Orca Network News - January, 2003

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

January 1, 2003 through January 31, 2003.
Puget Sound orcas might get relief
January 31, 2003 (The Olympian) A federal fisheries agency said Thursday it will develop a plan to protect Puget Sound orca whales without using the federal Endangered Species Act.
The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service intends to designate the J, K and L pods of killer whales as depleted under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Federal fisheries officials said they have been working on another way to protect the whales since last July while they continue to study whale genetics to try to determine if they are a distinct population.
"We're somewhat encouraged by the process NMFS is going through," said Susan Berta, co-founder of the Whidbey Island-based Orca Network. "We're going to try to work with them."
The Orca Network is not a party to the lawsuit.
The fisheries service has started a 60-day public comment period to seek advice on the potential conservation measures.
"The public has already played an active role in the protection of these whales," said Bob Lohn, northwest regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries. "We look forward to their continued involvement as we develop a conservation strategy for these special animals."
Berta urged the agency to tackle the problems of toxic pollution and salmon population declines, and not just pick on whale-watching.
"Toxins are the No. 1 issue we need to look at -- not just for the orcas, but for other marine species and human health."

Orcas could get increased protection
January 31, 2003 (Bremerton Sun) Puget Sound's killer whales would be declared "depleted" and the federal government would launch an effort to rebuild their population under a plan announced Thursday. The depleted status, a legal definition under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, would bring increased attention to the plight of the southern resident orcas -- specifically the J, K and L pods, according to Bob Lohn, regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Thursday's announcement triggers a 60-day comment period, after which the federal agency would be required to develop a plan to reverse the population decline.
The number of southern residents dropped from a high of about 97 animals in 1996 to 80 in just five years. Although a few newborns were reported this year, federal officials still consider the whales in serious peril.

Conservation Measures & "Depleted" Proposal for Puget Sound Killer Whales National Marine Fisheries Service

Public comment invited on orca rescue strategy
January 31, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Agency wants to know if mammals should be listed as 'depleted'
Federal fisheries authorities yesterday asked the public what they should do to prevent the orcas of Puget Sound from going extinct.
The National Marine Fisheries Service announced it was opening a 60-day period during which the public can comment on whether the popular marine mammals should be declared "depleted" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
That would kick off a process in which the fisheries service would develop a plan to stabilize and ultimately rebuild the population of the whales.
From a high of 97 in the mid-1990s, the orcas' numbers have plummeted to about 80.
Comments can be mailed to Chief, Protected Resources Division, NOAA Fisheries, 525 N.E. Oregon St., Suite 500, Portland, OR, 97232, or e-mailed through the "e-comments" section of www.nwr.noaa.gov/mmammals/whales/proposal.htm
"We're asking if they think the orcas should be declared a depleted species," said Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the fisheries service.
"We also, at the same time, are asking: What are your ideas? We're asking about a rational approach to some kind of conservation strategy. What should we be doing? What kind of issues should we be looking into?"

Fate of displaced whale stirs debate
January 31, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Lately, the little orca has been getting way too close to people and boats, begging for attention. The lonely whale is on his way to becoming the local pet.
Conservationists and government officials worry that Luna will grow too people-friendly, turn tame and never rejoin a Puget Sound orca family already ravaged by pollution and other woes. A slow-moving Canadian government needs to do something soon, activists say.
In the next month, the government plans to assemble a panel of orca experts to start figuring out what's best for Luna.
Lacking any contact with his kind, Luna craves intimacy. And some folks here are only too happy to oblige. They've grown quite comfortable -- casual, even -- with this American whale in their charge.

