Orca Network News - December, 2003
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
December 1, 2003 through December 31, 2003.
December 31, 2003 (Bremerton Sun) The damaged shoreline had been one of the largest relatively undisturbed coastal wetlands in the state.
A stretch of North Kitsap beach near Indianola, which Suquamish Tribe members consider a critical shellfishing area, suffered the most damage from a large oil spill that started early Tuesday near Seattle.
The damaged beach, along Point Jefferson, "is going to be our primary concern," said Dick Walker, state Department of Ecology senior spill responder. "At this point, that's the worst hit."
Suquamish Tribal Fisheries Director Rob Purser said Point Jefferson is the most important subsistence harvesting area for shellfish within tribal lands and also is used for ceremonial purposes.
"Right now, the clam beds are definitely impacted," he said.
Before the spill, Point Jefferson was considered "the largest relatively undisturbed coastal wetland of this kind in Washington state," tribal fisheries members said.
4,800 gallons of fuel oil spilled into Sound
December 31, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A mistake during a fuel transfer spilled about 4,800 gallons of oil into Puget Sound yesterday, creating an iridescent brown sheen that drifted from Shoreline to Ballard to north Bainbridge Island.
While small by historical standards, the spill was one of the largest in the past few years, according to Coast Guard records.
Central Puget Sound, where the spill spread, contains eelgrass beds, salt marshes, Dungeness crabs, clams, birds, seals and spawning beaches for baitfish such as herring.
Crews rescued one heavily oiled gull whose wings were stuck to its body; it was being rewarmed and cared for yesterday. A harbor seal pup found covered in oil died yesterday afternoon, although biologists are unsure precisely what killed it.
Scattered pockets of pollution reached beaches south of Edmonds to Carkeek Park and along Jefferson Head in Kitsap County, where crews shoveled up oily sand and used absorbent pads to soak up the escaped fuel.
Environmentalists have been pressing the state for years to require routine deployment of booms that would capture spilled oil whenever petroleum products are being transferred over or near the water.
"Even with a responsible company like Foss, stuff happens," said Fred Felleman, Northwest director of Ocean Advocates. "It underlines the point that we need to pre-boom when they're transferring fuel. If it's already contained, it's easier to handle."
After touring the spill scene yesterday, state Rep. Mike Cooper, D-Edmonds, said he was "seriously considering" filing legislation requiring pre-booming during fuel transfers. He is the chairman of the House Fisheries, Ecology and Parks Committee, which has jurisdiction over environmental matters.
"If that barge had been boomed, we would have had a few thousand gallons contained right there at Point Wells," Cooper said.
4,800-gallon oil spill hits Sound beaches December 31, 2003 (Seattle Times)
Nearly 5,000 gallons of fuel spills into Puget Sound
December 30, 2003 (KING5-TV) Almost 5,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil spilled into Puget Sound early Tuesday morning as it was being transferred to a barge from the Chevron facility at Point Wells near Edmonds.
Early reports suggested that the 4,800-gallon spill was caused when a re-fueling barge was overfilled. The spill of Bunker C oil was first reported at 12:15 a.m., according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson.
"As soon as the tankerman realized there was a problem, he shut down the operation immediately," said Joe Langjahr, with Foss Maritime. "We had a boom in the water within minutes of the spill," he said.
Bunker C oil can be particularly troublesome in the cold, which causes it to form globules that can be hazardous to birds and marine life.
The Coast Guard also set up a station to clean birds whose feathers had become fouled by the spill.
Whale watch an attempt to resolve mystery
December 30, 2003 (Eureka Times-Standard) Washington state researchers are asking people on the West Coast to keep their eyes peeled for killer whales and to report sightings quickly.
The Friday Harbor, Wash.,-based Center for Whale Research is looking for orcas that spend their summer in Puget Sound, but seem to be running into trouble while migrating. The population in the three groups, or pods, of whales considered residents of the sound has been declining -- 20 percent over the past seven years, said center Executive Director Kenneth Balcomb III.
From May to October in Puget Sound -- where orcas are treated like "sacred cows," Balcomb said -- they don't appear to be having problems. But after traveling as far south as Monterey each year, they return to Puget Sound with fewer numbers.
"We're trying to pinpoint where this may be occurring," he said.
