer whales harrass Right whales
August 29, 2005 (Scuba Diving, Marine and Environmental News) Killer whales, or orcas, are more popularly associated with the Pacific Northwest, specifically Puget Sound in Washington, where a resident inshore population makes for easy viewing. Even though killer whales are found in every one of the world's oceans, sightings in New England waters are so rare that even veteran whale researchers can go their entire career without seeing one.
On July 21, Voorheis was working for state Division of Marine Fisheries shark re-searcher Greg Skomal, leading a fishing vessel to basking sharks that were being tagged for research. He had spotted a group of sharks and radioed in his directions, then took off to see if there were any others around.
Boil of white
He was photographing a solitary right whale when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a boil of white a few miles off and drifted over to see what it was.
The massive four or five right whales he found were literally climbing on top of one another. At first, Voorheis thought they might be breeding, but then he saw a smaller black animal shooting through the water under the whales. The sudden flash of the white patch along the sides of its head told him it was not a pilot whale, but a killer whale. For a half-hour he circled, shooting photos as two male killer whales he estimated at 20 to 22 feet long led a coordinated attack by eight to 10 other smaller orcas on the much larger right whales.
Scientists Fear Oceans on the Cusp Of a Wave of Marine Extinctions
August 22, 2005 (Washington Post) Dozens of biologists believe the seas have reached a tipping point, with scores of species of ocean-dwelling fish, birds and mammals edging towards extinction. In the past 300 years, researchers have documented the global extinction of just 21 marine species -- and 16 of those extinctions occurred since 1972. Since the 1700s, another 112 species have died out in particular regions, and that trend, too, has accelerated since the mid-1960s: Nearly two dozen shark species are on the brink of disappearing, according to the World Conservation Union, an international coalition of government and advocacy groups.
"It's been a slow-motion disaster," said Boris Worm, a professor at Canada's Dalhousie University who wrote a 2003 study that found that 90 percent of the top predator fish have vanished from the oceans. "It's silent and invisible. People don't imagine this. It hasn't captured our imagination, like the rain forest."
Although a number of previous extinctions involved birds and marine mammals, it is the fate of many fish that now worries experts. The large-scale industrialization of the fishing industry after World War II, coupled with a global boom in ocean-front development and a rise in global temperatures, is causing fish populations to plummet.
Cool waters finally return to Northwest coast, but concerns linger
August 22, 2005 (Seattle Times) Upwellings of nutrient-rich cold water have finally arrived off the Pacific Northwest coast, purging the ocean of warmer surface temperatures that earlier in the year disrupted the food chain for seabirds, salmon and other maritime life.
Surface temperatures on the Pacific recently have dropped as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which is expected to help produce a rich buffet of zooplankton, tiny creatures that are a staple diet to a host of sea animals.
But scientists say it may have come too late for many species, such as murres and coho salmon, that depend on heavy feeding in spring and early summer.
Researchers are still trying to better understand what happened this spring, when a lack of northerly winds apparently prevented the upsurges of cold water that usually bring nutrients up from decaying sea life on the ocean bottom. That ocean cycle sparks an explosion of plankton and other zooplankton that feeds many species.
Scientists are hopeful that the recent surge of cold water will continue through the winter, setting the stage for a fertile spring next year. That would boost the confidence of marine scientists who have predicted that ocean conditions will be favorable for at least a decade.
But some scientists remain uneasy that global warming could short-circuit weather patterns that create the cold-water upwellings. The concern is heightened by other recent unusual ocean events.
Boy's orca encounter short, scary
August 19, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Whale researchers say it was highly unusual for a killer whale to bump a 12-year-old boy splashing in shallow water near Ketchikan.
Ellis Miller found himself face-to-face with an orca charging at him in 4 feet of water Saturday in Helm Bay. The animal, estimated to be more than 25 feet long, bumped but did not bite him.
"If it had wanted to take him, it would have," said Gary Freitag, volunteer coordinator with the National Marine Fisheries Service's Marine Mammal Stranded Network.
"I suspect that the whale that approached thought he was a harbor seal splashing," said John Ford, a researcher of killer whales with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans' Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, B.C.