Skagit farmers protest salmon recovery plan
January 27, 2003 (Tacoma News Tribune) To save the declining chinook salmon population in Puget Sound, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to replace old tidegates with new ones that would allow fish and salt water to enter drainage ditches on farmland throughout the county.
The farmers say the department's proposal would kill the agriculture industry in this rural county about an hour north of Seattle, bringing about its instant urbanization.
"The Skagit is a tremendously important system for chinook," Koenings said. "It is the biggest chinook producer in the Puget Sound."
Chinook salmon in Puget Sound-area rivers have been designated as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act since March 1999.
Gov. Gary Locke has "taken the position that extinction is not an option," Koenings said. "He wants the salmon population rebuilt, but he also sees the value in farms, and so do we."
"How do you provide access to sloughs and have a wetland that is influenced by salt water, when salt water could have an impact on the farmer's ability to till his fields?" Koenings asked. "So we have to figure out together how we can bring those two entities into some sort of compliance to each other so that we can farm and have fish at the same time."
About 85,000 acres are farmed in Skagit County, 30,000 of which are in the flood plain.
There are about 30 tidegates in the county, which the state wants to replace with a new self regulating type that would let salt water enter farmland drainage systems during high tides.
"This valley is putting several hundred million dollars into the economy," Roozen added.

New Agenda for Nature in Congress
January 27, 2003 (Los Angeles Times) Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy) and Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) walk the corridors of the U.S. Capitol in cowboy boots. Both also rail against environmental regulations they consider scientifically dubious and overly burdensome to business.
Now they have the power to do something about it.
Pombo, a rancher who has crusaded to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, is the new chairman of the House Resources Committee. Inhofe, who once called the Environmental Protection Agency a "Gestapo" bureaucracy, is the new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-N.C.) is the new chairman of the House subcommittee that appropriates money for the Interior Department. A registered forester, he pushed a bill through the House in the 1990s that temporarily removed protections from certain timber harvests.
"Ranchers, Western landowners, farmers, etc., are a core base of support for the Republican Party," said Republican strategist Joe Garecht, "and they're fed up with Clinton-era land regulations."

US judge blocks research project to track whales
January 27, 2003 (Planet Ark) SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge last week blocked a sonar research project on gray whales that environmental groups charged would have have disoriented the giant mammals as they migrated along the California coast.
The decision to halt the project designed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service marked the third time in recent months a California federal judge has barred such testing because of worries over marine life. U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti, who had previously delayed the start of testing, ruled that the researchers had not followed the proper environmental review procedures to receive the permit needed to carry out the project.
The three-week experiment would have tested whether sonar could prevent whales from colliding with ships or from being injured in underwater demolition. Researchers intended to broadcast high-frequency sound pulses toward gray whales migrating south along the California coast.
But environmentalists, who said only a handful of the mammals bump into ships each year, argued that the sound pulses interfered with communication between female whales and their calves and could endanger the whales by sending them off course.

Salmon research money misdirected, group says
January 21, 2003 (Victoria Times-Colonist) Aquaculture research money needs to be redirected to protect our wild Pacific salmon by reducing risks from the fish farm industry, says a federally created council.
The Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council is also trying to find a way to end what chairman John Fraser describes as the "festering public debate" around salmon farming in this province.
We've seen a rhetoric-filled debate which has polarized and confused citizens and it is time governments adopted a more proactive approach to analyzing issues as they develop in order to protect wild stocks, a PFRCC council advisory said Monday.
"It is worth reiterating that wild salmon must come first; they can not be replaced," Fraser said in a letter to federal Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault and B.C.'s Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister John van Dongen.

Panel seeks ways to guard state's biodiversity
January 21, 2003 (The Olympian) A committee of diverse interests has begun work on a plan to protect the biological diversity of the state. The 2002 state Legislature launched the Biodiversity Conservation Initiative, calling on the committee's 29 members to report back to state lawmakers and the governor by Oct. 1.
Biodiversity is loosely defined as the sum of all life forms living in a specific geographical area.
Committee members agree that it will take more than land-use regulations, environmental laws and public land set-asides to protect the state's biodiversity.
"We need to look for nonregulatory solutions and incentives to sustain biological diversity across the state," said committee member Ken Risenhoover, director of wildlife and fisheries programs for Port Blakely Tree Farms.
"You just can't put enough land in preserves and parks," added Leslie Brown of The Nature Conservancy of Washington. "And regulations only go so far."

