Orca Network News - August, 2007
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
August 1, 2007 through August 31, 2007.
August 31, 2007 (Kitsap Sun) In a year, the Puget Sound Partnership must come forward with an Action Agenda - essentially a blueprint for the restoration of Puget Sound.
It seems that everyone agrees it is a daunting task, but volunteers are already lining up to help, as was demonstrated Thursday near the beginning of a two-day meeting in Bremerton.
"We're done testifying; we're ready to start work," Mike Racine of the Washington Scuba Alliance told the partnership's Leadership Council. "We can share our first-hand knowledge of what we see and don't see (under Puget Sound)"
Many people relish the sparkling waters, but that's all they see, Racine said. Divers can tell a deeper story about what's involved in restoration.
"We can tell you what's gone,"he added.
School officials, average citizens and environmental groups told the Leadership Council that they, too, were anxious to get going on the effort.
"We've got to have the public believe there is a problem and that we know how to fix it," he said.
Little pink salmon in really big trouble
August 30, 2007 (Tacoma News Tribune) A huge run of pink salmon is backed up behind a White River dam. The problem highlights a dispute over fish and river management. Biologists will try to help.
The fish were so thick in the rivers you could walk across on their backs. The old-timers' oft-repeated tale sounds like a phenomenon never to be witnessed again because Puget Sound's most-prized native salmon have nearly disappeared.
Yet a visit this week to the White River near Buckley brings the image to mind. Thousands of pink salmon have backed up behind Puget Sound Energy's old wooden diversion dam, eager to head upstream and reproduce.
The presence of a huge number of pinks has renewed a protracted dispute among the agencies and interests that control the river's flow and the fish that inhabit it.
"They've got a fixed amount of energy, and they're just wasting it beating themselves against the dam," said fish biologist Russ Ladley, the Puyallup Tribe's resource protection manager.
He and other tribal biologists predict a massive salmon die-off if something isn't done to allow the pinks to migrate upriver. A state fish biologist familiar with the scenario isn't so sure.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is obligated to move the fish past its flood-control facility farther upstream, is ready to authorize an intervention.
And a spokesman for Puget Sound Energy, which owns the dam, says the utility's willing to step in and attempt a fix if they get the Corps' OK and it's safe to send workers into the river to do it.
Environmental groups seek sub to search capsized barge
August 29, 2007 (Toronto Globe and Mail) Robson Bight is the summer home to dozens of orcas, 50 of which were thought to have been in the region at the time of the accident
Environmental groups want to send a manned mini-submarine to explore the ocean floor of Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, where vehicles and heavy equipment rest after a barge overturned off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island last week.
Greenpeace and the Living Oceans Society announced yesterday that they were disappointed by the lack of action in assessing the resulting undersea pollution and hoped to raise $35,000 to finance an expedition to film the site to see if any petrochemicals remain below the surface. Local tourism companies and marine scientists are supporting the quest.
Of greatest concern, said Jennifer Lash of the Living Oceans Society, is a tanker truck carrying 10,000 litres of diesel fuel that fell from the deck of the barge along with an ambulance, a pickup truck, an excavator and two log loaders. The vehicles lie at a depth of 350 metres about 100 metres into the reserve.
Robson Bight is the summer home of dozens of orcas. About 25,000 whale-watching tourists visit the region each year to catch a glimpse of the animals, which are known to rub their backs along the rocky bottom of the nearby shore and feed in the rich waters of the reserve.
Hawaii ferry company suspends service
August 29, 2007 (MSNBC) The company that runs the first passenger-vehicle ferry service between the Hawaiian Islands suspended operations indefinitely Tuesday after two days of emotional protests and legal setbacks.
Hawaii Superferry Inc. halted service after the Coast Guard advised that it could not assure safe passage of the 350-foot ferry in and out of Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai, where a flotilla of protesters blocked it from docking late Monday.
A court order sought by environmentalists had already halted service to Maui, with a hearing set for Wednesday.
Opponents say the ferry endangers whales, threatens to spread invasive species and will worsen traffic and pollution. But Superferry officials say the ship's water jet propulsion system means there are no exposed propellers to strike aquatic animals.
Culvert ruling headed into talks
August 28, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Gov. Chris Gregoire is willing to negotiate with Puget Sound-area Indian tribes over replacing or fixing culverts that block migrating salmon, an adviser says, after a federal court ruling reaffirmed the tribes' right to the fish.
Twenty tribes went to court over the culverts, built to let streams flow under roads, in 2001. They argued that culverts around the state hindered salmon passage, thus diminishing how many fish they could catch under treaty rights dating to the mid-19th century.
Some culverts are blocked by silt or debris; in others, one end of the pipes is located several feet higher than the level of the stream, preventing the migrating fish from navigating them.
Last week, Martinez agreed with the tribes that the state's culverts diminished their take of salmon under the treaties.
At least 750 miles of potential salmon streams are blocked in Western Washington by the culverts, Sledd said.
Salmon: State doesn't get it
August 27, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial) After six years of a legal fight that led to a big judicial decision against the state, Washington's government still doesn't get it. Its highway culverts should allow salmon to get through, not kill off whole sections of rivers, streams and wetlands as fish habitat.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled Wednesday that treaty obligations to Indian tribes require the state to ensure the culverts under its roads don't block migrating salmon. He will hold a September hearing on how the state can comply.
As we said then, "Washington state officials nearly always lose when they try to escape responsibility for honoring treaties. And they never seem to learn from it." So, once again, protecting salmon, the environment and the tribes' rights will require a clear court order to state officials.
Chinook hauls by the handful this summer
August 26, 2007 (Seattle Times) This summer is turning out to be a very bountiful season for Puget Sound chinook returns, and anglers are still reeling in on the action.
"In general there is a lot of indications right now of strong chinook runs heading into Puget Sound," said Steve Thiesfeld, a state Fish and Wildlife recreational salmon fishing manager.
The inner Elliott Bay king fishery - which was open Fridays to Mondays from July 6 to Aug. 20 - started off on the slow side but ended up waxing the charts.
"This is an unbelievable run coming back to the lake, and we've never seen anything like this during our 13 years of data," said Mike Mahovlich, a Muckleshoot tribal biologist. "The largest run to the lake occurred in 2001, when 19,000 fish returned."
The Sekiu-Port Angeles (Areas 5 and 6) selective chinook fishery, which is now closed, also garnered some pretty decent fishing.
"The Area 5 and 6 fisheries were very good, and even though they had a higher catch quota (4,000 fish compared to 3,500 last year) we burned through it fairly quickly," Thiesfeld said.