There has never been a documented fatal killer-whale attack on a human. The only relatively well-documented bite was one suffered by a surfer in California in the early 1970s.
Ellis stood up in water about chest high. Arntzen said she was stunned to see a dorsal fin more than 6 feet tall break the water's surface a few yards behind Ellis.
The whale bumped Ellis on the left side of his chest and shoulder, then arched around him.
The episode lasted about five seconds, they said.
As the orca returned to deeper water, six more killer whales surfaced near the beach.
They swam along the beach for 100 yards or so and then returned. They swam back and forth several times. On the last pass, the largest orca rolled onto its side, raised a pectoral fin and smacked the water about five times. Then it hit the water with its tail. The other whales followed in a line and began doing the same.
Ford said killer whales slap tails and fins to express emotions at different levels and contexts. The behavior here was perhaps triggered by what the whales themselves likely perceived as an odd occurrence, he said.
Concern grows about safety of solitary whale
August 18, 2005 (Victoria Times Colonist) Threats of violence against Luna prompt RCMP to increase patrols along Gold River dock
Additional RCMP patrols of the Gold River dock, increased presence of conservation officers on the water and more emphasis on heavy penalties for hurting the whale are among ways the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is dealing with the threats, said DFO spokesman Bill Shaw.
Luna, almost six years old, is a member of the endangered southern resident killer whale population. If he was harmed, charges could be laid under the Species At Risk Act as well as the Fisheries Act, said DFO spokeswoman Lara Sloan.
Meanwhile, a proposal by writers Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm to lead a scientific team to provide Luna with company and structured play is under consideration by DFO, Shaw said.
"There is a lot of merit to what they are saying," he said.
Luna turned up on his own in Nootka Sound in 2001, but an effort last year to capture him and reunite him with his pod in Juan de Fuca Strait was abandoned after he was lured away from the net pen by First Nations canoes.
McCain: Alaska shows warming
August 18, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Anyone doubting the effects of human activity on global climate change should talk to the people of Alaska and the Yukon, U.S. Sen. John McCain said yesterday.
Fresh from a trip to Barrow, America's northernmost city, the Arizona senator said anecdotes from Alaskans and residents of the Yukon Territory confirm scientific evidence of global warming.
"We are convinced that the overwhelming scientific evidence indicated that climate change is taking place and human activities play a very large role," he said.
McCain, accompanied by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spoke to villagers in Canada whose spruce trees are being attacked by the northward spread of spruce beetles.
"I don't think there is any doubt left for anyone who actually looks at the science," Clinton said. "There are still some holdouts, but they are fighting a losing battle. The science is overwhelming, but what is deeply concerning is that climate change is accelerating."
Guzzle gas, and pretend
August 16, 2005 (Boston Globe Op-ed) GASOLINE IS over $2.50 a gallon, the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq is over 1,850, and what patriotic, heroic displays of sacrifice can we find on the American landscape?
Bigger garages. Bigger houses. New fuel economy standards that will omit the biggest cars. Hoo-aah.
Brave Marines we are. From the halls of McMansions to the steps of our SUVs, we fight our exurban battles, ripping up every living tree.
Next month will mark four years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Four years is a time period often associated with sending children off to institutions of higher learning in the assumption they will become members of an enlightened citizenry.
But the four years since 9/11 have come and gone with no sign that the United States sees the light. As soldiers pay the ultimate price in Afghanistan and Iraq, we continue to be toy soldiers, the invulnerable warriors of consumption. No report of a real soldier dying from a roadside bomb, no administration assertion that fades into falsehood, not even fill-ups that hit $40 and $50 a tank has spurred us to question our schizophrenic nature.
Northerly winds blow in too late for some animals
August 17, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The northerly winds that sustain the Pacific Coast's marine ecosystems have returned, but their arrival came about four months late -- too late for fish and birds that couldn't survive the unseasonably warm waters.
Coastal ecosystems rely on winds blowing south to push warmer surface waters away from shore and bring up colder water from the ocean bottom. That upwelling of nutrient-rich water feeds massive blooms of plankton -- the tiny plantlike organisms that form the basis of the marine food web.