Whale watchers appreciate orcas in wild, not aquariums
January 18, 2003 (The Olympian) This winter has been a bonanza for Puget Sound and Hood Canal residents who thrill at the sight of orcas, including one who was captured in Budd Inlet 27 years ago and eventually set free.
The flurry of South Sound orca activity pales in comparison to what happened in March 1976 when Sea World Inc. contractors used planes and small explosives to herd six orcas into nets they strung in lower Budd Inlet. More on that later.
Whale researchers have identified the Hood Canal visitors as transient orcas, an extended family of roughly 190 individuals who travel in small groups, foraging along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico.
The South Sound Christmastime sightings were probably of transients as well, according to the Center for Whale Research based in the San Juan Islands. So were the whales that were nabbed in Budd Inlet 27 years ago.
In fact, one of the large males cruising Hood Canal was captured as a juvenile all those years ago in Olympia's watery back yard. He's known as T-14.
If you're not one of the lucky ones catching a firsthand glimpse of these largest members of the dolphin family, you can follow the activity on Orca Network's whale sighting Web site at www. orcanetwork.org.
There's nothing to suggest so far that the flurry of e-mail reports has triggered harassment of whales by boaters, Osborne said.
While wary of increased encounters between boats and marine mammals, Olympia marine mammal scientist John Calambokidis -- another TESC grad -- said the e-mail network has helped researchers keep tabs on the southern residents -- and transient killer whales -- during the winter.
The sighting network has also increased public interest in the plight of the southern residents, whose numbers have declined from 98 in the late 1990s to 82 today.
"The Orca Network -- they're doing a great job," said Ralph Munro, the former Secretary of State, Mud Bay resident and whale enthusiast. "They're finding hundreds of people to be whale watchers, which is especially valuable to scientists in the winter months."

In The Northwest: A very Canadian protest even attracts a few Yanks
January 17, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) When completed, the hatchery at the head of a Pacific Coast fjord will raise millions of Atlantic salmon. It has, however, raised hackles among residents of native villages.
"FARMED AND DANGEROUS" and "WILD SALMON ARE HEALTHIER" read banners carried by Heiltsuk natives in ceremonial robes, most from the nearby village of Bella Bella.
"We have viable wild salmon runs here: The whole bloody food chain depends on them," said Lee Wells, a Bella Bella contractor, steering his boat up Fisher Channel toward Ocean Falls. All around was a natural grandeur described by Wells as "our back yard."
As well, demonstrators came from as far distant as Whidbey Island and the San Juans to protest the centerpiece of the British Columbia government's effort to develop aquaculture in bays and inlets here. As many as 70 open-cage floating fish farms are planned on the central coast.
The situation is unlikely to stay mellow for long. The largely pristine coast is a large-scale battlefield.
"This hatchery is the mother alien of salmon farms," said Mike Jacobs of the Heiltsuk Fisheries Program.
He ticked off a litany of worries about Atlantic salmon, from genetic interaction with Pacific salmon to habitat competition to infection of wild native salmon with sea lice. Waste treatment at the Ocean Falls hatchery is a major issue.
Omega Salmon Group, subsidiary of a Norwegian conglomerate, has major fish-farming operations in Vancouver Island waters.
Fish Farms: To Join or Fight? Notes from a Week in the Salmon Farm Wars January 17, 2003 (Tidepool.org)

Orcas in Hood Canal
January 16, 2003 (Bremerton Sun) Who are they? Pictures may help put names to dorsals, but what's keeping them here?
Those were the questions on the minds of marine mammal researchers Wednesday as they tracked two groups of killer whales through Hood Canal. Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! The orcas blew, one after another, in a fairly consistent pattern. The first to surface was usually the baby of the group, followed by older females and finally the single male, conspicuous with his towering dorsal fin.
Both groups had a little one and a big one.
Researchers in the United States and Canada hope to study London's photos and compare them to "photo catalogs" of known orcas. They should be able to identify the whales visiting Hood Canal for what is now an unprecedented period.
According to longtime residents, orcas almost never remain in Hood Canal more than a day or two. As of today, the whales have stayed two weeks.
The orcas are believed to be seal-eating transients -- a separate race of whales from the fish-eating residents that frequent Puget Sound. Transients range more widely than residents, and it will require some good ID photos to figure out who they are.

B.C. fish farm protests grow in scope
January 16, 2003 (canada.com) Environmentalists, fishermen and First Nations were in boats and on the shore of the remote coastal community of Ocean Falls Wednesday as part of an international protest against fish farming.
Members of the Heiltsuk and Nuxalk First Nations joined environmentalists, commercial fishermen and tourism operators from as far away as Alaska to oppose fish farm expansion on B.C.'s central coast.
Other protesters targeted the Norwegian consulate in Vancouver and the offices of Omega Salmon in Campbell River, B.C.
"The people that are here are really fighting for a way of life," said Ian McAllister, a spokesman for the Raincoast Conservation Society which helped organize the protest.
The protesters say ocean net-pen fish farms pollute the environment and spread diseases and infestations such as sea lice to wild stocks.
Round two of fish farm fight January 16, 2003 (CBC)
Natives vowing to fight fish-farm plan with every weapon they have January 13, 2003 (Vancouver Province)

Few orcas found to eat sea lions
January 15, 2003 (Anchorage Daily News) RESEARCH: Biologists find little reason to blame whales for ebbing sea lion numbers. Teams of biologists who spent last summer scouting Alaska's coast didn't find much evidence that killer whales or sleeper sharks have sea lions on their menus, according to reports presented Tuesday at a Marine Science conference in Anchorage.
One intriguing explanation for the regional crash of Steller sea lions in the 1980s or their continued slow decline until last year hinges on rising consumption by stealthy orcas or by sharks that rise from the abyss.
This predation hypothesis is one of a dozen ideas under investigation by hundreds of scientists with more than $80 million in federal and state funding.
But a dozen biologists conducting boat surveys last season from the Gulf of Alaska out of the eastern Aleutian Islands didn't find very many marine-mammal-eating killer whales living in areas with the sharpest sea lion declines. More important, few of those whales were seen chasing or attacking sea lions.

In The Northwest: Candidate Bush may have told us a fish story
January 15, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Opinion by Joel Connely - As he stumped the Pacific Northwest, arguing that salmon runs can be restored without removing dams, presidential nominee George W. Bush was moved to declare: "The man and the fish can co-exist."
Three years later, the president would be well-advised to remind himself -- as well as Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels -- of that classic Bushism.
OMB is holding up about $4 million for the Hatchery Reform Project, an ambitious attempt to redesign hatcheries in the Puget Sound area and coastal Washington so they work to recover runs of naturally spawning salmon and restore a sustainable fishery.
"In essence, Bush is arrogating to himself Congress' authority to set the federal budget," said Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation and a supporter of Long Live the Kings.
What does this look like? A king salmon-sized power grab. The Continuing Resolution contains no clause or wording that allows OMB to hold up money to programs approved by Congress. It is as though the president is quietly exercising a line-item veto without providing Congress an opportunity to override.

Group says wild fish threatened
January 14, 2003 (Seattle Times) Sea lice from farmed salmon pose a risk for the health of wild salmon, says a report released yesterday by a British Columbia conservation group.
But despite years of questions and accusations from those on both sides of the aquaculture debate, there still is a lack of solid scientific research about the effects of salmon farms on wild stocks, said the report by the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council.
"Unfortunately, our state of knowledge about the potential impacts of salmon farming on wild salmon allows few definitive declarations about where the truth really lies," said the report, "Making Sense of the Salmon Aquaculture Debate."
"Instead, we are faced with partial information, untested theories and a great deal of uncertainty."

Scientists to report on Pacific
January 13, 2003 (Anchorage Daily News) Are endangered Steller sea lions really getting gobbled up by roving bands of killer whales?
Or did a dozen biologists scouting Alaska's coast last summer find mostly fish-eating killer whales? And does that complicate a theory that whales and sharks have been eating too many sea lions in recent years?
Perhaps the recovery of Alaska's sea lions, whose numbers have crashed over three decades, actually hinges on fish, fisheries and climate. Or exposure to contaminants.
Some preliminary answers will be presented this week during the Marine Science in the Northeast Pacific symposium at the Hotel Captain Cook. This is possibly the most ambitious ocean research conference ever held in Alaska.

U.S. protesters join B.C. fish farm fight
January 13, 2003 (Vancouver Province) Heiltsuk natives are furious that the hatchery plans to raise smolts for use at fish farms and have organized an international protest for Wednesday.
The same day will see protests launched in Campbell River, Vancouver, Seattle, Hamburg and Hong Kong.
"We've had a really good reaction and response from supporters in other groups to help us out," said Heiltsuk spokesman Phillip Hogan.
"Obviously we couldn't do this sort of protest on our own, there's only 2,000 of us."
U.S. fish farm opponents, said Lutz, have banded together in a new organization dubbed "Americans for Wild Pacific Salmon."
"We're passing the hat right now," said Lutz, adding that the group is partially funded by the Raincoast Conservation Society.
"We're alarmed about the infiltration of an exotic species into U.S. waters. It's mostly in response to the lifting of the moratorium why there is such an outcry in the U.S."
Fish farm protesters prepare for round two January 13, 2003 (CBC)

Wide impact seen in new U.S. rules on wetlands
January 11, 2003 (Seattle Times) The Bush administration took significant steps yesterday that environmentalists, some states and even some federal environmental regulators fear could eliminate protection for 20 million acres of wetlands and begin weakening the Clean Water Act.
The moves would have little impact in Washington, which essentially regulates its own water use. But it could have broad implications in Northwest states such as Alaska and Idaho, which don't.
The administration did two things yesterday: It started seeking public comment on what types of water should be protected under the landmark, 30-year-old act.
And it issued new rules governing how its field offices should deal with proposals to fill in or pollute isolated wetlands - small streams, ponds or waterways distant from major navigable lakes and rivers.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers yesterday ordered regulators to seek permission from Washington, D.C., headquarters before regulating activity on those waterways. But it still left field regulators free to decide such permits aren't necessary.

Potomac Watch: Dunn hopes to turn GOP heads on Wild Sky plan
January 11, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Under legislation written by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rick Larsen, both Democrats, and supported by Dunn, the acreage in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest would receive the highest level of protection afforded federal property.
It would be off-limits to vehicles, including bicycles and snowmobiles, as well as to logging, mining and other commercial uses. Wheelchairs, however, would be permitted, and the proposal calls for a 2-mile-long former logging road to be converted to a wheelchair-accessible trail.
The construction of roads would be forbidden, although exceptions would be allowed in emergencies, such as fires. The goal is to preserve the land in its original form so that the 2.4 million people who live within two hours of the Skykomish River valley can experience unspoiled vistas.
And in a break with tradition in which only highest-elevation land is protected -- so-called rocks and ice -- 30 percent of the land protected by Wild Sky would be considered lowland, including forests and salmon-bearing streams.

Toxic ammo is tested in fish areas
January 9, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) U.S. Navy uses depleted uranium in coast waters; activists may go to court
The Navy routinely tests a weapon by firing radioactive, toxic ammunition in prime fishing areas off the coast of Washington, raising concerns from scientists, fishermen and activists.
The Navy insists the use of depleted uranium off the coast poses no threat to the environment. Depleted uranium, known as DU, is a highly dense metal that is the byproduct of the process during which fissionable uranium used to manufacture nuclear bombs and reactor fuel is separated from natural uranium. DU remains radioactive for about 4.5 billion years.

Federal judge halts sonar testing on gray whales
January 9, 2003 (Environmental News Network) A federal judge has blocked scientists from testing newly developed sonar on migrating gray whales.
Three weeks of testing by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Scientific Solutions Inc. had been set to begin Wednesday a mile (1.6 kilometers) off the Northern California coast during the whales' southward migration, but environmentalists objected.
U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti halted the testing on Wednesday and scheduled a Jan. 17 hearing to decide whether to make the order permanent.
The National Marine Fisheries Service had approved the experiments last year.
In court papers, the government argued that the research "is intended to benefit whales."
The Channel Islands Animal Protection Association and other environmental groups, however, said the high-frequency sonar could disorient whales and separate calves from their mothers. The whales are shrinking in number and should be left alone, the association said.
"This is deliberately adding stress into their environment that they don't need," environmental attorney Lanny Sinkin said.
In October, a federal judge here ordered the National Science Foundation to stop firing high-intensity sonic blasts into the Gulf of California because they harm whales. In November, the Navy agreed to temporarily scale back the testing of a new sonar system designed to detect enemy submarines after a federal magistrate halted the project.

What's black and white and feeds all over?
January 8, 2003 (Bremerton Sun) At least one pod of killer whales has been wandering through Hood Canal the past few days, possibly dining on wayward harbor seals, according to observers. If seals are indeed on the menu, the whales belong to a race of orcas called transients -- distant relatives to the more familiar resident pods of Puget Sound, which eat mainly salmon.
Seeing orcas in Hood Canal has become a fairly rare event in recent years, according to Rogers and other longtime residents of the area.
"When I arrived at work, they had just gone past the lab," Rogers said. "When I saw them five minutes later, they were up Quilcene Bay and had apparently split into two groups. One went up the west side of the bay and one went up the east shore.
Possibly the same group of whales was seen in adjacent Dabob Bay on Monday and again Tuesday after leaving Quilcene Bay, according to Kevin Long, who was in the area doing research for the North Olympic Salmon Coalition.
"They had broken into three subpods and were jumping and playing, porpoising, spy-hopping and cartwheeling," he said.

Environmental groups to block sonar test on whales
January 8, 2003 (San Jose Mercury News) Note: Attorney Lanny Sinkin was successful in getting a temporary restaining order in this morning to stop blasting migrating gray whales and whales with new borne calves with sonar experiments. A hearing for the Preliminary Injunction has been set for January l7th.
Environmentalists are seeking to block scientists from studying the effect of underwater sonar tests on migrating gray whales.
The three-week test by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and New Hampshire-based Scientific Solutions Inc. is set to begin Wednesday off the Northern California coast during the whales' southward migratory season. A federal judge in San Francisco is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday morning to address claims that the high-frequency sonar could injure the whales and should be blocked.
``You don't go out and perform experiments on them. You go out and protect them,'' said attorney Lanny Sinkin, who filed the suit on behalf of several groups, including the Channel Islands Animal Protection Association.
Sinkin said the sounds could separate mothers from their calves and disorient whales.

Green groups work together to counter the Bush attack on the environment
January 8, 2003 (Grist) It's been nine weeks since voters turned the national government over to Republican lawmakers, many of whom explicitly vowed to help President Bush and his industrial allies complete what former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) failed to do in 1995: dismantle the nation's basic protections for water, air, wild lands, forests, and public health.
Since the first hours after the election, senior staff members from the most prominent U.S. green groups have been preparing an action plan to counter the Republican attack on the environment -- and today, when Congress reconvenes, that plan will be launched. It includes a multi-front defense to thwart the administration's efforts to weaken environmental safeguards, and a counterattack designed to build a much larger constituency and transform the environment into a high-priority political issue.
Never in U.S. history have national environmental organizations faced such a formidable political challenge. But in interviews, some of the country's most prominent environmentalists say the crisis may present a singular opportunity to reinvigorate the environmental movement.

Hood Canal: Conditions troubling wildlife
January 7, 2003 (Bremerton Sun) H2 but not much O. Alarms are raised about the effects of low-oxygen conditions.
A community-based effort to prevent Hood Canal from becoming a "dead sea" must be started before it's too late, according to several members of a North Mason watershed advisory group.
Among Washington's many waterways, Hood Canal is uniquely susceptible to low-oxygen conditions known to kill marine life, oceanographer Jan Newton told the Lower Hood Canal Watershed Implementation Committee during a meeting Monday.
Low-dissolved-oxygen levels have been reported in the past, but the problem has gotten noticeably worse the past five years, said Newton, a University of Washington scientist who also works for the state Department of Ecology.
Compounding the problem are excess nutrients caused by septic systems, lawn fertilizers and forest management.
"The big question is going to be whether we sewer-up or not," McCullough said. "People won't spend that much money unless they think it's absolutely necessary to save Hood Canal."

Orcas spotted in Hood Canal
January 4, 2003 (The Olympian) At least five orcas Friday paid a rare visit to lower Hood Canal on the heels of other sightings the past month in South Sound.
Five whales, described as three adults and two younger whales, were spotted just before dark in the waters of Hood Canal near Potlatch State Park.
Between 2 and 4 p.m. Friday, most if not all whales from the three resident pods were seen around Vashon Island, Seattle's Alki Point and Commencement Bay in Tacoma, said Susan Berta of the Orca Network in Greenbank.
The Orca Network, which records whale sightings to help researchers track the movement of whales, can be reached by calling 866-ORCANET or through their Web site at orcanetwork.org.

* Puget Sound's Rustbuckets
January 3, 2003 (Seattle Weekly) Nearly half the oil tankers plying Washington waters would be banned from Europe for being too old.
Six weeks ago, Puget Sound's nightmare came true again, off the coast of Europe. The Prestige, a single-hulled, 26-year-old tanker carrying more than 60,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, split and sank off Spanish Galicia. For Europeans still recovering from the Erika wreck three years ago, this was one spill too many. The European Union's commissioners called for an immediate ban on single-hulled tankers carrying crude and other heavy oils. France, Spain, and Portugal, the countries in the spill's path, leaped ahead and banned single-hullers more than 15 years old. Asian and Greek shipping companies, which operate many older tankers, howled. French and Spanish warships responded by escorting two persistent rustbuckets out to sea.
YOU CAN THANK American shipyard costs and industrial/labor protection for the fact that American tankers tend to be so much older than foreign ones. Shipbuilding is cheaper in other countries, so ships tend to get built there. But the Jones Act, which Congress passed to preserve the domestic shipping industry, lets only U.S.-built ships sail between U.S. ports--i.e., between Alaska's pipeline terminus at Valdez and Washington's refineries. So the oil companies keep older, American-built tankers going as long as possible on domestic routes.

Prime lands get toxic cleanup
January 3, 2003 (Seattle Times) A state program intended to clean up the most toxic lands is increasingly focusing on less-polluted prime real estate because of pressure from developers, according to a state report released this week.
In the 1990s, developers used the program to help renovate 350 acres south of Bellevue for a golf course, even though the land had the lowest possible ranking as an environmental threat. The Golf Club at Newcastle, which bills itself as the Northwest's premier golf destination, charges up to $150 for a round.
Of the 527 sites ranked for cleanups, one-third are classified as having the lowest environmental threat.
"It's not that it's gotten away from the mission," said Dawne Gardiska, a state environmental planner. "Years ago, there was a huge stigma attached to toxic cleanups. Now, people have a better understanding of what that means. It's become part of managing the redevelopment of the site."
Demand on the Toxics Cleanup program continues to grow. The number of new sites rose from 210 in 1998 to 487 in 2001.

Scientists see warming ‘fingerprint'
January 1, 2003 (MSNBC) After reviewing hundreds of published papers that tracked changes in the behavior and range of plants and animals, two teams of scientists report in the latest issue of the journal Nature that they had found the "fingerprint" of global warming on hundreds of species, from insects to birds and mammals.
He said the two papers show that plants and animals are already being affected by global warming, although Earth's average temperature climbed only about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century.
"These papers are the conclusive evidence that the natural world is already responding in a big way to climate change, even though that change has only just got going and there is a lot more to come," Fitter said.
A United Nations panel has predicted that average global temperatures could rise as much as 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century as heat-trapping gases from human industry accumulate in the atmosphere.
Warming has flora, fauna on the move (Seattle Times)
Global warming evidence is clearer (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

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