Other indicators that chinook returns appear to be healthy include good catches by the Puyallup and Nisqually tribes.
Whale Freed by Chanting
August 25, 2007 (First Coast News) A whale once stranded on a beach in Canada is now free.
Many believe the sounds of the Native Americans saved the whale's life.
The young humpback whale beached itself on Queen Charlotte's Islands.
"Our first response was that we thought we could save it," said Gavin Hooten.
Rescuers regularly doused the whale with water as they worked on a plan to get it back to sea.
"We're keeping the whale wet and when the tide comes in here we're gonna hopefully float him," said Hooten.
The wait took several hours. But even the tide couldn't shake the whale free.
The rescuers then tried to push the whale to open water without any luck.
The whale remained stranded until someone suggested a less conventional approach.
Click on the video link for the rest of the story.
Whale stranding a mystery August 24, 2007 (QCI Observer)
Ruling allows Navy to continue using low-frequency sonar
August 24, 2007 (Navy Compass) The National Marine Fisheries Services issued a final rule Aug. 16 that allows the Navy to continue operating Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active (SURTASS LFA) sonar in the western Pacific Ocean for the next five years, subject to a yearly authorization renewal.
SURTASS LFA consists of two separate components. The LFA portion of the system is suspended vertically below the ship and transmits low-frequency sound energy into the water. SURTASS, the passive portion of the system, is towed behind the ship and is made up of a series of underwater microphones that detect natural and man-made sound energy in the water. This allows underwater objects, such as submarines, to be detected.
"SURTASS LFA gives us a solid capability that has been proven at sea," said Rear Adm. Carl V. Mauney, director of Submarine Warfare. "It allows us to detect and track diesel-electric submarines at long range, enabling action, if necessary, at a time and place of our choosing."
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Environment) Donald R. Schregardus says the ruling "will allow the Navy to continue operations in the western Pacific that are vital to our national defense."
According to Schregardus, the system is vital for use in tracking extremely quiet diesel-electric submarines, which could pose a potential threat to Navy Sailors and ships if they go undetected.
When operating on battery power, these submarines can conduct nearly silent underwater operations. As countries continue to acquire diesel-electric submarines, the Navy makes tracking them a priority.
"SURTASS LFA sonar is the single best system the Navy has to find and track such submarines at long distances. This system helps keep our service members, our ships and our national interests safe," said Schregardus.
He said SURTASS LFA is necessary for national security, and is operated in a manner that is environmentally sound. Past research has facilitated the development of science-based mitigation measures that allow the sonar to operate in harmony with the ocean environment. Sonar operators monitor for the presence of marine mammals prior to, during and after sonar activity and either turn off or delay start-up if marine mammals come too close.
Schregardus said that five years of these sonar operations in the western Pacific produced no evidence of any harm to marine mammals or their populations.
Schregardus said claims that SURTASS LFA destroys ocean life and cannot be operated in harmony with the environment are "simply untrue and not supported by scientific fact."
To learn more about SURTASS LFA, visit the Navy's SURTASS site.
Iceland stops whale-hunting quotas after low demand
August 24, 2007 (Reuters) Nearly a year after ending its ban on commercial whaling, Iceland will not issue new whale-hunting quotas until market demand increases and it gets an export license from Japan.
Iceland's fisheries minister, Einar K. Guofinnsson, told Reuters this week it made no sense to issue new quotas when the present quota period expires on August 31 if the market for whale meat was not strong enough.
"The whaling industry, like any other industry, has to obey the market. If there is no profitability there is no foundation for resuming with the killing of whales," he said.
Iceland announced last year it would allow up to 30 minke whales and 9 fin whales to be hunted, controversially ending a ban in place since 1986.
But they have killed just seven minke whales and seven fin whales because of slack demand for whale meat and products.
"I will not issue a new quota until the market conditions for whale meat improve and permission to export whale products to Japan is secured," said Guofinnsson.
Exxon seeks legal sympathy over Valdez
August 24, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Eighteen years have passed, and Exxon is still imploring judges to feel its pain. On Tuesday, it asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appellate ruling that it owes $2.5 billion in punitive damages from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
The big "E" has been appealing since 1994, when an Anchorage, Alaska, jury awarded $5 billion to class-action plaintiffs. Fishermen, cannery workers and Alaska natives claimed lasting economic damage from the fouling of Prince William Sound and 400 miles of Alaska coastline.
An estimated 20 percent of the plaintiffs (some of them Seattle fishermen) have died since Exxon started appealing. One of the appellate judges who heard the Seattle argument, Charles Wiggins, is no longer with us.
ConocoPhillips used shots of breaching whales and Beethoven's music to herald the arrival of double-hulled tankers. British Petroleum has run ads claiming its initials stand for "Beyond Petroleum." Shell has aired profiles of a groovy solar scientist and a gorgeous cultural anthropologist who advises indigenous peoples on how to coexist with oil development.
If you put aside the TV spots, however, big oil is giving us the same old gas.
Shell picked a curious week to bulldoze its way back into the Sacred Headwaters. With great fanfare, British Columbia joined six U.S. states and Manitoba in the Western Climate Initiative, a partnership to reduce carbon emissions.
Who cares about a few dozen Indians in ceremonial costumes blocking a road 600 miles north of Vancouver? Isn't it "old news" that fishermen and tribes are still seeking damages 18 years after the Exxon Valdez spill?
Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Increasing Usage and Enhancing Capability of the U.S. Navy's Hawai‘i Range Complex
August 23, 2007 (State of Hawaii Office of Environmental Quality Control, page 14) The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has received a request from the U.S. Navy for authorization for the take of marine mammals incidental to the training events conducted within the Hawai‘i Range Complex (HRC) for the period of July 2008 through July 2013. NMFS announced its receipt of the Navy's request for the development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals and inviting information, suggestions, and comments on the Navy's application and request. Comments and information must be received no later than August 31, 2007 and should be addressed to Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910- 3225. The mailbox address for providing email comments is PR1.050107N@noaa.gov. Comments sent via e-mail, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10-megabyte file size. For details, contact Jolie Harrison, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301-713-2289, ext. 166) (see, 72 F.R. 42058, August 1, 2007).
B.C. barge accident did little harm, officials say
August 23, 2007 (Toronto Globe and Mail) Officials say there's no evidence a barge accident that spilled thousands of litres of diesel fuel near a protected killer whale habitat has caused any damage or harmed the orcas.
Several pieces of logging equipment and a diesel fuel truck tumbled off the barge when it listed for unknown reasons Monday while being towed to Campbell River, B.C.