The winds usually start blowing in March or April, but when they didn't arrive this spring, researchers saw the effects up and down the coast.
The result was higher ocean temperatures near the shore, very little plankton, a drop in groundfish catches and a spike in dead seabirds on beaches.
The winds finally returned in mid-July and generated the long-delayed upwelling and a dramatic increase in plankton populations, according to researchers who recently returned from ocean-monitoring trips.
Scientists hold out faint hope for salmon runs
August 16, 2005 (Vancouver Sun) Water temperature blamed as experts give the fish another week to show up
Federal fisheries scientists say changing water temperatures in the northern Pacific Ocean may be responsible for lower-than-forecast numbers of sockeye salmon entering the Fraser River so far this year.
Cars replacing industry as Sound's worst foe
August 16, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Pollution of Puget Sound appears to be coming increasingly from ordinary, everyday citizens driving around in their cars rather than industrial polluters, a state study released Monday says.
The study summed up the results of tests on mud and sand at the bottom of Puget Sound over a 12-year period. Toxic metals thought to be associated with industrial polluters waned, while a class of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, increased.
The second class of chemicals comes mostly from burning coal and petroleum, particularly car exhaust.
Overall, the Sound's sediments have grown cleaner over the past half-century or so, he said, partly because of the crackdown on pollution and partly because of the use of cleaner energy sources.
A reverse during the 1990s probably happened, he said, because "there's just more of us. ... I don't have anything to argue against that."
Critics Make Noise Over Sonar
August 14, 2005 (Kitsap Sun) Evidence is growing that Navy sonar can injure or kill marine mammals, but reducing the risk is not an easy proposition.
Active sonar, which changed the nature of naval warfare, is coming under intense scrutiny as mounting evidence suggests that loud, piercing sounds used to locate underwater objects can also kill or injure whales and dolphins.
Michael Jasny of the Natural Resources Defense Council contends that the U.S. Navy is reluctant to face up to the severity of the sonar problem. At least 30 incidents of marine mammals beaching themselves and dying have been linked to active sonar, he said.
The Navy's training exercises are moving closer to shore, where the environment is rich with marine mammals, he added.
Jasney said the scientific community has moved to reduce serious effects from ocean noise, but the U.S. Navy has not.
Ken Balcomb, who served in the Navy before becoming one of the Northwest's leading whale experts, argues that the Navy has barely changed its training operations to reduce injury to whales and only after being presented with incontrovertible evidence.
Balcomb was an eyewitness to the stranding deaths of 17 whales and dolphins in the Bahamas in March 2000. By acting quickly, he was able to preserve the skulls of several animals. With fresh tissue, pathologists were able to conclude for the first time that internal trauma was consistent with acoustic or impulse injury.
Following further studies, the Navy acknowledged that a sonar exercise under way at the time probably contributed to the deaths of deep-diving beaked whales that were among the casualties.
In May of 2003, Balcomb was at his home in the San Juan Islands when he heard loud sonar pings being picked up on underwater microphones. A resident group of orcas, known as J Pod, seemed to be fleeing from the sound along with other marine mammals, according to Balcomb and other whale biologists watching from boats on the water.
Permafrost is warming
August 14, 2005 (Anchorage Daily News) Interior Alaska's permafrost has warmed in some places to the highest level since the ice age ended 10,000 years ago, its temperature now within a degree or two of thawing.
Earth frozen since woolly mammoths and bison wandered Interior steppes has been turning to mush. Lakes have been shrinking. Trees are stressed. Prehistoric ice has melted underground, leaving voids that collapse into sinkholes.
Largely concentrated where people have disturbed the surface, such damage can be expensive, even heartbreaking. It's happening now in Fairbanks: Toppled spruce, roller-coaster bike trails, rippled pavement, homes and buildings that sag into ruin. And the meltdown is spreading in wild areas: sinkholes, dying trees, eroding lakes.
These collapses bode ill: They are omens of what scientists fear will happen on a large scale across the Arctic if water and air continue to warm as fast as climate models predict.
