Orca Network News - February, 2011

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
February 1, 2011 through February 28, 2011.

Rare grey whale tracked to North America has been there before; photograph confirms 2008 visit
February 28, 2011 (Google News)
Marine researchers say a rare whale tracked across the Pacific Ocean into North American waters this year had been there before.
Photo analysis has confirmed that the highly endangered western Pacific grey whale dubbed Flex — one of only 130 remaining — was photographed in 2008 off Canada's Vancouver Island and was assumed to be part of the eastern grey whale population.

When Orcas are Shareholders: Merging Environmentalism & Business Process
February 28, 2011 (Triple Pundit)
This month, the Orca Whale was added to the constituencies fighting for the West Coast’s beloved but increasingly degraded Chinook Salmon population. This after 60 people spent 4 years developing a plan to protect the Chinook in Puget Sound. The compelling goal, “to lead the region toward a legacy of healthy, harvestable salmon and improved water quality for future generations,” brought together citizens and scientists; community, business, and environmental groups; and local elected officials and public agency staff. And, just two months ago, their science-based plan was ratified by 24 local governments.

David Kirby on the Death at SeaWorld
February 26, 2011 (Fox News)

Is SeaWorld safe for killer whale trainers?
February 24, 2011 (CBS)
Dr. Jeffrey Ventre, who spent four years as a trainer with SeaWorld's killer whales and knew Brancheau, said this is a "predictable response" from the company.
"This is a multibillion dollar corporation that makes its money through the exploitation of orcas and trainers," he said on "The Early Show." "Trainers are grossly underpaid. And as Dr. Jett just mentioned in the previous segment, these animals are highly understimulated. Tillikum chose to pull Dawn into the water by her left arm, and it got ugly after that. So this is a predictable response. But I think the key point in history is going to start on April 25, when OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) takes a close look at the safety issues associated with swimming in the water with killer whales, and I think that's going to determine whether this will actually happen or not."
Ventre explained, "Well, first of all, Tillikum did a counterclockwise spin move using an arm bar and rolled Dawn into the water and killed her in probably just a couple of minutes. It really became a recovery operation soon after she got into the water. He broke her sternum; he bit off her left arm. She was scalped. She had a lot of internal bleeding. The posterior elements of three ribs were broken, and he simply wouldn't give her up. It took an additional 30 minutes just to pry his jaws open and get her out of him. And I think that these are the reasons why ... SeaWorld doesn't want to open these hearings up. Because the details are horrific."
Ventre added, "I just wrote a paper with Dr. Jett that describes the increased mortality and morbidity associated with the whales themselves. For example, we now know that killer whales in captivity typically don't live to even 10 years once they enter that environment. We also know that they break their teeth on the horizontal steel bars that separate them for training sessions. And if you take a look at their teeth, this might be the reason why they're dying at such an early age."

Well-known Puget Sound orca 'Ruffles' is missing
February 21, 2011 (KING5)
The most prominent member of the second largest pod of southern resident orcas is missing.
Members of J Pod were seen hunting in the waters off Everett Monday. The last census puts J Pod's population at 27 but J-1, also known as "Ruffles," is missing.
"The last time we have good evidence he was around was November 21 off Victoria," said Ken Balcomb, Senior Scientist with the Center For Whale Research on San Juan Island. "We're very concerned he hasn't been seen or photographed since then."

Scientist finds Gulf bottom still oily, dead
February 19, 2011 (AP)
Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a scientist's video and slides that demonstrate the oil isn't degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.

Researchers lose track of rare whale off Oregon Coast
February 15, 2011 (KVAL)
Marine researchers say a satellite tag may have finally fallen off a highly endangered whale that was tracked from Russian waters to the Oregon coast.

Orcas hunting in San Francisco Bay identified as pod from Puget Sound
February 14, 2011 (San Francisco Examiner)
The group of roughly 14 whales -- that has been spotted at various times starting last week -- are residents of the Puget Sound off the coast of Seattle, Mary Jane Schramm, spokeswoman with the Gulf of The Farallones Marine Sanctuary, said.
“They’re covering quite a lot of mileage,” Schramm said.
The group has been seen three separate times since Wednesday, according to Schramm. The whales were spotted twice by sight-seeing tours about halfway between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Farallon Island Marine Sanctuary on Wednesday and Saturday.
Another sighting occurred on Friday near Moss Beach when Ken Balcomb, senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Wash., which monitors the whales in the Puget Sound, found the pod and identified them as “L” pod.

New Killer Whale Show, New Credit Facility
February 11, 2011 (Wall Street Journal)
Both Moody’s and S&P cited the cyclical nature of discretionary consumer spending as a risk factor. Moody’s also refers to “recent attendance weakness” that it attributes partly to the February 2010 death of a whale trainer.
SeaWorld, formerly known as Busch Entertainment Corp., was acquired from Anheuser-Busch InBev in late 2009 for up to $2.7 billion, including $2.3 billion cash at closing. For the year ended Sept. 30, SeaWorld had revenue of about $1.2 billion, according to Moody’s.

Experts follow rare whale from Russia to B.C.
February 11, 2011 (CTV News)
A satellite tracking device that's the size of a ballpoint pen and has the power of a child's walkie-talkie is being used to follow one of the world's most endangered whales along its mysterious migration route.
The 13-year-old Western Pacific gray whale, named Flex, hasn't disappointed researchers with his surprising path from Sakhalin Island off Russia across the Bering Sea and then south into the Pacific Ocean past Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state.
He's moving at a fast clip of about 160 kilometres a day, said Bruce Mate, director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University.

In the battle to save whales and salmon, fishing gets caught in the middle
February 11, 2011 (Seattle Times)
Scientists with nets normally used to clean swimming pools tracked killer whales through Puget Sound last week, scooping up their oily poop.
The surprise February visit to Washington from members of J pod came just days after state and tribal leaders learned they may again have to cut back salmon fishing to boost the endangered whales' survival.
The juxtaposition of the two events highlights a fundamental truth underscoring efforts to restore southern resident orca populations.
Scientists now know quite a lot about our resident whales' summertime habits — but what they don't know about the rest of their year is becoming increasingly important.
"You can't bring back orcas just on the backs of fishermen," said Joel Kawahara, a commercial troller who works in Washington and Alaska. "What about improving habitat? What about the effects of the dams on the Columbia River?"
More here

Fish-eating (Resident) Killer Whales Sighted in Monterey Bay on Feb. 10, 2011
February 10, 2011 (Mmonterey Bay Whalewatch)
...members of the endangered group of Resident Killer Whales were spotted by Monterey Bay Whale Watch, headed into Monterey Bay along the deep submarine canyon. The group consisted of "L Pod" a family group of 40 individuals, part of the population of Southern Residents consisting of J, K and L pods.
Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Washington, a location where the Southern Residents occur nearly daily during summer months, has been a guest of Monterey Bay Whale Watch over the last several days in his hopes of spotting the Residents in Monterey Bay.

Record numbers of killer whales
February 10, 2011 (Irishtimes)
RECORD NUMBERS of killer whales (Orcinus orca) have been recorded feeding on shoals of mackerel in Irish waters in recent weeks.
The killer whales came to the attention of the Naval Service, which was monitoring fishing vessels off Tory Island. Consistent estimates from Naval personnel and fishermen suggested more than 100 killer whales have been feeding off the Irish coast.
Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) Sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley said the average number of confirmed sightings in Irish waters annually was generally about a dozen.
He believes the whales have followed migrating mackerel and are likely to have come from Scotland. “Killer whales, like other dolphins, have what is called home range and they can easily travel five, six hundred miles,” he said.

Teeth worn down to the gums!
February 8, 2011 (Practical Fishkeeping)
A scientist from Canada has discovered a why a type of killer whale has such bad teeth – a love of shark meat!
The discovery of the whales with teeth worn down to their gums, lends weight to the notion that the region's three orca Orcinus orca lineages are separate species, which has implications for both future studies and conservation strategies.
The three types of orca in the north eastern Pacific off Canada and Alaska can be divided into three distinct groups; the "resident" fish-eaters; "transient" marine mammal-eaters; and "offshore" whales.
More here

Puget Sound Partnership steadfast in science-based solutions to environmental threats
February 5, 2011 (Kitsap Sun)
Puget Sound Partnership has suffered some serious "growing pains" through its first three years, yet the agency retains widespread support from many political, business, environmental and tribal leaders.More than a few people are questioning why the partnership has taken so long to provide a basic road map for restoring Puget Sound to health. And some question whether the agency's complex organizational structure may be hindering its progress.
But the partnership's guiding principle of allowing science to point the way continues to generate optimism, as the agency moves forward under acting Director Gerry O'Keefe.
More here

Salt-water marshes to return
February 4, 2011 (Everett Herald)
More than a century ago, federal surveyors who made notes about the Snohomish River delta recorded comments about marshy areas of cattails interspersed with small forests of Sitka spruce, cedar and salmonberry shrubs.
In the ensuing years, the estuary was extensively diked and gated to create farmland. Most of the wetlands, which provided a place for juvenile salmon to eat, grow and acclimate to salt water, were lost.
Now some of that habitat is on the verge of being restored. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given a final go-ahead to a plan to remove dikes and tide gates to allow salt water from Possession Sound to mingle with fresh water from Ebey Slough.
The Qwuloolt project — the word means “large marsh” in Lushootseed, the Coast Salish language spoken by local Indian tribes — aims to restore 360 acres south of Marysville to its original state.
More here

Back to Orca News Archives