Orcas were seen swimming through a giant fuel slick in Johnstone Strait near Robson Bight on northern Vancouver Island, famed for its whale-rubbing beaches.
But officials say they've observed no changes in the whales' behaviour and no evidence of diesel residue on the shoreline.
Environment Canada spokesman Bruce Kaye says the oily sheen on the water now is almost imperceptible and the original slick's size might have been overestimated because a nearby algae bloom could have been mistaken for oil.
Kaye says workers monitoring the site have observed only four marble-sized droplets of diesel welling up from the sunken equipment and believe most of the fuel was released when the fuel tank was crushed when falling to the 350-metre depth.
Is Robson Bight 'protected' in word alone?
August 23, 2007 (Vancouver Province) Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, the Vancouver Aquarium's resident killer-whale expert, spent yesterday nervously counting orcas at the site of Monday's barge accident around the protected waters of Robson Bight.
To his relief, he found all the whales accounted for and none exhibiting signs of immediate distress from the diesel fuel that spilled into their environment. "They appear to be fine -- for now," he said.
But as marine mammal toxicologist Peter Ross explained, breathing and swallowing the diesel can have immediate, though unapparent impacts -- such as lung irritation -- and worse effects later, such as infection and disease.
Most of the light sheen of fuel had evaporated by yesterday afternoon, though, yielding hope that B.C.'s most iconic and beloved animals had escaped the danger.
But the entire episode left Barrett-Lennard wondering just how "protected" Robson Bight really is.
The bight contains a broad pebble beach where the whales gather and exhibit the extraordinary behaviour of rubbing their bodies along the gravelly bottom. It's one of the few places in the world where they do this and it makes perfect sense that it should be strictly protected.
And, while the province does a good job of keeping kayakers and whale-watching tourist boats out of the bight, there is considerable tolerance for tugs and other commercial vessels to duck into the area, for safety reasons in poor weather or because of heavy two-way marine traffic in Johnstone Strait.
That has many critics alleging that commercial vessels abuse the "safety" loophole: Imagine a "safety-first" cruise ship entering the area, while giving oohing-and-aahing passengers a free killer-whale show, and you get the idea.
The bight is also sheltered from the strait's strong currents, tempting tug boats to cut in close to shore for "safety" while simultaneously riding a convenient back-eddy to cut their journey short and save on gas.
It begs the question: Is Robson Bight protected or not?
Meanwhile, NDP environment critic Shane Simpson wonders why the government doesn't have a local quick-response team and on-site oil-spill kits for emergencies such as Monday's.
"If they did, you might have contained the spill within three or four hours instead of a day," he said.
The bright side -- if there is one -- is that the accident should put pressure on governments to respond to some obvious problems.
Tribes win ruling on salmon
August 23, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The state has breached its duties to Indian tribes under treaties dating to the 1850s by failing to maintain the road system, cutting off salmon from spawning grounds and robbing tribes of fish they were promised, a federal judge in Seattle ruled Wednesday.
By the state's own admission, the errant culverts are blocking more than 2,300 miles of streams where salmon could spawn. Since 1991, the state has opened up about 480 miles of streams by fixing the road crossings. Sometimes the big pipes are blocked. Others are positioned so high above the water that salmon could not jump into them to continue their trip upriver.
When the tribes signed treaties with then-territorial Gov. Isaac Stevens in the mid-1850s, "It was ... the government's intent, and the tribes' understanding, that they would be able to meet their own subsistence needs forever," Martinez said in a 12-page ruling filled with references to the historical record.
"It was thus the right to take fish, not just the right to fish, that was secured by the treaties," the ruling said. "... The Tribes were persuaded to cede huge tracts of land -- described by the Supreme Court as 'millions of acres' -- by the promise that they would forever have access to this resource."
Environmentalists urge B.C. to get tough on tug boats
August 22, 2007 (CBC) Alexandra Morton, director of the Raincoast Research Society, said there should be more rigorous inspections and safety standards.
"If you're going to be moving fuels through that inside coast there should be some very strict regulations and rules," Morton told CBC News on Tuesday. "Barges should be checked. The trucks should be lashed down. They should not be going through Robson Bight at all."
A tug tipped its load near the favourite summer habitat of northern orcas, resulting in a diesel slick of 14 kilometres long and up to 50 metres wide as of Tuesday.
Officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimate 199 litres of fuel have leaked out so far but as many as 10,000 litres of gasoline and diesel were on board the barge.
Cleanup crews are working in the area but efforts are difficult because a fuel truck and logging equipment lost in the accident lie hundreds of metres below the surface.
Inhaled diesel fuel 'could kill orcas' in Robson Bight area
August 22, 2007 (Vancouver Sun) Killer whales swimming through spilled diesel fuel in the Robson Bight ecological reserve are at risk of developing health problems ranging from lung lesions to death, says a federal fisheries research scientist.
Peter Ross, a toxicology specialist at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, said his main concern is that the orcas will inhale fumes from the fuel, which spilled into the sensitive area Monday when a barge carrying logging equipment turned turtle.
About six pieces of equipment, including a fuel truck containing 10,000 litres of diesel fuel, are now sitting in about 350 metres of water, just outside the area where threatened northern resident killer whales feed, forage and rub themselves on the pebbly beaches.
"We would be worried about eye contact and mouth contact, which could lead to some lesions, ulcerations or infections," Ross said.
"There are a lot of vapours at the water/air interface and if they inhale the fumes it can lead to systemic and possibly fatal toxicity."
There are also concerns about the effect on salmon, which the whales eat, and, in the longer term, thicker residue could get into the sediment or shoreline, Ross said.
"That may take years to improve," he said.
There are about 230 orcas in the northern resident group and between 50 and 60 are believed to be in the immediate area of the spill, including Springer, the whale captured in Puget Sound as a sickly orphan and taken to rejoin her family in Johnstone Strait five years ago.
Orcas swim through oil slick, cleanup crews arrive
August 22, 2007 (CBC) Cleanup crews are spreading booms around a fuel spill in an ecologically sensitive area off the northern coast of Vancouver Island that is frequented by orca whales.
On Monday, a barge operated by Ted Leroy Trucking spilled its load of heavy equipment and diesel fuel in Robson Bight, raising concerns about the impact on as many as 60 orcas, who gather in the area every day to rub their bellies on the gravel beach.
Some have been seen swimming through an oil slick in the area that's estimated to be 14 kilometres long and up to 50 metres wide.