"So far, we have only some local places where permafrost is thawing naturally," said expert Vladimir Romanovksy, a Russian-born geophysicist at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"But we are very, very close to this point when it (all) starts to thaw."
Protected river areas cut back
August 12, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The Bush administration on Friday scaled back protection of thousands of miles of rivers across the Northwest and California previously designated as important to protected salmon runs.
The government said the new rules are more "cost-effective" and -- despite what environmentalists say -- show that the National Marine Fisheries Service is "reaffirming its commitment to salmon recovery."
Among the areas losing protection as "critical habitat" are waterways on military bases and Indian-controlled lands. The same goes for three Washington timber operations with so-called habitat conservation plans -- which allow killing and harming endangered species in exchange for taking certain actions to help the ones that survive.
The Bush administration said its approach basically amounts to this: Instead of laying the "critical habitat" label on waterways across the historic range of salmon protected under the Endangered Species Act, only sections of waterways actually used by the fish today will get that designation.
Latest study supports global warming
August 12, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Some scientists who question whether human-caused global warming poses a threat have long pointed to records that showed that the atmosphere's lowest layer, the troposphere, had not warmed over the last two decades and had cooled in the tropics.
Now two independent studies have found errors in the complicated calculations used to generate the old temperature records, which involved stitching together data from thousands of weather balloons lofted around the world and a series of short-lived weather satellites.
A third study shows that when the errors are taken into account, the troposphere actually got warmer.
Moreover, that warming trend largely agrees with the warmer surface temperatures that have been recorded and conforms to predictions in recent computer models.
The three papers were published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Science.
A whale of a solution: Give Luna human link
August 11, 2005 (Toronto Globe and Mail) Luna the dangerously sociable West Coast killer whale needs a human "foster" family because it prefers people to whales, say two writers studying the six-year-old marine mammal.
Three years after the giant, 1½-tonne creature swam solo into an inlet off the tiny Vancouver Island village of Gold River, Luna shows no signs of ever leaving the busy waterway, said Michael Parfit, who pitched his unorthodox plan to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. If anything, Luna is more drawn than ever to human activity on the seas, Mr. Parfit said.
The whale, which was nicknamed Luna by Gold River residents, has no qualms about approaching and giving a boat a nudge with its nose. It also toys with float planes in busy Nootka Sound on the west side of the island.
All attempts to limit human interaction with Luna have failed, Mr. Parfit said, so he believes a drastically different approach is needed. He thinks Luna needs human guardians because area boaters -- especially sports fishermen -- are fed up with the whale and might harm it. "Half of the fishers think he should be shot," he said.
Mr. Parfit isn't the first person to take note of Luna's powerful personality. Last year, a Vancouver Island fisherman and his son were held hostage for six hours while Luna tossed their gill-netter around like a toy.
At the time, the whale looked eerily human when it splashed along his father's fishing boat, David Alhous said.
"What kind of a whale interacts with boats and humans?" Mr. Alhous asked. "You should have seen him lying beside our boat, looking up at you with his eyes, like he wants you to pet him."
Fraser sockeye aren't returning
August 10, 2005 (Vancouver Sun) A projected banner year for the Fraser River sockeye is failing to materialize, raising questions about whether there will even be a commercial sockeye fishery this year, industry and government officials confirmed Tuesday.
"It is cause for concern," federal Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan told reporters in a conference call as industry leaders discussed the increasingly grim outlook for what was originally forecast to be a bountiful season.
"According to what we're seeing in terms of returns, we have to adjust our actions and act accordingly."
The Pacific Salmon Commission said Tuesday the summer run, originally estimated at 11 million, is now expected to number in the two to five million range.
Bird deaths hint at global warming
August 9, 2005 (Eugene Register-Guard) Starving birds and fewer fish along the Oregon Coast are a warning sign that another seasonal ``dead zone'' may be developing as a result of global warming, biologists say.
No one is sure why it happened. But leading scientists at Oregon State University blame steadily rising sea temperatures, which increasingly appear tied to human-caused global warming.