While transient whales may travel in packs of three to seven, the resident whales would likely be seen in groups of 20 to 40, Balcomb said, perhaps spread out over a square mile. They are likely feeding on salmon along the continental shelf, Balcomb said.
Quickly reporting sightings of killer whales is most helpful. The center has a toll-free number, (866) ORCANET. Go to the center's websites for more information at www.whaleresearch.com or www.orcanetwork.org
Plan to save Northwest salmon falls short, report says
December 30, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Effort to save fish, dams not going as expected, but 'adequate'
The plan to save the wild salmon of the Snake and Columbia rivers without disabling dams is not working as well as planned, the Bush administration has admitted.
In a report issued Christmas Eve, the National Marine Fisheries Service acknowledged that "delays represent a significant concern" but nevertheless judged federal efforts to carry out the plan "adequate."
Federal agencies are behind on "key actions" to save Columbia and Snake river salmon stocks from an extinction spiral, the agency said. That's worrisome, although it could be remedied, the report said.
"You have an inadequate (plan) that is not being adequately implemented, and that spells trouble," said Rob Masonis of American Rivers, an environmental advocacy group. "It relies on voluntary, unspecified actions that are going to happen sometime down the road."
Masonis said, though, that the fisheries service deserves credit for giving a candid assessment of the plan's progress.
Bob Lohn, the agency's regional administrator, noted the recovery plan called for his agency to assess the progress as being in the "green zone" if everything were going well, in the "red zone" if it was on "a path to disaster," and in the "yellow zone" otherwise. The agency chose the yellow zone.
The dams kill young salmon migrating to the ocean in a gantlet of spinning metal blades, poisonous gases and water-pressure changes that can blow their eyes from their sockets.
To avoid that, dam managers now collect about four-fifths of the salmon and put them into fish tanks on barges, which move them past the dams.
However, scientists using elaborate tracking techniques can tell that many of the transported salmon later die after spending time in the crowded tanks on the barges, probably because of stress or disease.
"There's nothing out there to suggest that you can recover wild Snake River salmon stocks to harvestable, self-sustaining levels without dam removal," Masonis said.
2,000 gallons of fuel spill into Puget Sound
December 30, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) EDMONDS, Wash. -- About 2,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil spilled into Puget Sound early Tuesday as it was being transferred to a barge from the Chevron facility at Point Wells near Edmonds, the Coast Guard says.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson said the spill of No. 6 bunker oil was reported about 12:15 a.m.
Two skimmers and 1,000 feet of boom have been deployed. A Coast Guard helicopter planned to fly over the area Tuesday to assess the size of the spill.
Fredrickson said Coast Guard pollution investigators were on the scene with officials from the state Ecology Department. Clean up crews have been hired from three companies: Foss Environmental, Marine Spill Response and Clean Sound.
Critical marsh habitat is restored
December 29, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) LONG BEACH PENINSULA -- Here, in a huge marsh hidden behind a mossy forest, nine of the world's largest swans glide regally across softly rippling water, holding their long necks high as if they command the place.
After all, it was their kingdom once before. Even when trumpeter swans were thought to be extinct everywhere else on the Pacific Coast, 80 of them wintered here in this waterfowl's paradise at the peninsula's northern end.
Then, for 40 years, the snow-white swans with 8-foot wingspans lost their command of Hines Marsh. Developers drained it. Willow trees took root where water plants once reigned. The swans disappeared.
Now, after decades of effort by an Everett woman named Martha Jordan and other admirers of the majestic trumpeters, the 3.5-mile- long marsh is their kingdom once again.
Luna lingers for another year in Nootka Sound
December 24, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Luna, the orphaned orca, will be ringing in another new year in British Columbia's Nootka Sound.
The 4-year-old orca appeared on the scene in summer 2001 and has lingered on the west coast of Vancouver Island, entertaining and sometimes irritating folks with his penchant for people and their boats.
His relatives, meanwhile, have been migrating around the San Juans, Puget Sound and out to the coast.
The stewardship project has monitored the orca and tried to keep people from getting too close. With the rain and cold, the number of visitors has declined, and Luna has been spending more time on his own, said Lara Sloan, spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans.
Fisheries agents, local Indians, police officers and residents are keeping watch over the killer whale during the winter.