"Killer whales, as with other cetaceans, lack a sense of smell and so they would not be able to detect the presence of diesel through respiring in its vicinity and detecting it through smell," said John Ford, a whale researcher with the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Pet
er Ross, a marine mammal toxicologist with the Federal Institute of Ocean Sciences, said he's concerned the orcas might inhale the oil vapours, develop lesions on their lungs, get pneumonia or even die.
Whales swimming in slick that threatens orca sanctuary
August 22, 2007 (Toronto Star) This could have been catastrophic. Lance Barrett-Lennard, scientist, Vancouver Aquarium No sign animals injured by B.C. coast barge spill
Orcas swam through a diesel fuel slick and gulls dived into the waters beneath as cleanup crews began sopping up a massive spill in an ecological sensitive area off the shores of Vancouver Island.
The Robson Bight ecological reserve, which is 20 kilometres south of Telegraph Cove, is protected because of its importance to killer whales and spawning salmon. But Alaskan cruise ships and commercial ships are allowed alongside in the Johnstone Strait corridor.
On the water, the smell of the diesel fuel is unmistakable, said Bill Mackay, owner of Mackay Whale Watching in nearby Port McNeill.
"We went out there last night and we encountered 60 individual orcas all pretty much eastbound," said Mackay. "One group swam through it. We were in the slick and they went through it. They had no choice. It's like being trapped in a closet and someone spraying you with diesel fuel."
Mackay estimates about a dozen orcas swam through Monday's spill off the shore of Vancouver Island and he's seen hundreds of auklets and gulls diving down through the spill to get food under the water. He said he's seen no sign of any distressed or dead birds.
"This could have been catastrophic. Ships are in the area carrying dangerous substances along the coast," said Barrett-Lennard.
"After what happened, it's clear this is not a good idea and has to be evaluated carefully."
Seal sitting by the Salish Sea
August 22, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer op-ed by Brenda Peterson) When reports of a "beached" baby seal near crowded Alki Bath House reached us, we neighborhood Seal Sitter volunteers rearranged our busy lives to sit shifts in a quiet circle round the seal pup. He was simply resting at low tide while his mother was far out fishing. By keeping dogs and people a respectful 100 yards away from the vulnerable pup -- as required by federal law -- we give that newborn his best chance of survival on shore.
Every July through August, mother seals park pups on our Puget Sound beaches while they forage at sea. For hours each day adult and infant seals will swim ashore to regulate body temperature, seek community with one another and sleep.
Alki is one of the natural "haul-out" beaches around our city. When a pup is napping and warming himself on the beach, we volunteers talk with beachcombers and educate them about sharing our shores with seals.
Engaging in the birth cycle of my own and other species reminds me of the great American author Willa Cather who wrote: "That is happiness: to be dissolved into something complete and great."
Or as Mike, our seal's poet laureate says, "To look in that pup's eyes and know that he is looking right back at us... to reconnect with nature -- that is our birthright, too."
Study shows sharp declines in marine birds
August 22, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Marine bird populations in the northern Puget Sound area have seen significant declines since the late 1970s, according to a four-year Western Washington University study. John Bower, an associate professor of field biology at Western, says early results point to steep declines in a number of key species, including the common murre, a long-billed black and white seabird whose population has declined 93 percent since the 1970s and the Western grebe, a long-necked black and white seabird, which has seen its numbers drop 81 percent. Others include the brant, a coastal goose common on Padilla Bay, and the scoter, a sea duck that's a popular catch for hunters.
Fuel spill endangers sanctuary for killer whales
August 21, 2007 (Toronto Globe and Mail) Jim Borrowman was on the waters off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island late yesterday watching a slick of diesel fuel drift toward an orca sanctuary after a barge carrying logging equipment lost its load.
"The oil slick is right in front of Robson Bight," he said via his cellphone.
Mr. Borrowman, who runs Stubbs Island Whale Watching at nearby Telegraph Cove, was out following a group of orcas toward Robson Bight yesterday around 11 a.m. when a barge he had watched go by earlier in the morning tipped its load into the water.
A glistening fuel slick about two kilometres long and 50 metres wide could be seen by late afternoon, he said.
"It's really close to the Bight," he said. "It is calm here right now, but there is supposed to be a wind coming up this evening, and if it does, it could push it right into the bight and up on to the beach."
A diesel truck that was among the equipment that went overboard was carrying about 10,000 litres of fuel, said Coast Guard spokesman Dan Bate. He said a crew member of the tug broke his ankle, but no one else was hurt, and that the barge was being operated for a forestry company.
The Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve is regarded as perhaps the best site in the world to watch orcas. It was established in 1982 as a sanctuary for the whales, and to protect a remarkable small beach where they are frequently seen rubbing their backs on the rocks.
He said he saw eight orcas, three minke whales and two humpbacks in the vicinity that day, but none were in Robson Bight.
"The killer whales were headed right towards it, but they turned at the last minute and went off in a different direction," Mr. Borrowman said.
About 200 orcas frequent the Robson Bight area in the summer, hunting for salmon and rubbing themselves on the pebble beaches.
The reserve lies along a main shipping channel, in Johnstone Strait, which is used by everything from tugs to cruise ships .
"Orcas frequent this ecological reserve on a daily basis. The 200 whales that make up the northern resident population spend a lot of time foraging, resting and rubbing in Robson Bight. They can rub for hours at a time. It is important to clean up the spill as soon as possible and also to ensure it does not reach the rubbing beach," Jennifer Lash of the Living Oceans Society said yesterday in a statement.
8 Years And Counting: Columbia-Snake River Salmon Returns Fall Short Again
August 21, 2007 (YubaNet.com) The book officially closed on the 2007 spring and summer salmon season on the Columbia and Snake Rivers on Friday, and the bottom line was even worse than fisheries managers predicted.
Returns of spring and summer chinook to the Columbia-Snake basin fell far below the level needed for recovery for the eighth consecutive year. For fishermen and northwest communities, it was another year of reduced seasons and economic insecurity, and put an exclamation point on the continuing failure of federal salmon recovery efforts.
Lane blames the four lower Snake River dams, and he says every year the dams are in place is another year of struggle for small river towns.
Fewer than 67,000 adult spring Chinook crossed Bonneville Dam this year, the first of eight dams salmon must navigate during their upstream migration to Idaho through the Columbia-Snake river system. That's 30% below last year's number (itself a dismal year), significantly below the 10-year average, and only a fraction of the 400,000-plus fish needed for sustained recovery. Summer chinook returns at Bonneville registered less than half of the 2006 count, and only about two-thirds of the 10-year average.