``The oceans are generally warming up, and there are all sorts of signs that something strange is afoot,'' said Ronald Neilson, an OSU professor and U.S. Forest Service researcher who specializes in climate. ``It's not new to have change happen. It's how suddenly it's happening.''
The picture has improved dramatically in the past few weeks.
But biologists still worry the coast may be vulnerable to another ``dead zone'' such as those that suffocated crabs, fish and other marine life in the summers of 2002 and 2004.
Common murres, among the Northwest's most plentiful seabirds, were the most obvious victims in Oregon. They feed on small fish such as anchovy, catching and carrying one fish at a time 30 or more miles back to their nests.
Expert changes his mind: Dams should come down
August 9, 2005 (Idaho Statesman) Fisheries biologist Don Chapman says the impacts of global warming on the region call for drastic action if Idaho's salmon are to survive
For 25 years, biologist Don Chapman has defended the hydroelectric industry's technological fish bypass systems as adequate to prevent salmon from going extinct.
Chapman, a well-respected fisheries biologist and long-time consultant for electric utilities, now says the warming of the Columbia River and its tributaries and potential ocean changes from global warming call for drastic action if Idaho's salmon are to survive or flourish. Chapman says removing four dams will reduce the cumulative effects on salmon so they can survive the increasingly hazardous migration route.
"Regional warming makes breaching imperative," Chapman, 74, said in an interview at his McCall home.
Chapman, called the "guru" of salmon science in the Pacific Northwest, wants to breach the four lower Snake dams in Washington. Those dams produce less than 5 percent of the region's federal power - enough to meet Seattle's needs - and allow barge shipping of grain and other goods from Lewiston to Portland.
Ocean changes could bring another 'dead zone' episode
August 8, 2005 (Newport (OR) News Times) The Pacific Ocean off of Oregon has experienced a die-off of birds, declining fisheries and wildly fluctuating conditions in the past few months, and has set the stage for another hypoxic "dead zone" like those of 2002 and 2004, according to experts at Oregon State University.
This is the third year in the past four that has demonstrated significantly unusual ocean events, the researchers say, a period unlike any on record. The events have not all been the same. This year's ocean behavior is particularly bizarre, and there is no proof what is causing it.
But extreme variability such as this, OSU researchers say, is consistent with what scientists believe will occur as a result of global warming.
"All the climate models predict increased variability associated with global climate change," Jane Lubchenco, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology at OSU, said. "And there is no doubt that is what is going on right now off Oregon is not normal."
In May and June when seasonal "upwelling" events should have begun to bring cold, nutrient rich water to the surface, the ocean was 8-11 degrees warmer than usual and had chlorophyll levels, a measure of productivity, about one-fifth to one-sixth of normal, Lubchenco said. As a result, scientists were observing dead birds on beaches, major declines in fisheries, and other symptoms of a marine food web that was literally starving. Chinook fishermen reported that krill - tiny crustaceans that form a critical base for much of the ocean food web - were missing this spring, and they were using small fish like sardines as bait instead.
Then in mid-July, it appears a normal, strong upwelling event finally began, bringing cool water and lots of nutrients. The resulting intense bloom of microscopic plants coupled with low oxygen levels near the ocean floor set the stage for another "dead zone" event this year.
For Luna, Playtime a Matter of Survival
August 7, 2005 (Kitsap Sun) A freelance writer and filmmaker who has documented the activities of Luna, the killer whale, has developed a plan to keep the lone orca entertained and out of people's hair in Canada's Nootka Sound.
Author Michael Parfit said his greatest fear is that someone will shoot and kill the 6-year-old whale out of anger or fear. Luna often approaches boats playfully, but he ends up pushing boats around and damaging rudders, motors, depth sounders and other equipment.
"There is a buzz on the water that someone is going to kill him," Parfit said. "It is a loud buzz, and we're worried about it."
Parfit and his partner Suzanne Chisholm have spent many hours aboard their 18-foot inflatable, interviewing sport and commercial fishermen who have encountered Luna in Nootka Sound. While most of the talk about killing Luna is nothing more than overblown frustration, it takes only one unbalanced person to bring an end to an animal that has gained worldwide attention.