There is a hope that reuniting the orcas with their pods will lead to more babies and help maintain the population's genetic diversity. Supporters of Luna's reunification believe there is a good chance that the effort will succeed, in part because his mother is still with the pod.
Damage from Exxon's oil spill lingered for decade, study says
December 19, 2003 (Seattle Times) Hidden pools of oil left over from the Exxon Valdez spill 14 years ago continued to damage Alaska's coastal environment for a decade, killing pink-salmon eggs and retarding the population growth of sea otters, harlequin ducks and other wildlife, a new study says.
The 14-year study, published today in the journal Science, points out that effects of the 11 million-gallon spill into Prince William Sound extended well beyond the initial deaths of 250,000 oiled seabirds, 2,800 otters and 300 harbor seals.
The residual oil grew more toxic and continued to harm the coastal environment far longer than expected, the report says. These oily pockets are tucked beneath boulders or buried below gravel and mussel beds and have escaped sunlight, oxygen and waves that normally break it down.
"Because the Exxon Valdez spill happened in a biological wonderland of sea otters and harlequin ducks, there has been a huge amount of research," said Charles Peterson, the paper's lead author and a University of North Carolina marine biologist. "Things we have dismissed as sublethal effects actually translate into significant decline in wildlife."
Nothing virtual about global warming
December 19, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Op-Ed) President Bush recently chided Saddam Hussein for his cowardly attempt to hide, saying that "when the heat got on, you dug yourself a hole and you crawled in it." These same words also describe the attempts by Bush and friends to evade the issue of global warming. It's time for them to crawl out of their hole.
The overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is real, it's serious, it's caused mostly by humans and it is to some extent correctable. But due to the intransigence of the Bush administration and comrades, virtually nothing has been done to correct it.
These folks have not only tried to scuttle the Kyoto Protocol but the U.S. Senate recently voted down an even more modest attempt to cap greenhouse gas emissions -- the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003 -- in the United States at the year 2000 levels by year 2010. That would be far less extensive than cuts proposed by Kyoto. The act was broadly supported by mayors, unions and insurers and would have saved the U.S. economy some $48 billion a year in energy savings alone. But the administration and Senate conservatives would have nothing of it.
Worse, Congress is on the verge of passing a disastrous energy bill that only digs our fossil-energy hole deeper. This was the bill that was drawn up behind closed doors by Vice President Cheney's energy task force -- a group of old-guard fossil-fuel tycoons. Such policy is steering us to a train wreck, and it is time all Americans said enough is enough.
Endangered listing for elusive orcas? Scientists seek clues to decline
December 19, 2003 (Seattle Times) The lack of basic knowledge about the Northwest's signature marine mammal highlights the challenges ahead as scientists search for clues to their decline.
This much is clear: The government may turn to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to try to save them, but applying it to a migrating mammal at the top of the food chain could touch everything from construction along major rivers to cruise-ship operations.
U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik ruled Wednesday that the National Marine Fisheries Service ignored available science in 2002 when it decided against listing the region's killer whales as threatened or endangered.
While he stopped short of ordering the agency to do so, most observers expect NMFS will do precisely that sometime next year.
"Anybody involved in environmentalism knows: You can't save a species without saving its ecosystem," said Michael Harris, with the Orca Conservancy. "And the ESA looks straight to the ecosystem."
To date, scientists can't pinpoint why the southern resident orcas, which summer near the San Juans, have dropped from nearly 100 in the mid-1990s to 84 today, but they recognize several factors may be influential. Many have toxins such as DDT and PCBs in their blubber, some may not get enough food and others may have run-ins with boats or parasite infestations.
And the single greatest threat to the population, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, is a catastrophic oil spill.
Feds must rethink orca listing
December 18, 2003 (The Olympian) Judge rejects refusal of 'endangered' status for South Sound pods
Conservation groups seeking to reverse a decline in the number of Puget Sound orcas scored a victory Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Judge Robert Lasnik set aside a National Marine Fisheries Service July 2002 ruling that said the three families of killer whales living together in Puget Sound don't deserve listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Lasnik gave the federal agency 12 months to review its earlier decision and issue a new finding.
"We're very, very happy with this decision," said Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People for Puget Sound, one of the conservation groups that petitioned the fisheries service in May 2001 to list the orcas. "It gives NMFS another shot to do it the right way, to pay more attention to current science."
Since 1996, the number of orcas cruising the waters of Puget Sound has declined from 97 to 82.
Toxic pollution, a reduced supply of salmon to prey upon and disturbances from whale-watching activity have all been blamed for the decline.
The federal agency last year rejected the proposed listing of the orcas, saying the so-called southern residents were not a distinct population whose loss would be significant as defined by the Endangered Species Act.
Puget Sound Orcas 'Significant' - Court Overturns Government Decision Not to List Local Whales Under ESA December 17, 2003 (EarthJustice)
Judge orders feds to rethink endangered listing for orcas December 18, 2003 (Skagit Valley Herald)
Judge rules for listing orcas as endangered December 18, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Orcas get 2nd shot at stricter federal protection December 18, 2003 (Seattle Times)
Sighting Puget Sound orcas in the winter
December 18, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) "In the winter, it's total luck," said Kari Koski, who runs the Boater Education Program for The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor. Sightings do happen, but whale-watchers have to be in the right place at the right time, she said.
For Puget Sound-area residents, the right place in the winter is Vashon Island, which the 22 members of the J Pod circle as they feed on late-run chum salmon, said Howard Garrett, board president of Orca Network.
The Web site of the Greenbank whale advocacy group is routinely updated with whale sightings from the region. A map labels sightings by date and type -- resident whale or transient whale -- and spotters describe where they saw the orcas.
Four spotters saw whales between Dec. 3 and 11, two near Vashon Island and two near Alki. There were five others seen this month on the northeast side of Vancouver Island and one in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Near the end of last week, 30 people watched from the shore near the Point Robinson Lighthouse on Vashon Island as a pod passed, with some of the whales breaching.
Those who want to get out on the water have limited options in the winter.
The resident pods eat only fish and follow the salmon, Garrett said. The transient whales also eat other marine animals, including seals and sea lions. "There are orcas in other parts of the world, but there is no place that is so hospitable as far as being able to see them from the shore of a huge urban area," Garrett said of the Puget Sound region.
City plans to develop 12 new parks throughout Seattle
December 16, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The council also approved spending $335,000 to buy critical shoreline habitat on Salmon Bay, just west of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard.
More than 1 million juvenile chinook and other salmon species use the shoreline every year while migrating through the Ship Canal to Puget Sound.
The council also gave Seattle Public Utilities approval to spend $160,000 to monitor the salmon, restore the site, and build a public viewing area with interpretive signs.
"It's an ideal place for juvenile salmon to hang out and get fat," said Councilwoman Margaret Pageler.
Cooperative is monitoring Luna over the winter
December 16, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Luna, the U.S.-born killer whale who's spent two years alone in Canada's Nootka Sound, is being monitored over the winter by fisheries agents with help from local Indians, police and residents, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans said yesterday.
The U.S. and Canadian governments are cooperating in an effort to reunite the 4-year-old male orca next spring with its family, L-pod, which spends much of the year chasing salmon near the San Juan Islands.
In recent weeks, the fisheries department said in a news release, Luna has been wandering throughout the sound to forage for food -- moving away from the dock at Gold River where it had become somewhat of a tourist attraction last summer.
Luna "was reported interacting with some of the local sea lions," the release said.
The agency has been working with its U.S. counterpart, the National Marine Fisheries Service, to determine the best means and timetable for moving Luna.
The winter monitoring program is being led by local fisheries officers in cooperation with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Mowachat/Muchalaht First Nation and supportive residents.
Keiko's Life May Help Other Killer Captive Whales
December 15, 2003 (KOMO-TV) His caretakers buried Keiko the killer whale Monday in Norway.
The famous orca died suddenly late last week from pneumonia.
Keiko's sudden death in a Norwegian fjord brings this story of life imitating art to a shattering close. It began with the ailing, aging movie star of 'Free Willy.'
Supporters secured Keiko's release from the small Mexico City theme park, transferring him to a rehab tank in Newport, Oregon.
Keiko proved he could still catch fish on his own, and so was transferred to his native waters in Iceland.
He learned to swim with wild whales, dive deeply, and hunt for food. "This is what orca whales were built to do," said Dave Phillips, President of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation. "Keiko showed a lot of the naysayers that he was capable of being out there with the big boys."
But Keiko didn't stay out with the big boys, and eventually swam 1,000 miles to Norway, turning once again to humans for companionship.
"I think personally the saddest thing for me is that we never were able to find Keiko's family," said Phillips.
Killer whales depend on tightly knit families. That's a key difference between Keiko and other captive killer whales, like Lolita. Researchers know everything about Lolita's pod; killer whales that call Puget Sound home.
"Those who were in the know realized that Lolita was a far better candidate," said Howard Garrett of Orca Network talking about Lolita's chances for returning to the wild. "She just wasn't a movie star."
Lolita has spent the past 33 years in Miami's Seaquarium. She was captured off Whidbey Island at the age of 5 or 6. She was old enough to know how to catch fish, survive on her own, and remember her family.
"Lolita, it would be a piece of cake, a walk in the park," said Garrett. Lolita supporters don't know if Keiko's death will help or hinder their efforts to free Lolita. But they believe like Keiko, she deserves a chance.
The Free Willy-Keiko Foundation considers the Keiko experiment a success and plans to focus now on returning other captive killer whales to the wild.
'Free Willy' whale buried in Norway
December 15, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Keiko, the killer whale star of the "Free Willy" movies, was buried Monday in a snow-bound pasture during the deep darkness of Nordic winter in a ceremony kept secret from the public.
"We wanted to let him be at peace," said Dane Richards, one of his caretakers. "He's free now and in the wild."
The roughly six-ton whale died Friday in a Norwegian bay where his team was trying to reintroduce him to the wild. His trainers said the likely cause of death was pneumonia.
Richards said the burial in a pasture just yards from where Keiko, about 26, died was done in secret to avoid a media circus.
‘Free Willy' dies of broken heart
December 14, 2003 (Sunday Herald (UK)) Lonely Keiko never did find family, despite 870-mile search
Keiko the killer whale, made famous by the Free Willy films, has died after being unable to locate his family following his release into the wild. Caretakers for the world-famous orca, who spent most of his life in captivity, announced his death yesterday after the sudden onset of pneumonia.
Keiko, who was around 26-years-old, was found floating on the sea surface off the Norwegian coast on Friday evening near the dock at Halsa, which had been the home of the giant orca since he unexpectedly arrived in Norway last year.
The eight-metre-long, six-ton whale had spent most of his life in captivity before his rehabilitation and preparation for a return to the wild. He was finally released in July 2002.
Keiko's animal care specialist, Dane Richards said that the illness was sudden. After worried experts monitored his progress the cetacean died quickly. He said: "He exhibited some signs of lethargy and lack of appetite. We checked his respiration rate and it was a little irregular ... he wasn't doing too well. Early in the evening, he passed away."
However, Fred Felleman of Orca Conservancy told the Sunday Herald that while Keiko's carers did "a tremendous job of getting him back in shape", the failure to reunite the whale with his family group may have had a part to play in his death.
He said: "You can't fulfil the needs of a social predator by just measuring his blood chemistry and his fat content – these animals need the contact of the family. I can't help but think that is what wore him down.
"There's a stress associated with being alone, if you're a social predator. Stress has been shown in many different contexts to make your immune system suppressed. Pneumonia is an approximate reason for his death but why did he catch it? Was his immune system compromised? This whale would probably have been given a longer lease of life if he'd found his social contacts."
Felleman continued: "Over the past year the carers moved his pen to the other side of the country where they thought he'd be more likely to run into his family group. They had some acoustic recordings that seemed to match his more. It seemed to me that they were getting there, they were on the trail. The whale just didn't hang around long enough."
Report casts killer whales as villains of seas
December 14, 2003 (Anchorage Daily News) THEORY: Biologists disagree about orcas decimating populations
The U.S. Senate report on the multibillion-dollar appropriations bill last month held this extraordinary directive:
Along with its regular work advising the government, the federal Marine Mammal Commission was to review evidence "that rogue packs of killer whales" are wiping out discrete populations of the most endangered marine mammals.
The provocative wording reflects an emotionally charged theory of Alaska killer whales that has divided scientists while capturing headlines and imaginations across the country.
The theory serves up a cinematic, tooth-and-flipper explanation for the catastrophic crash of Steller sea lions from the western Gulf of Alaska through the tip of the Aleutian Chain.
With the shock of a black-and-white orca breaching from the sea, the controversy has publicized a hypothesis that predators -- not a lack of food, overfishing, pollution or some mysterious change in ocean ecology -- may have caused a population crash of sea lions, otters and seals over the past three decades.
The topic is scheduled to open the international Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals on Monday morning, with opposing sides appearing before 1,500 scientists and students at a convention center in Greensboro, N.C. Scientists say there's talk of point-counterpoint articles appearing in marine mammal journals.
Many of the North Pacific's whale biologists say that they have serious problems with the theory, that it's often directly contradicted by their field observations.
"We question whether large whales were ever a large portion of (marine mammal-eating) killer whale diet," said conference presenter Paul Wade, a whale biologist at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle. "We think that this first premise that this all happened due to whale removal is just wrong."
The nationwide news coverage last month followed by the Senate's reference to rogue killer whales has alarmed Homer biologist Craig Matkin, the state's leading killer whale researcher. For the past two years, Matkin has coordinated teams gathering basic biology of killer whales from Unimak Pass to Sitka Sound.
Keiko won hearts on screen, in real life
December 13, 2003 (Seattle Times) Keiko, the killer whale whose life was nearly as fantastic as the movie he starred in, died yesterday in a Norwegian fjord - still under the care of humans despite a multi-million-dollar effort to return him to the wild.
The animal, who became a worldwide celebrity after starring in 1993's "Free Willy," apparently succumbed to pneumonia, sickening quickly and beaching himself before he died, handlers said.
"He's been in very excellent health, so it was kind of a shock," said Dave Phillips of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation. "This is a very sad day for us."
Touched by the tale and the plight of Keiko, who was living in a decrepit Mexico theme park after he made the movie, Seattle communications magnate Craig McCaw tapped his personal fortune for roughly $20 million to build a facility at the aquarium in Newport, Ore., and finance the effort to rehabilitate the whale and return him to the wild.
In 1998, Keiko was airlifted to Iceland, where he had been captured in 1979. Installed in a net pen in a sheltered bay, Keiko got fishing lessons and daily workouts. Eventually, his handlers led him into open waters.
"We called it 'taking him for a walk,' " said Charles Vinick, who served as one of the leaders of the project. "He was robust and just going for it, every time."
When his Icelandic pen was finally dismantled, Keiko left the sheltered waters and began swimming with other killer whales. In the summer of 2002, Keiko left Icelandic waters, traveling more than 1,000 miles to Norway. At least part of the six-week journey was made in the company of other whales, Vinick said.
Keiko, star of 'Free Willy' movies, dies in Norway December 12, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Keiko the killer whale dies December 12, 2003 (MSNBC)
Electric utilities devise plan to aid salmon without spills
December 12, 2003 (Oregonian) Environmental lawyers struck a knockout punch -- or so it seemed in May -- when a judge rejected as inadequate the U.S. government's plan to protect endangered Columbia River salmon from hydroelectric dams.
But in the vacuum left by that ruling, electric utilities are finding ways to avoid a particularly costly measure intended to improve survival of salmon.
"We think that we can meet our goals for fish recovery in a much more effective way," said Scott Corwin, a vice president for PNGC Power, an association of 15 rural electric cooperatives in Oregon and Washington.
During spring and summer, fishery authorities have required dam operators to open spillways in dams to help young fish pass without getting chewed up in power-generating turbines. It's expensive because the spilled water can't be harnessed to generate electricity.
Bonneville Power Administration, the federal power marketing agency, says it would give up about $80 million in revenue to spill water for fish next July and August.
Hardy said the benefits of spill can be achieved by much cheaper means, such as controlling predators and tightening quotas on salmon fishing.
Andrew Englander, with the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, said spillways are the surest route for stocks entering the Columbia at or below the last collection point for barging. That includes salmon from the Deschutes and Klickitat rivers, and the Hanford Reach of the Columbia.
Conservation groups and tribes are gearing up to lobby elected officials to preserve the spill program. Todd True, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund lawyer who led the lawsuit against the federal salmon plan, said the move to curtail the spill program could be illegal, given the court ruling in May.
Indians can't whale without permit, further study
December 10, 2003 (Anchorage Daily News) A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider its ruling that gray whale hunts by the Makah Tribe must be subject to a full environmental impact statement and a special permit for the whalers.
The tribe and the U.S. government had asked the full court to reconsider the ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"We're quite happy with the ruling," attorney Eric Glitzenstein said in Washington, D.C. He represents the Fund for Animals, the Humane Society of the United States and other plaintiffs.
"They did win, but it's not the end," said tribal attorney Jon Arum in Seattle, noting the court said in its decision last week that it would accept further petitions for reconsideration.
Salmon and civilization can coexist, if we help
December 9, 2003 (Puget Sound Business Journal Editorial) Salmon. The word conjures images of the Pacific Northwest. But not too long ago salmon also filled the rivers of New England, and before that Great Britain. Sadly, the stories of declining salmon runs are remarkably parallel across the English-speaking world.
The King of Fish is not in trouble because people didn't care about salmon. The biggest problem for salmon lies elsewhere. It is in the slow accumulation of little changes into large impacts that over time radically alter natural systems. Under human influences, the landscape is gradually evolving right out from under salmon.
If we are to keep wild salmon in our future, then rebuilding wild salmon runs -- rather than just slowing the rate of decline -- must be the goal. This means then, that any credible strategy must prevent further increases in the net negative impact of the four Hs - habitat, harvest, hydropower, and hatcheries. While progress is being made in habitat protection, and there is hope for meaningful hatchery reform, history shows us that we must get ahead of the curve of landscape change if we are to retain strong salmon runs in our rivers.
Scientists: America's oceans are in crisis
December 9, 2003 (Bremerton Sun) HOOD CANAL - Locke promises fight vs. oxygen deficiency
• An environmental group is asked to help solve the deficiency that has killed thousands of fish.
Shocked by the prospect of Hood Canal becoming a "dead sea," Gov. Gary Locke pledged Monday to deal with the low-oxygen problem that has killed thousands of fish the past two years.
Specifically, the governor earmarked $25,000 from his emergency funds for the Puget Sound Action Team to develop a short-term plan of action.
"To hear the words 'dead sea' associated with any of our state's marine waters is shocking," Locke said in a prepared statement. "We must work to understand the canal's dynamics, identify the human contribution to the problem and develop an action plan to address the issue."
Congress this year appropriated $350,000 for starting a three-year study to determine why the deadly low-oxygen conditions have grown worse the past several years. But Locke wants something done now.
Meanwhile, the Puget Sound Action Team can play an important role in increasing understanding about the problem and educating the public, he said.
"No matter how many studies or meetings you hold, nothing will change until you get the public involved," Hager said.
Scientists: America's oceans are in crisis
December 7, 2003 (Eugene Register-Guard) Some of the nation's top marine scientists say the oceans are in crisis and major changes are needed to protect and restore the world's largest natural resource.
``The word 'emergency' is not an exaggeration,'' said Jane Lubchenko, an Oregon State University marine biologist and one of 18 members of the Pew Oceans Commission.
She told a daylong conference on Saturday the crisis results mostly from policy decisions made more than 30 years ago - a kind of ``historical accident.''
In 1969, the Stratton Commission, the last major commission to study the state of the oceans, released its findings. The report defined American waters as immense, inexhaustible and impervious to human impact.
Since then, Lubchenko said, ``our country has continued to approach oceans with a frontier mentality - that clearly is what has gotten us in trouble.''
The Pew Oceans Commission released the findings of its three-year study last June, indicating the oceans and marine animals face serious environmental threats.
The oceans and their coastal waters, Lubchenko said, are the country's largest public domain and need to be managed as a public trust. ``We need a new ocean ethic,'' she said. ``A `sea' change.''
Descendants of people who greeted European explorers oppose salmon farms
December 6, 2003 (North Country Times) When Ambrose Maquinna began to feel his time on earth coming to an end, he told the son who would succeed him as chief of the Mowachat/Muchalaht people that he wanted to come back as a killer whale.
Not long after Maquinna's death in 2001, a young male orca swam into Muchalat Inlet on Vancouver Island and began rubbing up against boats and nosing around the new salmon farm being built there. Biologists soon identified it as a stray young male from Washington's Puget Sound named Luna. But some in the Mowachat/Muchalaht First Nation thought otherwise.
In the traditional spiritual world of the tribe, whose ancestors traded furs to British explorer Capt. James Cook when he first anchored off Vancouver Island in 1778, the killer whale is enforcer of the law of the sea as well as part of the family crest of the Maquinna family.
So when the Mowachat/Muchalaht filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, challenging its award of a permit allowing Grieg Seafoods BC Ltd. to build a salmon farm in Muchalat Inlet, some members of the band looked to this whale for an extra measure of strength and named it Txux'iit (pronounced Tsook-wheet) after the traditional name of their late chief.
"I like to say it means down with fish farms, but I don't know," said Mike Maquinna, who succeeded his father as heriditary chief. "There's certainly a connection, and it's a spiritual one."
Unlike the United States, court battles over Canadian salmon farms have been largely waged by Indian tribes, known as First Nations in Canada, based on their constitutional guarantees to ancient rights and titles.
"They've got the strongest legal hook," said Jennifer Lash of Living Oceans, an environmental group based in Suintula.
The Mowachat/Muchalaht lawsuit claims the government failed to properly consult them over development in their traditional waters. To press the claims, the tribe offered historical evidence that explorers and traders recognized their control.
Allison Webb, director of the sustainable aquaculture division for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said she could not comment on pending litigation.
For Grieg Seafoods, moving into Muchalat Inlet is a chance to expand enough to operate its own processing plant, said Tim Davies, Grieg's environmental and lease manager. The company hopes to rotate four farms through seven sites and build a processing plant in Gold River. That would mean 50 new jobs for the tiny town, helping to make up for the shutdown of a pulp mill.
Recognizing the tribe's territorial claims, Grieg was negotiating with the band, but felt compelled to seek a permit after learning a competitor was about to do the same, Davies said.
Ultimately, the band faces the choice between potential environmental impacts and jobs, Davies added.
Others have chosen the jobs. The Kitasoo First Nation on the mainland coast turned to salmon farming after native runs collapsed.
"Commercial fishing is gone. Timber is allocated. It's difficult to find opportunities," Richard Harry, director of the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association, told the Aquaculture Canada 2003 conference earlier this year in Victoria, British Columbia. "Aquaculture is a new industry and there are opportunities for First Nations."
Even the Mowachat/Muchalaht are interested in aquaculture. But they are looking at oyster farms, which pose fewer threats, said Maquinna.
For his part, the whale has been hanging around the new salmon farm, forcing Grieg to suspend work setting net pen anchors because of laws prohibiting interaction between humans and whales. The U.S. and Canadian governments hope to return the orca to Puget Sound next spring.
Seattle's new drainage plan to provide wildlife with healthy creeks
December 5, 2003 (Seattle Post-Inteligencer) Urban stream restorations and polluted water washing off city streets will get more attention in a stormwater plan being drafted by Seattle Public Utilities.
The drainage plan guides projects 20 years into the future, with a focus on the next few years. The program was established almost two decades ago to address flooding-related problems, but is now tackling more environmental concerns.
"We're trying to set a slightly different course -- a new direction," said Susan Stoltzfus, spokeswoman for the utility.
And the $36 million-a-year program aims to make the city's creeks more hospitable for fish and other creatures.
About half of Seattle is covered by impervious surfaces -- roads, sidewalks, roofs and parking lots. The drainage system captures the rain that runs off those surfaces, piping some of it into the sewer system where it's treated. The rest pours into streams and ditches that feed lakes or Puget Sound.
While detention ponds trap some of the pollution washing off streets and chemically treated landscapes, studies show that dangerous chemicals are still washing into creeks at levels lethal for fish.
"Urban creeks have the misfortune of being the backbone of our stormwater system," said Katherine Lynch, senior environmental analyst for the utility.
Coho are dying before they have a chance to lay their eggs in Thornton, Pipers, Fauntleroy and Longfellow creeks, scientists have found.
Most of the female fish that the scientists have found so far this fall died with stomachs full of eggs. Last year, 88 percent of the fish died before they had a chance to spawn. Some coho discovered alive behaved erratically -- gills flared, rolling on their sides or gasping for air.