Returns of combined wild and hatchery Snake River spring/summer chinook were virtually identical to last year's poor numbers, with wild Snake River spring/summer chinook in no better shape than they were in when they were first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1992. As of Friday, a combined 30,184 of these fish had passed Lower Granite Dam. In a typical year, only about 20% of these fish are of wild origin.
"We're unlikely to see more than 10,000 wild spring/summer chinook returning to the Snake River basin this year," said Rhett Lawrence of Save Our Wild Salmon, a coalition of conservation organizations, commercial and sport fishing associations, and taxpayer and clean energy advocates working to restore wild salmon to rivers, streams and oceans of the Pacific Salmon states. "Biologists have consistently said that you need at least four times that many fish spread throughout Snake River tributaries to achieve recovery. In other words, we're not even close."
Historically, about 1.5 million Snake River spring/summer chinook returned each year.
Whale expert predicts no long-term damage to orcas from B.C. fuel spill
August 21, 2007 (Prince George Citizen) An expert from the Vancouver Aquarium doubts there will be long-term effects from a diesel slick in a Vancouver Island whale preserve, but says the barge accident that created the spill could not have happened at a worse spot.
Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard says there were about 50 orca whales near the Robson Bight eco-preserve when the barge flipped, sending logging trucks, including a tanker of diesel fuel, into Johnstone Strait around noon Monday.
He says strong currents will dissipate the oil quickly but, until then, the orcas could breathe fumes.
He says they suck their air from just a few inches above the surface of the water.
Barrett-Lennard says he's spoken to people on scene who say the accident happened inside a one-kilometre exclusion zone at the world famous whale-rubbing beaches.
Bouncing baby orca cause for celebration
August 20, 2007 (Victoria Times Colonist) This year there have been two births in L Pod and one in J Pod, putting the total population for the three southern resident pods at 87.
However, the populations are struggling. A draft recovery strategy for northern and southern killer whales, released by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for public comment two months ago, fingers environmental contamination, reduction in salmon numbers and physical and noise disturbances as the main culprits.
Over the next two years, teams of scientists will come up with action plans to help the resident killer whale population.
The mother of the new calf is 17-year-old L83 -- Moonlight -- and, although the survival rate for calves of first-time mothers is only 50 per cent, Balcomb-Bartok is optimistic that the new baby stands a better-than-average chance.
Between 1965 and 1975, when the number of killer whales was already depressed because they were shot by fishermen, the population plummeted further because of captures for aquariums.
At least 13 orcas were killed during the captures and 45 were taken to marine parks around the world.
The only survivor is Lolita, who is at Miami Seaquarium.
Oil spill threatens orca habitat at Robson Bight
August 20, 2007 (Victoria Times Colonist) A barge loaded with logging equipment, including a fuel truck carrying diesel, flipped Monday and dropped its load into the water by Robson Bight, the protected area where threatened northern resident killer whales feed and rub their bellies.
An oil sheen, about two kilometres long, could be seen on the water shortly after the accident and environmental groups say it is almost inevitable that some of the 60 whales known to be in the area will come in contact with the oil.
"There couldn't have been a worse place for this to happen. It's the only protected rubbing beach on the coast of B.C.," said Jennifer Lash of the Living Oceans Society.
"The Coast Guard has advised the owners of the tug to contact a pollution response agency and the clean up should be underway shortly," he said.
Transport Canada did an overflight shortly after the accident and Parks Canada was on site by Monday afternoon, Bate said.
In addition to the fuel truck, equipment such as a builldozer, log loader, ambulance and trucks are now sitting on the ocean floor in the Robson Bight area.
The provincial ecological reserve at Robson Bight, made up of 467 hectares of upland and 1,248 hectares of foreshore, was set up in 1982 to protect the core area where the northern resident orcas spend their time foraging, resting and rubbing.
"It's an area of concern. It is proposed as critical habitat (in the draft killer whale recovery strategy,) she said.
Most of the 230 northern resident orcas are currently in the area near Alert Bay and Johnstone Strait, Joyce said
Record Arctic ice shrinkage is seen as global warming effect
August 20, 2007 (Los Angeles Times) There was less sea ice in the Arctic on Friday than ever before on record, and the melting is continuing, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported.
"Today is a historic day," said Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the center in Boulder, Colo. "This is the least sea ice we've ever seen in the satellite record, and we have another month left to go in the melt season this year."
Scientists began monitoring the extent of Arctic sea ice in the 1970s, when satellite images became available.
"It is very strong evidence that we are starting to see an effect of greenhouse warming," Serreze said.
Several years ago, he said, he would have expected a complete summer melt of Arctic sea ice by the end of the century -- maybe a few decades earlier. But at current rates, a complete summer melt could happen by 2030, he said.
Baby orca born to L pod reported
August 20, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The Center for Whale Research says a baby orca whale, believed to be about 2 weeks old, has been sighted off San Juan Island.
The orca's birth was confirmed Sunday when the entire so-called southern resident whale population swam in to look for food on the west side of San Juan Island on Sunday evening, said Kelley Balcom-Bartok, the center's director of development and outreach.
The new birth puts the southern resident population - the J, K and L pods - at 87 whales. The new whale belongs to L pod, a family group.
The gender of the baby is unknown, but researchers are confident its mother is L83, who was born July 27, 1990. The baby has been named L110.
Balcomb-Bartok said there are 43 orcas in L pod, 25 in J pod and 19 in K pod. The birth had been reported about two weeks ago by reliable observers along the southern coast of Vancouver Island, he said.
The resident orca pods returned to Puget Sound waters in July after being in the Pacific Ocean since late last year. L pod spent most of the winter off the West Coast. Members of K pod were spotted off San Francisco druing the winter. J pod can be spotted in the Puget Sound area almost any time of year.
One young orca in K pod vanished last fall, and is feared dead, the center has reported. But two calves in L and J pods appear to be doing well.
Oil giant's plans to go after oil in Beaufort and Chukchi seas have to wait
August 20, 2007 (Anchorage Daily News) Now Fox, 55, and Shell are mounting an aggressive return to the polar ocean, staking hundreds of millions of dollars to lease vast offshore acreage, staff an Anchorage office and assemble a flotilla of drilling ships to sink more holes in the Beaufort Sea.
The reason for the return is the high price of oil plus potential for big discoveries, says Fox, now the company's Alaska asset manager.
But getting there has proven difficult. Last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco dealt what could be a death blow to Shell's drilling plans -- at least for this year.
Citing "serious questions" raised by the North Slope Borough, Native whale hunters and national environmental groups, a three-judge panel ruled Shell can't drill until petitions opposing the project are resolved.
According to the court's schedule for the case, that will take until early December at best. By then the Beaufort Sea likely will be frozen, locking out Shell's drilling ships.
The opponents raise a complex set of objections, but they center on fears that industrial noise and spills could disturb or harm endangered bowhead whales, polar bears, fish and birds that sustain an ancient Inupiat subsistence culture.
They accuse regulators in a Bush administration eager to boost U.S. oil production of giving short shrift to the risks.
Rare sighting of blue whales sparks optimism
August 18, 2007 (Vancouver Sun) A scientific whale-spotting expedition has reported sighting five blue whales near the Queen Charlotte Islands -- the largest number seen in B.C. waters for half a century.
The five blue whales, including one calf, were seen near the southwest end of the Queen Charlotte Islands near Cape St. James last Saturday, Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist John Ford said Friday.
The extremely rare sighting of blue whales is grounds for optimism they are making a comeback in B.C. waters, Ford said.
"It's very encouraging because they might be starting to recolonize off our coast again."
Ford, part of a 13-member crew on an annual 10-day mission, was doing a survey of ocean wildlife with U.S. company Cascadia Research when he spotted the blue whales, the largest animals ever to exist.
Off British Columbia, the blue whale population has never recovered, unlike off southern California, where it has grown to 2,000.
"They've come back strongly in California but we've always wondered: 'Why not along our coast?'" Ford asked. "We're going to try to link the ones we saw last Saturday with that [California] population, to see if they're moving back up."
In the past five years, the survey team has only seen one blue whale per expedition.
Wild and hatchery salmon not equal
August 16, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Property-rights advocates fighting government regulations to protect salmon are reeling from their second major legal defeat of the summer. The case affects both Puget Sound chinook and salmon runs across the Pacific Northwest.
Their latest setback came in a ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan -- the same judge whose 2001 ruling in favor of builders, farmers and others trying to limit federal regulation fueled a wave of litigation against the government.
Property-rights attorneys have long said Hogan's decision in the previous case meant the National Marine Fisheries Service had to count hatchery-bred fish -- not just those spawned in the wild -- toward recovery goals under the Endangered Species Act.
Because hatchery-bred fish are so plentiful, they reasoned, the legal protections extended to wild fish should be relaxed.
Judge rules on salmon-counting issue
August 16, 2007 (Olympian) Although hatchery salmon are important, wild salmon are the ones that count.
A federal judge in Oregon ruled the government need not count all the hatchery-raised salmon in Northwest rivers when deciding whether to protect dwindling numbers of wild-born fish.
The Tuesday decision by U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan, based in Eugene, rejected arguments by property rights advocates, farm groups and others that salmon cannot be endangered because hatcheries are turning out plenty of the fish.
The central question for the region is how to maintain wild populations of salmon that can sustain themselves, said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for Earthjustice, which intervened in the cases.
Salmon back in town
August 16, 2007 (Olympian) The first runs of chinook are showing up in South Sound.
"It's amazing to see" said Salmon, of Olympia, who grew up in New Hampshire. "It baffles me. They're so big. I've never seen such big fish."
Chinook runs entering Capitol Lake range from 5,000 to 15,000. This year's is forecast to reach 14,500.
Last year's run up the Nisqually River was 19,000, considerably less than the record-setting 35,000 of two years ago.
All are hatchery fish.
VICTORY! Pacific Environment and partners stop Shell from drilling!
August 16, 2007 (Pacific Environment) In a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals court order issued this morning, conservation and Native organizations prevailed in their case against proposed oil drilling in the Beaufort Sea. Shell Offshore Inc. – which was on the verge of oil exploration in the Beaufort Sea – cannot proceed until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether environmental harms were properly considered by the federal agency that gave Shell an exploration permit.
This was the 2nd recent victory for conservation and native organizations concerned with the proposed Shell Exploration Plan; on July 19, the court issued a temporary stay overturning the U.S. Minerals Management Service's approval of Shell Oil's plan to drill several exploratory oil wells in the Beaufort Sea. The proposed wells are sited in the middle of the bowhead whale migration corridor and would be serviced by an armada of drilling vessels and support ships.
"Given Shell's horrible track record destroying the environment and harming marine mammals near Russia's Sakhalin Island, we think the court did the right thing in calling a ‘time out'," said David Gordon, Executive Director of Pacific Environment. "Shell would have started its exploratory drilling right at the peak of bowhead whale migration. Now, we hope the court will make everyone take a step back and analyze the impacts this will have on bowhead whales and native subsistence."
Lawyer to lead Puget Sound Partnership
August 15, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The new head of the agency leading the effort to clean up Puget Sound is longtime environmental lawyer David Dicks. He was appointed Tuesday by Gov. Chris Gregoire to run the newly created Puget Sound Partnership.
Puget Sound suffers from historical and ongoing pollution, the development and destruction of shorelines, and overfishing.
"We've got to make progress immediately or we're not going to be in a position to save it," Dicks said.
Dicks, the son of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, worked on endangered species, water quality and natural resource law and policy as a partner of the Cascadia Law Group. He also helped implement the Puget Sound Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan, a strategy praised for bringing together a diversity of interests.
Those working on saving the Sound emphasize the need to raise the effort to the level of federally funded restoration projects including the Everglades and Chesapeake Bay. Rep. Dicks' position on the committee that oversees the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency could help in that goal.
Sonar exercises essential despite whale risks: navy
August 14, 2007 (Victoria Times Colonist) Endangered killer whales and military vessels that use sonar can co-exist in the straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca, military experts insist.
However, the navy could probably cope with a mid-frequency sonar ban at certain times of the year, provided Canada is not facing any direct threat, said Capt. Jim Heath, Maritime Forces Pacific assistant chief of staff for operations.
The navy, environmental groups and marine-mammal scientists in B.C. are looking carefully at a ruling from a federal judge in Los Angeles barring the U.S. navy from using high-powered sonar in nearly a dozen training exercises off Southern California.
The effect of sonar waves on marine mammals depends on how close they are, Hughes said. "Are you standing up close to a rock concert or on a hill a couple of hundred metres away?"
Logically, sonar blasting above a whale is going to be harmful to an animal that relies on acoustics, Hughes said.
But he said the million-dollar questions that, as yet, do not appear to have answers, are: How much does sonar bother whales at a distance? And at what frequencies?
The recently released draft killer-whale recovery strategy, put together for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by scientists and whale experts, flags military sonar as an element that should be studied in detail over the next two years as teams of scientists come up with action plans to help the killer-whale population recover.
Mid-frequency sonar exercises conducted by the USS Shoup in Haro Strait in 2003 corresponded to changes in behaviour by J Pod, part of the endangered southern-resident killer whale population. Acoustic trauma arising from the exercises might have contributed to the strandings and deaths of harbour porpoises.
Orca count shows first decline in 6 years
August 10, 2007 (Skagit Valley Herald) This summer's annual count of endangered southern resident killer whales indicates that the net population has dropped from 87 to 86, the first downturn in the orca subspecies in six years.
Although two new baby orcas were born this spring - designated L-109 and J-42 - those births were not enough to offset the loss of other orcas, according to The Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor.
Last fall, scientists feared that two calves and three adult orcas were dead. Those apparent deaths were confirmed this spring, along with the discovery that a third youngster, whose mother was among the missing, hadn't returned with her pod.
The research center has conducted a photographic census of the southern residents - which travel in family groups known as J, K and L pods - since 1976. Orcas spend late spring to fall in the inland waters of Washington state and British Columbia.
This year, L pod had 42 members return to Puget Sound, J pod, 25, and K pod 19. K pod has not had a calf born since 2004.
Lynne Barre, a marine mammal biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency responsible for orca recovery, said this summer's count is the first population downturn since 2001, when the population declined to 79. The population peaked in the mid-90s with 97 whales.
Scientists had hoped that the youngster could survive on her own, said Howard Garrett of Orca Network, a Whidbey Island-based group that advocates for the whales and other marine mammals. Two other orphan orcas, Luna, a southern resident who died in March 2006 when he collided with a boat propeller, and Springer, a northern resident that is thriving with his pod, had been able to forage for themselves, Garrett said.
"It's downward and therefore, a discouraging trend," Garrett said of the population drop.
Ten Times More Chinook In Dungeness River
August 10, 2007 (NWIFC) Strong tribal and state co-management efforts have led to a 10-fold increase of chinook in the Dungeness River in the past decade. Since 1997, the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have worked together to boost the number of chinook returning to the river from fewer than 100 annually to more than 1,500 last year. Dungeness River chinook are listed as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act.
"By working well together, we've been able to make real progress toward recovering Dungeness chinook," said Scott Chitwood, Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe's natural resources director.
The project began in the early 1990s with the collection of adult wild chinook eggs in the Dungeness River. These eggs were incubated at WDFW's Hurd Creek Hatchery in Sequim. Instead of being released from the hatchery to migrate out to sea, the young fish were raised to adulthood at the hatchery. At maturity, these captive broodstock fish were spawned to produce offspring that were released into the Dungeness and Gray Wolf rivers starting in 1997.
Today, steadily increasing numbers of adult chinook return to spawn naturally in the Dungeness River and continue to provide eggs to supplement the river's wild chinook production, Chitwood said.
"If we can measure an increase in the number of chinook produced in the wild, our chances of recovering the population improve dramatically," Chitwood said. "To succeed, we really need to raise the productivity of chinook habitat in the Dungeness River."
Orca Network - get to know our local whales
August 10, 2007 (Seattle P-I reader's blog) I have always enjoyed seeing the whales and I've taken several whale watching trips locally as well as seeing the Orcas from our own boat or from the shore over the years. They are such amazing animals and a Puget Sound treasure.
Now that I am involved in tourism I've found it nice to have an idea about what is going on; are the whales around, are there new babies, did anyone see a whale yesterday, are the grays back and such. Most of the whale stories in the newspapers are covered on Orca Network first.
Orca Network is dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats.
The web page is full of information about our whales and the almost daily e-mails let you know who has seen what and where. They cover all the different whales living in or visiting our area including our three local pods of Orcas, the transcients, Grays, and Minkes. They also have updates on other marine wildlife and there are often great pictures.
If you want to know about our whales and support the Orca Network check out their site. They do great work and are an excellent resource.
I need to take another trip soon and try again to get some good photos!
Posted by Jean Boyle at August 10, 2007 3:10 p.m.
Category: Kitsap interest
Cash infusion accelerates NW logging
August 9, 2007 (Oregonian) National forests - The Bush administration action pushes cutting to a high not seen in years
Northwest national forests are hurriedly boosting federal logging to the highest levels in years with a new infusion of cash, even as they close campgrounds and other recreation sites because money for them is drying up.
The push for logging came so fast that some forests could not accelerate cutting as rapidly as top officials wanted, according to documents obtained by The Oregonian through the Freedom of Information Act.
The extra cash for plotting timber sales, road-building, marking trees and other work to make way for cutting flowed from a legal deal between the Bush administration and timber industry. It's pumping life into federal land logging after years of decline.
But dollars for other work in public forests remain scarce. As a result, U.S. Forest Service is likely to renege on its promise to fix existing, poorly maintained roads in Washington that violate clean water laws, for instance. Roads torn apart by storms last winter remain closed, cutting off access to trailheads and campgrounds.
The new logging money is drawn from forests in other parts of the country and will underwrite new roads that will carry trucks loaded with freshly cut trees.
What's happening to Canada's belugas?
August 7, 2007 (Globe and Mail) The threatened belugas of the St. Lawrence have failed to grow in number despite decades of protection efforts, fuelling worry among scientists who fear for the animals' survival.
The pearly white whales, known as the canaries of the sea for their whistled song, were the object of international alarm in the 1980s when they were brought to the edge of extinction.
According to new estimates, the beluga population at the time had dipped to 1,100 - the same number that survives today.
"The beluga population isn't growing, and it's cause for concern. We don't like to see a species disappear," said biologist Véronique Lesage, a beluga specialist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
"If a population is stable at six million, it isn't serious," Dr. Lesage said in an interview yesterday. "But when it's stable at 1,000 and it's been that way for 20 years and it's confined to the St. Lawrence estuary, then the population is vulnerable to all sorts of catastrophes."
Scientists say the reason for the whale population's stagnation remains a mystery, but pollution and human harassment remain leading possibilities.
But Dr. Lebeuf, an environmental chemist at the federal Fisheries Department, has also discovered non-controlled chemicals such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, widely used as flame retardants, in St. Lawrence belugas. Their toxic presence in the animals has grown substantially.
"I believe the contamination of belugas is probably more significant today than it was in the past," said Dr. Lebeuf, who works along with Dr. Lesage at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute. "It certainly hasn't improved."
Experts say they continue making startling discoveries about the beguiling mammals. New analysis this year indicates belugas live twice as long - up to 80 years or more - as had previously been believed. Their longevity may explain why long-standing pollutants still remain in their bodies.
Whale fears silence US Navy sonar
August 7, 2007 (BBC) The US Navy has been ordered not to use mid-frequency sonar equipment during training exercises off the coast of California until the end of 2009. A federal judge ruled in favour of campaigners who argued that the devices harmed marine mammals in the area.
They said noise pollution from sonar disorientated whales, causing them to become stranded on beaches.
A navy spokesman said they would appeal because the injunction jeopardised the nation's safety and security.
The legal action was brought by a coalition of animal welfare groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
"The court's order confirms that during sonar testing and training, the navy can and must protect whales and other marine life in the extraordinarily rich waters off our southern Californian coast," said Joel Reynolds, a senior lawyer for NRDC.
The group, in a statement following the ruling, said the federal judge had recognised that even the Navy's own assessment concluded that the sonar exercises would "cause widespread harm to nearly 30 species of marine mammals, including five species of endangered whales".
Judge cites risk to wildlife in halting use of Navy sonar
August 7, 2007 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A federal judge Monday ordered the Navy to stop using medium-range sonar in training exercises off Southern California, saying the Navy's own assessments predicted that dozens of marine mammals, particularly deep-diving whales, could be harmed by the intense sound waves.
Beaked whales, in particular, have shown great sensitivity to such sonar. Even without the tests, their numbers in the waters off the West Coast are dwindling.
The judge, Florence-Marie Cooper of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, granted a preliminary injunction sought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, noting in a draft order that "mass strandings of whales following naval exercises have been documented" in such places as the Bahamas and Taiwan. The strandings occurred after use of military sonar.
The judge also criticized the Navy for curbing its efforts to mitigate the effect of the sonar exercises, adding, "What few mitigation measures remain continue to be ineffective."
Navy use of high-powered sonar became an issue in Washington state after 11 harbor porpoises died and orcas exhibited odd behavior when a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Shoup, conducted training exercises near the San Juan Islands in 2003.
WEICan Plans Tests Of Whale Flipper-Inspired Turbine Blade
August 6, 2007 (North American Windpower) Toronto-headquartered WhalePower Corp., designer of wind turbine blades featuring protuberances on the leading edge of the blades, has partnered with the Wind Energy Institute of Canada (WEICan) to field-test WhalePower's new blade design.
The blade design concept, called tubercle technology, is modeled after humpback whales' protuberances – called tubercles – found on the leading edge of their pectoral flippers, WhalePower says. These flipper features allow the whale a high level of acrobatic maneuverability for its size.
"Scientific research conducted at major universities and by the U.S. Navy has shown that tubercle technology can operate at much higher pitch, producing much more lift with surprisingly low drag," notes Stephen Dewar, vice president of business affairs at WhalePower. "In wind turbines, that all adds up to more power and more reliability, and that is a major advance for wind power generation."
Judge Bars Navy From Using Whale-Harming Sonar
August 6, 2007 (CBS2) Acting on a request by environmental groups, a federal judge Monday barred the Navy from using a type of sonar said to harm whales during war games scheduled for Southland waters.
The preliminary injunction by U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper is a win for the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups, which contend the Navy failed to do sufficient environmental analysis of the effects of the mid-frequency active sonar.
The groups say the sonar, which uses high-intensity bursts of sound that span large distances underwater, can kill and injure whales, leaving them stranded on beaches, as well as causing marine mammals and fish to lose their hearing or abandon their habitat.
The groups said that although similar litigation brought over war games off Hawaii resulted in a settlement last year in which the government agreed to mitigation measures to protect whales, the Navy was now refusing to take steps to mitigate the impact of the sonar during the tests in Southern California waters.
The Navy, meanwhile, argues the tests of the sonar -- three have already taken place, and 11 more were scheduled through 2009 -- are necessary in order to properly train personnel on how to detect quiet submarines.
Hawaii's false killer whales genetically distinct, say scientists
August 6, 2007 (Honolulu Advertiser) Researchers working in Hawaiian waters have identified the world's first genetically distinct population of false killer whales.
Evidence that Hawai'i's small population of false killer whales is genetically different from populations elsewhere in the tropical Pacific could justify additional protection measures for the animals, said biologist Robin Baird of the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Wash.
"The main implication is that it puts the population more at risk than if the whales around Hawai'i were part of a large open-ocean population. Any small population of animals is more susceptible to impacts from human activities and variations in the natural environment," Baird said. "If we determine they are reproductively isolated, there may be a need for attention to how people manage or mitigate those impacts."
They are social animals and typically swim in pods of 10 to 20 that belong to larger groups of up to 40 individuals, and can be found traveling with bottlenose dolphins and other cetaceans.
Scientists use high-tech tagging to track whales
August 3, 2007 (Computer World) New tags meant to help track, protect New England's whales
An experimental tag-based tracking technology is being tested as a way of tracking whales and gathering information about how they live.
Two tests using the tagging devices just wrapped up off the coast of New England, according to Peter Tyack, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The testing took place at the Massachusetts Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and off the coast of Maine.
To track whales, Woods Hole engineer Mark Johnson devised a silicon tag, called a D Tag, that's about the size of a PC mouse and can record sound at 192 MHz. It has a pressure sensor that measures water depth a microprocessor, hydrophone and nonacoustic sensors that can sample environmental data 50 times a second
That's fast enough to record fluke strokes and feeding movements, Tyack said.
Tyack said the sensors are useful because the only time a whale can be observed is when it comes up to breathe or eat. "What's frustrating about whales and tracking their behavior is that we only see them when they come to the surface, only a tiny fraction of the time," he said. "Then the whales goes down deep and you can't see anything about its behavior or what depth it's at."
The D Tags are placed on the whale via suction cups and remain in place for about a day until they release as designed. After the tag -- which is tough enough to be used on deep diving sperm whales -- comes free, a special foam floats it to the surface and an embedded radio transmitter acts as a beacon so it can be retrieved.
Aquatic reserve set up around Cypress Island
August 2, 2007 (Seattle Times) One of the least-developed of the San Juan Islands - a rocky oasis of crystal lakes, forested hills and rolling meadows visited by eagles, hawks and the occasional woodpecker - won't be littered with docks, seawalls or marinas any time soon.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Wednesday formally dedicated the waters around 5,500-acre Cypress Island, just offshore from Anacortes, as the state's second aquatic reserve.
The aquatic-reserve program, proposed in 2000 by then-Commissioner of Public Lands Jennifer Belcher, is designed to protect state-owned marine or freshwater areas for environmental, scientific or educational purposes. Current Commissioner Doug Sutherland designated waters around Maury Island as the first such reserve in 2004.
All but a few hundred acres of the land on Cypress, which has no roads and is sprinkled with fewer than 100 cabins and small vacation homes, was already off-limits to further development.