Parfit and Chisholm, who are now writing a book about Luna, have proposed a plan to solve the short-term damage problems while clearing the way for a reunion between Luna and his pod. Under the plan, a small group of boats would become essentially Luna's adoptive family. Selected individuals, including First Nations people, would be authorized to play with Luna and teach him to follow them. When appropriate, Luna could be led to the outer edge of Nootka Sound to meet up with his family, which has been known to pass by in the ocean.
Parfit said he would take responsibility for raising money and coordinating the effort.
Province must close salmon farms, prominent tourist organization says
August 5, 2005 (Toronto Globe and Mail) The BC Wilderness Tourism Association yesterday issued a statement calling on federal and provincial governments "to immediately close salmon farms on migratory routes in the Broughton Archipelago and along the North Coast."
The organization, which is an important and growing part of B.C.'s booming tourism industry, said there should be a moratorium on the expansion of salmon farming "until peer-reviewed science shows minimal or no impact on wild fish stocks."
The association feels fish farms, most of which raise domesticated Atlantic salmon, are spreading sea lice to wild Pacific salmon. A pink salmon collapse in the Broughton Archipelago, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, was attributed to a sea lice epidemic three years ago, although some scientists and most salmon farmers dispute any link.
The salmon fry were attacked by the lice as they entered salt water after leaving their spawning streams.
"They were covered with 30 to 40 sea lice . . . there was up to 130 sea lice on one little fish. That tells me we have a problem. This does not happen naturally and something has to be done about it," said Mr. Murray.
Poison feast of salmon contaminates B.C. grizzlies
August 5, 2005 (Toronto Globe and Mail) Tests show elevated levels of PCBs and pesticides in Pacific Coast bears
Research from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the University of Victoria shows that the annual feast of salmon is also loading the bears with pollutants -- including concentrations of chemicals that could affect the reproductive abilities of young females.
"These bears are eating seven or eight adult salmon a day, so they can really gorge themselves," said Peter Ross, a marine mammal toxicologist with DFO at the Institute of Ocean Sciences on Vancouver Island and one of the co-authors of the report.
The coastal grizzlies, which eat spawning salmon almost exclusively from late summer through the fall, showed markedly higher levels of PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and a group of chemicals that are used as fire retardants in everything from foam cushions to building materials.
"The North Pacific is a sink for these contaminants, which are probably introduced through the atmosphere . . . from Asia. It reminds us once again that our planet is a small one," said Dr. Ross, who several years ago produced research showing that killer whales had become polluted through their rich salmon diets.
Duwamish crab, fish are unsafe to eat, state warns
August 4, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) People should not eat crabs or basically any fish other than salmon caught in the lower Duwamish River because they're contaminated with dangerous amounts of PCBs, the state warned yesterday.
Seafood collected last summer showed higher levels of PCBs than scientists had previously detected, said officials with the state Department of Health.
"We're really concerned about moms and babies developing in the womb and small children," said Marcia Henning, an education and outreach specialist with the department.
PCBs -- polychlorinated biphenyls -- can cause developmental defects such as learning problems in children. The banned industrial chemicals can harm the immune system and are suspected to cause cancer.
More than five miles of the Duwamish stretching to the southern end of Harbor Island are a Superfund site and part of a multimillion-dollar cleanup project targeting PCBs and other pollutants.
Most of the chemical contaminants are the result of decades of past industrial activity in the area. Some of the polluted sediment has been dredged from the river, and in some spots the contamination has been capped with clean dirt to isolate the chemicals.
Killer whales family in Donegal waters
August 3, 2005 (Belfast [Ireland] Telegraph) A family of killer whales had to be steered away from the North West coastline amid fears they would sink a fishing boat or beach themselves on a Donegal shore.
In scenes not seen since Dopey Dick found his way up the River Foyle in 1977, Loughs Agency staff onboard the patrol vessel 'Lough Bradan' watched the family for 20 minutes until they had to direct them away from some small fishing boats on the coastline.
Mr Wysner said: "Orca whale visits to this area are pretty rare so it was very special to see them so close.
"There were two adults and two juveniles and it's very rare to see four of them together. They came up about a mile off the Inishowen Head.
Passion for orcas turned the tide
August 3, 2005 (Seattle Times) Last month, a new law made the orca, aka killer whale, the official state marine mammal.
"My friends will tell you. Every day it was orcas," said Mihalik, sitting at a computer set up in her home's living room, the heart of her crusade.
It was Mihalik's unrelenting enthusiasm that got lawmakers hopping on the orca bandwagon.
Judge rejects easing of logging rules
August 3, 2005 (Seattle Times) Efforts by the Bush administration to change rules on old-growth logging in the Northwest were dealt a setback yesterday by a federal judge in Seattle who rejected an attempt to reduce scrutiny of animals and plants on land targeted for logging.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled that federal land managers broke the law when they failed to study whether species would be protected enough if the administration scrapped a "look-before-you-log" rule that had governed millions of acres of Northwest forests.
Pechman didn't say what the government must do to correct the problem. That will come after further court proceedings.
Environmentalists lauded the ruling as a victory against the administration's dismantling of forest protections.
New energy probe may harm sea life
August 2, 2005 (Christian Science Monitor) US quest to find offshore oil and gas reserves raises concerns about 'blasting' marine animals.
Faced with its biggest energy challenge in more than 20 years, the United States is poised to look for offshore reserves of oil and natural gas as never before.
By using the latest techniques, government officials hope to update surveys more than two decades old and, perhaps, discover new pools of oil and gas hidden miles under the ocean floor. Such discoveries could boost US production and lessen reliance on foreign oil.
But not everyone is pleased. Many legislators fear that such surveys will boost political pressure to begin offshore drilling in areas where it has been banned for decades. Even without drilling, the new survey - which involves blasting the ocean floor with sound waves - could threaten marine life, environmentalists say.
"There is an increasing body of evidence indicating that the intense blasts of sounds from seismic air guns can injure, kill, and otherwise harm marine mammals and fish," says Michael Jasny, senior policy consultant to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
While most opposition centers around the potential ramifications of the survey, environmentalists are sounding an alarm over the seismic survey itself. A typical seismic air gun array pulled by a ship might fire its compressed air bubbles into the ocean five or six times a minute - more than 7,000 shots in 24 hours. Some researchers worry such testing would pummel sea creatures with a barrage of sound pulses 200 decibels and higher - equivalent on land to listening to an artillery gun being fired 500 feet away.
Studies have documented the impact of seismic exploration on fish catches off Norway, which diminished in the 1990s. Some scientists think surveys were connected to dead giant squid floating onto Spanish beaches in 2003 and whales beaching themselves in the Sea of Cortez in 2002. But little is known about the long-term impact of such testing, especially on larger animals like whales, scientists say.
But that finding doesn't satisfy Jonathan Stern, a marine biologist who advises the American Cetacean Society of San Pedro, Calif. Such findings typically look at short-term effects of testing such as the absence of marine life floating dead on the surface, he says.
What if dead fish and mammals killed by sound explosions sink rather than float? Does chasing fish and whales away from feeding areas cost them vital energy that results in premature death? Does creating an ocean din keep whales from finding mates and food? "You don't want to disrupt their ability to take in food, because if their eating is disrupted, they can starve to death," Dr. Stern says.
Because sound can travel hundreds or even thousands of miles under water, maybe its not surprising that seismic airguns can be heard at great distances, says Jim Cummings of the Acoustic Ecology Institute in Sante Fe, N.M. He says whale researchers listening in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean recently reported that all they could hear at times was the repetitive booming of seismic testing along the coast of South American 3,000 miles away - drowning out the plaintive call of whales.
Scientists are Seeing More Dead Birds, Fewer Fish on the Pacific Coast
August 2, 2005 (Environmental News Service) Marine biologists are seeing mysterious and disturbing things along the Pacific Coast this year: higher water temperatures, plummeting catches of fish, lots of dead birds on the beaches, and perhaps most worrisome, very little plankton -- the tiny organisms that are a vital link in the ocean food chain.
Scientists say things could very well swing back to normal next year. But if the phenomenon proves to be long-lasting, the consequences could be serious for birds, fish and other wildlife.
City gets creative with storm water
August 2, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A project is breaking ground this month that will help shield fish, bugs and kids playing in streams from pollution that comes rushing off northeast Seattle streets and roofs during rainstorms.
It also will help the city meet more stringent storm water regulations being crafted by the state Department of Ecology.
This spring the state released preliminary drafts of storm water regulations for Western Washington cities and counties. Public comments on the plans are being accepted until Aug. 19. The proposed regulations include for the first time requirements for testing storm water pollution levels.
Many researchers consider the flow of rainwater from hard surfaces such as highways and parking lots the greatest challenge to bringing back local salmon populations.
When it rains on forests or meadows, the water soaks into the ground. It can trickle deep underground to aquifers or get sucked up by plants that release it slowly back into the air.
But in developed areas with concrete and rooftops, the water runs off these surfaces, taking with it dirt, oil, pesticides and metals. The water rushes into streams, scouring the banks and streambeds and pounding the bugs and fish living there. Dirty storm water is suspected in recent years of killing Seattle salmon before they spawn and thousands of hatchery fish in Edmonds.
Ben White, a fierce defender of animals, dead at 53
August 1, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A fierce crusader who fought for decades to save animals has lost his battle to save his own life.
Surrounded by family and friends on San Juan Island, Ben White, 53, died Saturday afternoon after a six-month struggle with an aggressive form of abdominal cancer. Never one to back down from a challenge, he said recently that he faced death with curiosity, not fear. "It could be a whole new adventure."
White was renowned internationally for his passion and his daring feats.
He swam under cloak of night to cut open dolphin-holding nets in Japan, scaled New York buildings to hang anti-fur banners, jumped in front of naval ships in Hawaii to stop sonar emissions, and slept atop old-growth trees to protest logging in the Northwest.
In Seattle, he protested the capture of sea lions at the Ballard Locks by locking himself to the cage used to hold them, then did what he always did -- called in the media to press the cause.
Ironically, his most famous action was one of his least dangerous. In 1999, he marched as head turtle at the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, standing on a truck bed and declaring, "Welcome to the revolution."
White, an arborist by profession, masterminded the turtle costumes, scrounging cardboard and latex paint, organizing work parties. He warned his turtles they would be "shelled" if they misbehaved. The costumes became the international emblem of opposition to the WTO.
A well-read man of wry humor, White called the turtle protest "a stupid publicity stunt that worked."
Those costumes will resurface at White's memorial procession later this week, when they will be worn by eight members of his honor guard. The young men and women he trained as arborists for his "Natural Guard" will be pallbearers. Helping escort his coffin to the San Juan Island community cemetery will be marimba players and drummers. Fellow animal activists say White brought imagination and an independent spirit to the cause.
White compared keeping whales and dolphins in captivity with shutting a human inside a closet for life.
On July 11, the veterinarians organization awarded White a lifetime achievement award for his work saving animals. Previous recipients include environmental activist David Brower and primate researcher Jane Goodall.
White was born in Virginia, son of an Air Force officer. He protested the Vietnam War, even as his father served in it. His animal activism took fire after an eye-to-eye encounter with a dolphin off the Kona Coast decades ago.
"I was suddenly aware that the entire world is conscious," White said.
White lay in grace yesterday on San Juan Island in a custom coffin of cedar, yew and juniper made by local friends.
Donations can be made to the Ben White Fund at Islanders Bank, P.O. Box 909, Friday Harbor, WA 98250, or to the Animal Welfare Institute, P.O. Box 3650, Washington, D.C. 20027.
Scientist links global warming to rising ferocity of hurricanes
August 1, 2005 (Seattle Times) The accumulated power of hurricanes has more than doubled in the past 30 years, with a particularly dramatic spike since 1995, and global warming likely is a major cause, according to a study to be published this week.
The report by Kerry Emanuel, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the first to draw a statistical relationship between global warming and hurricane ferocity. He reviewed about five decades of data on hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific.