Orca Network News - January, 2008

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
January 1, 2008 through January 31, 2008.

No salmon in 2008?
January 31, 2008 (Coos Bay World) The complete closure of commercial salmon fishing in Southern Oregon and Northern California in 2006 could repeat in 2008.
In 2006, it was due expected low returns of spawning Chinook to the Klamath River.
This year, it's Central California rivers, primarily the Sacramento, that could drive cutbacks to commercial and recreational salmon fishermen.
And in a cruel twist, the Klamath River this year had fairly good runs - a situation that would normally put /southern Oregon fishermen's fears at ease.
The whole situation has federal fishery managers baffled.
"There was a general decline in 2007 Chinook returns coastwide except for the Klamath," PFMC salmon staff officer Chuck Tracy said in an e-mail.
The runs are bigger on the Sacramento and, for the most part, the most stable runs of the three main salmon-producing rivers that include the Klamath and the Columbia.
"This is particularly disconcerting in that this stock has consistently been the healthy "work horse" target stock for salmon fisheries off California and most of Oregon," McIsaac said in the e-mail to council members.
It also provides salmon catches to fishermen in Washington and as far away as British Columbia, Canada.
Reeves said the fishermen have a huge task ahead of them, since there has been no significant problem on the Sacramento River in the past 35 years or more.
"We're in unexplored territory," he said.

Studying Our Orcas' Travels and Travails
January 31, 2008 (Kitsap Sun editorial) Almost certainly, the seasonal migrations of "K" and "L" pods are related to Puget Sound's supply of chinook salmon, orcas' main food source.
Raising the stakes in all this is the fact that under the Endangered Species Act, Puget Sound chinook are listed as "threatened" - and Puget Sound's southern orcas are officially "endangered."
For a variety of reasons - primarily human-caused - there are far fewer chinook salmon in Puget Sound than during their peak population years. In addition, they are more contaminated with toxic chemicals than chinook from other areas. Pollutants also are picked up by bottom fish, which are eaten by sea lions - another food source for orcas. Correspondingly, Puget Sound orcas have some of the highest levels of pollutants in the world.
Through regulatory action, fishing for chinook has been sharply reduced in recent years. Possibly, even more drastic action should be seriously considered, such as a multi-year ban on commercial and sport fishing for chinook, as suggested by Ken Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research.
Regardless, as go chinook salmon, so go - or stay - our killer whales. If greater supplies of chinook salmon were available in Puget Sound, they'd have no need to travel elsewhere for their main source of food. With more abundant food - and without an energy-taxing 1,200-mile round trip to California - our endangered orcas chances of survival could well increase.
And that's all to the good because, ultimately, helping orcas survive will involve numerous other species and environmental and economic elements.
Put another way, what's good for orcas is good for Puget Sound - and for all who dwell in its environs.

Navy tells judge Bush had power to OK use of sonar off coast
January 31, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) President Bush was within his legal rights to exempt the Navy from environmental laws to allow sonar training off Southern California, military lawyers argued Wednesday in court.
The exemption was issued to allow the Navy to continue using sonar during anti-submarine warfare exercises that Bush deemed necessary for national security, Justice Department lawyer Luther Hajek told U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper.
The exemption two weeks ago drew criticism from environmentalists who say the sonar harms whales and other marine mammals. The move came after Cooper issued a preliminary injunction requiring the Navy to create a 12-nautical-mile no-sonar zone along the coast.
As a result of the executive exemption, Cooper temporarily lifted some restrictions on the Navy's use of high-power sonar. Richard Kendall, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been fighting the Navy's sonar training, said the president's override of the court was unconstitutional.
"The president clearly has done the forbidden thing," Kendall said.

Researchers Curious Over Orcas' Trips to California
January 30, 2008 (Kitsap Sun) For six years in a row, Puget Sound's killer whales have trekked to California in winter - a travel pattern that raises scientific questions about their food supply, social network and ongoing changes to their environment.
The orcas were seen only once in California before 2000.
A federal "biological review team," which developed a report in 2001 on the endangered status of killer whales, said it appeared that the farthest south the Puget Sound orcas ranged was the Washington state boundary, where the Columbia River enters the Pacific Ocean.
Brad Hanson, who served on the review team, said annual sightings in California place those conclusions in a new light. Either the whales are traveling farther than they have in recent history or they somehow went unobserved for many years. Either scenario is possible, said Hanson, a research scientist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Nancy Black of Monterey Bay Whale Watch has been conducting research and offering whale-watching tours in Monterey Bay, Calif., since 1987. She's seen gray whales and wide-ranging transient killer whales, she said, but the Puget Sound orcas apparently did not arrive until January of 2000.
"If they were here before, I think we would have seen them," she said.

California return of chinook hits near-record low
January 30, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog) The number of chinook salmon returning to the Central Valley of California reached a near-record low last year, pointing to an "unprecedented collapse" that could trigger severe restrictions on salmon fishing this year, according to federal fisheries regulators.
The bad news Tuesday came hard on the heels of the revelation that orcas known to frequent Puget Sound have shown up in California for the sixth consecutive winter -- probably in search of the very chinook salmon whose numbers are plummeting there.
However, it's unlikely to affect salmon-fishing limits in Washington.
The sharp drop in chinook or king, salmon returning last fall from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries is part of a broader decline in wild salmon runs up and down the West Coast.
Will the plummeting number of California salmon harm the orcas known to frequent Puget Sound that showed up this week off California? Maybe. Studies have shown that when chinook numbers drop, orca deaths go up, said John Ford of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
"We showed a very strong correlation over a 25-year period related to coastwide (chinook) abundance," Ford said.

Will "unprecedented collapse" of California salmon leave Washington's vacationing orcas starving?
January 30, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog) You may remember that yesterday Ken Balcomb of the Whale Research Center was singing the praises of California for establishing no-fishing "marine protected areas" where fish stocks could recover. He also said, only half-jokingly, that the Washington orcas spotted off Monterey might just move there someday.
Well, today it turns out that doesn't look too likely, at least not anytime soon -- California this year faces an "unprecedented collapse" of its biggest chinook stock, according to a memo to members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council obtained by the Associated Press's Terence Chea.
So, where does that leave Washington's orcas, who have just burned their energy reserves on an eight-day swim to California to find more food? Seems like that could be... well, a really bad thing. We're checking around to see what we can figure out on this question, and will let you know what we hear.
Update 5:45 p.m.: Well, it looks like this isn't a cause for panic when it comes to the orcas -- but it's certainly not a good omen, either, say leading orca scientists John Ford and Brad Hanson.
Ford, of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, studied 25 years' worth of data and concluded that when chinook stocks go down, orca deaths go up.
But he and Hanson, of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, both agree that if the orcas don't find chinook in California, they'll probably eat whatever's available -- we're not yet sure what that would be -- and then head north in search of chinook again. Said Hanson:

Puget Sound Partnership Works Toward Crafting Agenda
January 29, 2008 (Kitsap Sun) Puget Sound Partnership is moving into high gear in its effort to develop its first Action Agenda - essentially a step-by-step prescription for nursing Puget Sound's ecosystem back to health.
The Puget Sound Action Agenda will guide public and private entities in the quest to reverse decades of environmental degradation while finding ways to accommodate a growing population that could love Puget Sound to death.
While some details remain to be resolved, the governing Leadership Council, meeting Monday in Lacey, seemed to endorse a plan to organize working groups around several thorny issues. The issues include human health, species diversity, water quality, water quantity and land use. Stormwater issues, recognized as a major concern, are embedded within the topics of land use, water quality and water quantity, said Martha Neuman, Action Agenda director for the partnership.

Puget Sound orcas feeding in California -- again
January 29, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Relocation seen as sign that state salmon stock is low
In what a leading orca researcher calls an ominous sign, a group of the killer whales that frequent Puget Sound and nearby waters has turned up feeding off the coast of California for the sixth winter in a row.
L pod, one of three orca families that frequent Washington waters, was spotted Sunday off Monterey Bay.
The fact that the orcas are apparently ranging farther than they once did suggests that Washington's winter stocks of chinook, the orcas' main food, have dropped too low to support them, said Ken Balcomb, a San Juan Island scientist who has studied the orcas since mid-1970s.
Now, if the orcas want to eat, "they've got to go somewhere else," said Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research.
Balcomb referred to a controversy over whale-watching boats in Washington waters: "This may solve the 'problem' of whale watching in Washington state. They may just move down there," he said.
"California is being much more proactive in their salmon recovery and setting aside marine reserves (no-fishing zones) and looking forward to recovering salmon, whereas up here fishing interests and commercial interests get first dibs."

Navy resumes sonar training off coast
January 28, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The Navy has resumed sonar training off the coast of Southern California as the government and environmentalists battle in court over how the exercises affect whales and other marine mammals.
The training by the carrier strike group of the USS Abraham Lincoln is part of a broader exercise to prepare the group for deployment, the Navy said in a news release.
During the exercises, which began Wednesday and were scheduled to last through February 1, sailors train in anti-submarine warfare, ocean security operations and other areas.
Commander Dora Lockwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Third Fleet in San Diego, said Sunday the operations were being conducted "within all the regulations."
The anti-submarine warfare exercises use mid-frequency active sonar. Critics say sonar has harmful effects on marine mammals, possibly by damaging their hearing. Some allege the sonar causes whales and other mammals to beach themselves.
A federal judge this month temporarily lifted certain measures designed to lessen the impact of sonar on whales.
The decision came a day after President Bush exempted the Navy from an environmental law in an effort to allow the service to continue anti-submarine warfare exercises. He said the exercises were in the interest of national security.
The Natural Resources Defense Council had sued to force the Navy to lessen the harm of its sonar exercises. In November, a federal appeals court said the sonar problem needed to be fixed.

Puget Sound orca recovery plan released
January 27, 2008 (MSNBC) The National Marine Fisheries Service on Thursday released its recovery plan for Puget Sound's threatened killer whales, aimed at lessening the threats posed to the orcas by pollution, vessel traffic and decreased availability of food.
Unique in their diet, language and genetic makeup, southern residents were listed as endangered in late 2005.
Once believed to have numbered 140 or more in the last century, orcas have suffered several periods of major population decline since the 1960s, when the whales were caught for aquariums. The population rebounded to 97 in the 1990s, then declined to 79 in 2001.

Lolita raises memories of Free Willy
January 27, 2008 (Victoria Times Colonist) Campaigns are under- way for the release of Lolita and Corky -- the two surviving killer whales captured from B.C./Washington waters four decades ago -- and Keiko's name is invoked on both sides.
"With all the naysayers about Keiko, when he got to Iceland, he just thrived. He just loved it there," said Howard Garrett of Orca Network, a group spearheading the push for Lolita's release from Miami Seaquarium.
In the case of Lolita, it is hard for anyone to argue that life in a tank, which is 24 metres at its widest point, could be better than an ocean pen where she could hear her family, said Garrett. He believes, if full release proves impossible, Lolita could live out her days in a large sea pen.
"This is a whale that can be saved," he said.
"There is no reason to think Lolita has forgotten who she is or where she came from." Whale researcher Paul Spong, advocating for Corky's release to a "halfway house net pen" off northern Vancouver Island, also believes it has to be better than Corky's endless circling of her small pool, cut off from all natural sounds.
During her captivity and sensory deprivation, Corky lost seven calves and, as a sign of her stress, stopped ovulating at an early age, Spong said.
But Fred Jacobs, spokesman for SeaWorld San Diego, where Corky lives, shudders at the memory of Keiko's death.

Island orcas in captivity: Free them or not?
January 27, 2008 (Victoria Times Colonist) Each whale has its own group of supporters. The campaign to free Lolita, which is at Miami Seaquarium, is led by actor-producer Raul Julia-Levy and the Washington-based Orca Network. And the bid to free Corky, in San Diego, is led by Paul Spong of OrcaLab on Hanson Island, about 20 kilometres east of Port McNeill.
"It's really painful to see that beautiful animal contained in that stinky little tank," said Julia-Levy, who plans to lobby the U.S. Senate and use movie-industry contacts to get television exposure on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other programs.
The tale starts almost four decades ago.
Lolita, a member of the southern residents -- now classified as endangered in Canada and the U.S. -- was captured near Whidbey Island, Wash., in 1970 as a three-year-old. About 85 whales were driven into the cove, with boats, explosives and aircraft.
Four baby whales and a female drowned. Seven young whales were captured and sold to aquariums.
Corky, a member of the threatened northern residents, was captured in Pender Harbour in December 1969, along with five other orcas.
As Lolita and Corky approach old age, groups are trying to bring them back to home waters. Orca Network, for instance, has a net pen ready for Lolita in a San Juan Island bay, where her family, L Pod, hangs out in summer. "We would do it in the most conservative and professional way," said Howard Garrett of Orca Network, who has worked for Lolita's freedom since 1995.
Garrett hopes an offer of $1 million might sway Anheuser-Busch, owner of the Seaquarium [Note: the Seaquarium is owned by Arthur Hertz, not by Anheuser-Busch]. "We have a billionaire lined up," said Julia-Levy.

Officials unveil plan to save killer whales
January 26, 2008 (Contra Costa Times) Thursday's report reiterates what has become the consensus opinion of marine mammal experts. That is that the Sound's killer whales suffer from a multitude of insults, many of which are man-made. Among them: lack of food -- the orcas' favorite prey, chinook salmon, also has earned Endangered Species Act protection; toxic pollution; vessel traffic and underwater noise.
The report stops short of ranking the problems. And while it also lists solutions, it does not prioritize them. Agency officials noted "there is considerable uncertainty regarding which threats were responsible for the decline in the population or which may be the most important to address."
But beyond ongoing scientific research and possible vessel regulations, some whale advocates, such as Felleman, don't expect federal officials to do much more to protect whales.
Instead, Felleman hopes state officials will act. "One of the best things whales have got going for them is this commitment from the governor and the Legislature to protect Puget Sound. Much is going to bank on how successful the Puget Sound Partnership is."
Last year, at Gov. Chris Gregoire's request, lawmakers created the partnership to map out plans restore the health of the Sound by 2020.

Orca Protection
January 25, 2008 (KUOW radio) BARRE: "Their social system is really unique, they have a unique dialect that they talk to each other in..."
BARRE "They have a specific greeting behavior when they get together in one big group at the end of the winter. When they're coming back into inland waters. So the different pods, J, K and L, they're all together and they form these lines and just greet each other. They all move towards each other in a big line, and there's a lot of social activity – it's pretty great."
TRIM: "So when we look over the report, it describes the current status of the orcas, and it describes the threat very well. But it does not get into the specific actions we know we need to recover the orca."

Robson bight update
January 25, 2008 (KPLU radio) Last summer, a fuel tanker truck and other heavy equipment fell off a barge into an orca whale reserve in British Columbia. The resulting nine-mile-long diesel fuel slick dissipated within a few days. But how much of a threat does the machinery still pose, sitting under a thousand feet of water? More from KPLU environment reporter Liam Moriarty

Cost to save orcas starts at $50 million
January 25, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Expressing "considerable uncertainty" about how to rescue Puget Sound's imperiled orcas, federal fisheries officials said Thursday that the job will take more than 20 years and cost about $50 million.
Even that price tag considers only the extra costs of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The agency's recovery plan for orcas assumes that billions more will be spent to restore Puget Sound and bring back battered salmon runs -- orcas' main food.
Environmentalists attacked the recovery plan, released Thursday, as too vague, while the fisheries service said it lacked enough information about what's depressing the orca population to outline many fixes.
The plan specifically recommends stationing a fulltime rescue tugboat near Washington's outer coast to prevent an oil spill -- the biggest short-term threat to the orcas. It says "more aggressive initial responses" are needed.
It also calls for "greater efforts ... to minimize pollution," including the stormwater that washes filth into the Sound after every good-sized rain.
But mostly the plan, required under the Endangered Species Act, calls for more research and relies on existing efforts -- of uncertain adequacy -- to rescue Puget Sound and its salmon.

For troubled orcas, relief may be near
January 24, 2008 (Seattle Times) Today, the National Marine Fisheries Service is expected to issue a final recovery plan for orcas, including plans to study vessel traffic and noise as risk factors, along with environmental contamination and shortage of their food supply.
In the meantime, the state Legislature is taking up two separate measures that would restrict whale-watching boats and impose a fine of up to $500 on violators as early as this summer.
Just how much of a problem whale-watching and other vessel traffic poses for orcas is yet to be understood, Hanson said. Orcas use a kind of underwater sonar to find prey and communicate. Noisy waters might interfere with their ability to find food and go about their lives.
"We are concerned about potential adverse effects to the population, but we don't know yet," Hanson said.
David Bain, a biologist now with Global Research and Rescue, a Seattle nonprofit, studied boat traffic in the San Juans from 2003 to 2005 for the NOAA, and noted that about a quarter of the vessels got closer than 100 yards from the orcas. That added up to more than four hours a day that the orcas were in close company with boats.
"It gets to be a very long day for the whales," Bain said.
But Ken Balcomb, who heads the Center for Whale Research from his home on San Juan Island, cautions that simply restricting whale-watching won't help the orca population recover. Instead, he said, the focus should be on banning toxic chemicals, limiting growth and development and rebuilding salmon runs.
Whale-watch restrictions are "just an easy thing to do that makes somebody look like they are doing something to save the whales," Balcomb said. "And it's going to be painfully difficult to enforce."
Recovery Plan: NOAA Recovery Plan

Free Lolita! A Whale Story
January 23, 2008 (Newsweek magazine) For more than a decade, Howard Garrett has worked tirelessly out of his home on Whidbey Island, Wash., to return an orca whale named Lolita to her native waters. In 1995--inspired by the campaign to release Keiko, the "Free Willy" whale--he teamed with local politicians, offering the Florida aquarium where Lolita works a million dollars to reunite her with the pod of whales she grew up with, off the coast of Washington state. In 1997, he spent two years in Miami--unpaid--working to garner public attention for Lolita's cause; after nearly four decades in captivity, she's served her time, Garrett believes. Every year since then, his organization, the nonprofit advocacy group Orca Network, has held a beachside commemoration of the day Lolita was plucked from her family in the icy waters of Puget Sound.
But 12 years is a long time for anyone to stay committed--even in the Pacific Northwest, where the orca is treated as an icon. "There have been times I've wanted to give up," Garrett says. "Everyone keeps telling us it's hopeless, and even when there's a surge of enthusiasm, eventually it dwindles."
In late November, however, Garrett got a call that, in spite of his usual doubts, stirred the fight inside him. Raul Julia-Levy, the Hollywood producer and son of actor Raul Julia, wanted to sign on to help free Lolita, and with him, promised to bring every last Hollywood contact he could persuade. He immediately put Garrett on the phone with the wife of Jean Claude Van Damme, and within days, had a list that included Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford and even 50 Cent. Now Levy says he's got a benefit concert in the works that will include R&B singer Truth Hurts, Snoop Dogg and 50 (who did not return NEWSWEEK requests for comment, though Levy says "the man loves animals like you have no idea"). Nearly a dozen local politicians have signed on, as well. "We have some of the most powerful Hollywood producers behind this campaign, and I have spoken with some of the most prominent scientists in this field," Levy says. "This beautiful animal does not deserve to die in a stinky little tank, and we are not going to take less than a full victory."

Fisheries service says LNG terminal would harm salmon
January 23, 2008 (Eugene Register Guard) The National Marine Fisheries Service wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to at least temporarily deny a permit to dredge the Columbia River to build a liquefied natural gas import terminal below St. Helens.
In a letter last month the fisheries service said the terminal likely would harm valuable salmon habitat.
Northern Star Natural Gas Inc. wants to build the terminal, one of three under active consideration in Oregon, at Bradwood Landing. The other two in planning stages are near Astoria and Coos Bay.
Building and operating the terminal, as well as dredging to make way for tankers, likely would affect vital estuary habitat, the NMFS said.
The agency noted that the Columbia River estuary has been referred to as "the most valuable spawning and nursery area for salmon in the continental United States."

A Whale of a Love Affair
January 21, 2008 (Tyee) The irresistible, but blinding, charm of cetaceans.
Majestic is an adjective often used by those lucky enough to spot a great whale in the wild. How else to describe a 40-tonne cetacean as it breaches the surface of the water in a seemingly gravity-defying feat? Well, splashy, for one.
Do endangered animals stand a better chance of survival if people think they're cute, if we anthropomorphize them to make them more pitiable? Or when Mister Splashy Pants' five minutes of fame are over, will his face, and fate, disappear in to the wild blue yonder?
And whales and dolphins are part of every type of folklore. Why? "They are beautiful, powerful, diverse, graceful and distinctive. Their intelligence and social bonds suggest a strong kinship, yet they inhabit a world that is as different from ours as we can imagine," writes Bernardo Alps, the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society, in the book's foreword. He suggests that different people and groups identify with different species.
Here in B.C. orcas often take front and centre. There are inflatable and TV-based orcas at GM Place during Canucks' games, and the BC Lions society chose them for its highly visible, highly successful Vancouver-wide fundraiser "Orcas in the City."
Charming, aren't they? Except Lance Barrett-Leonard, head of the Vancouver aquarium's cetacean research program, reminds that orcas have been spotted eating "pretty much every animal in the ocean."
They're top predators and will prey on seabirds, seals, otters, sea lions and other species of whales -- even blue whales, which can reach up to 150 tonnes and are the largest animal on earth.
Which simply serves to remind that whales and dolphins, despite their size, intelligence and beloved status among most humans, don't live in a bubble. They exist in complex ocean ecosystems that are at risk from climate change, pollution and industrial fishing.

Campaign to bring back captive orca gaining steam
January 19, 2008 (KING5 TV) The campaign to move Lolita the killer whale back home to Puget Sound is getting new life.
Supporters have spent years trying to relocate her from captivity in Florida to her native waters.
Now the tide may be turning in their favor.
For years Lolita has been the star attraction at the Miami Seaqarium.
She has spent her life learning tricks and entertaining the crowds, but her home is far from a tank in Miami.
Lolita was a member of L pod in Puget Sound when she was captured in 1970 and sold.
Howard Garrett, director of the Orca Network, has spent the past 12 years trying to get Lolita home.
"She needs to come home; she belongs here in her home waters and with her family," he said.

Navy Gets Temporary Sonar Reprieve
January 19, 2008 (AP) A federal judge on Thursday temporarily lifted some restrictions on the Navy's use of high-power sonar during training exercises near Southern California after President Bush got involved in the case.
The order allows the Navy to continue sonar use when whales or other mammals are spotted within 2,200 yards, and its ships do not have to reduce power during conditions when temperatures cause sound to travel farther than it would otherwise.
The Navy still must maintain a 12-nautical-mile, no-sonar zone along the coast as part of a preliminary injunction issued earlier this month when U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled that using mid-frequency active sonar violated the Coastal Zone Management Act.
The president exempted the Navy from that environmental law on Tuesday, but it remained up to court to allow the anti-submarine warfare training to go forward because the injunction.

Did a Gray Whale Adopt Bremerton?
January 18, 2008 (Kitsap Sun) Is it possible that Bremerton has its own "resident" gray whale?
Joann Jenks of Manette, who has been watching a gray whale in Bremerton for nearly two weeks, suspects that the same animal has been returning to downtown Bremerton year after year for the past five years or more. The animal shows up in December or January for a week or so.
It's an odd time of year to find a gray whale in Puget Sound. This particular whale's annual visit falls between the normal southern migration in the fall and northern migration in the spring.

Boaters may face citations for nearing whales
January 18, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Boaters approaching any of the Puget Sound's orca whales may face a fine in the future, if a proposed measure in Olympia passes.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Dave Quall of Mount Vernon, aims at stopping people from harassing orcas in the sound. The population, known as the southern residents, lives year-round in the sound and is considered endangered.
According to the bill's language, a boater "knowingly approaching" and getting within 300 feet of an orca whale could face a fine. The measure was inspired by an ordinance passed by San Juan County in 2007 with similar language.

Sea level rise of 6 inches by 2050 in Puget Sound
January 17, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Climate scientists at the University of Washington and state Department of Ecology have updated projections for sea level rise along local coastlines. The rise is caused by melting glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica and the expansion of the oceans as they warm. That's combined with geological forces that cause the land to rise or sink and tidal changes due to circulation changes. They've come up with some troubling projections:
The average increase is 6 inches by 2050, 14 inches by 2100.

Bush allows U.S. Navy to train with sonar
January 17, 2008 (Everett Herald) Washington environmentalists and scientists Wednesday said they were disappointed that the Bush administration used national security as a reason to exempt the U.S. Navy for using sonar in training, something they say could harm whales and other marine mammals.
Balcomb, a marine biologist and former Navy lieutenant during the Vietnam era, said he's convinced that the Everett-based USS Shoup "terrorized" whales and porpoises in 2005 when it used sonar in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
On Whidbey Island, Howard Garrett, the head of the Orca Network, said the main victims are deep-diving whales that become frightened at sonar use and surface too fast, which can cause serious injuries or death.
"Use of sonar is part of critical, integrated training that must be done in the Navy's operating area off the coast of San Diego to take advantage of Southern California's bathymetric features and its extensive ranges, airfields and other infrastructure necessary for effective training," according to the Navy statement.
The military has to do its work in defense of the nation, Garrett said.
"All we're asking for is mitigate, mitigate mitigate -- do everything possible to protect whales and other mammals," he said.
Garrett agrees that the Navy is trying to "be good citizens. We have spoken with them and we've had meetings. I'm sure they have high regard for the whales and protecting the whales. It's very difficult."
On the other hand, Garrett said that sonar "pings" disorient and could kill or damage the hearing of orca and other whales.
"We can't argue not to use the sonars," Garrett said, "but with all due respect to the office of president, how would he know the damage that could result?"

Bush exempts Navy from environmental laws
January 16, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) In a Navy-vs.-whales case watched closely by environmentalists from California to Puget Sound, President Bush Wednesday exempted the Navy from some environmental laws.
The fight is over permission to use sonar during Navy warfare training exercises off the coast of California. The military itself admitted that the sonar could permanently injure whales and dolphins.
"If the administration can just wave a magic wand and do away with the will of Congress and do away with the will of the courts, that raises a very serious question about how our democracy is functioning," said Daniel Hinerfeld, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which sued to curtail the use of sonar.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in Los Angeles issued an injunction limiting the Navy's use of midfrequency action sonar. Citing the Navy's documents, she said that the training could cause temporary harm to whales in 8,000 cases and permanent hearing damage in 466 cases.
The same kind of sonar is used in
Bush's waiver alone doesn't sink the court's injunction, but could strengthen the military's case. The fight was expected to go to a three-judge panel in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, but late Wednesday the appeals court remanded the issue to the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to consider first.
Midfrequency sonar came under scrutiny in the Northwest after it was used by the Navy off the San Juan Islands in 2003. Scientists in the area heard the sound of the sonar and watched a nearby minke whale and Dall's porpoises flee. A group of orcas gathered near the shore in a cluster. Eleven dead porpoises found after the incident were examined to determine cause of death; the Navy's use of sonar was ruled out in some of the animals and was inconclusive in others.

Are Whales Smarter Than We Are?
January 16, 2008 (Scientific American blog) We humans pride ourselves on our big brains. We never seem to tire of bragging about how our supreme intelligence empowers us to lord over all other animals on the planet. Yet the biological facts don't quite square with Homo sapiens' arrogance. The fact is, people do not have the largest brains on the planet, either in absolute size or in proportion to body size. Whales, not people, have the biggest brains of any animal on earth.
Just how smart are whales? Why do they have such big brains? Bigger is not always better; maybe the inflated whale brain is not very sophisticated on a cellular level. We're closer to answering such questions now, for a couple of recent papers address them squarely. What they find is helping separate fact from fiction.

Retirement plan urged for whale
January 16, 2008 (Seattle Times) Lolita's life changed on Aug. 8, 1970, when the capture nets closed in on her family of orca whales. Her days of swimming and foraging for salmon in Puget Sound ended abruptly, and she was sold to the Miami Seaquarium to live out her days as a performer.
After more than 25,000 shows, Lolita continues to be an attraction at the Seaquarium.
While Florida may be a retirement haven for people, there is no retirement plan in the orca-entertainment industry. But Lolita has family and friends in Washington state, and those friends want to bring her home for her retirement.
The family is a group of 43 orcas, known as L pod, from which she was taken. Lolita continues to vocalize in her native L pod language, which orca experts say may help her to be recognized after such a long absence. Fourteen of the whales who were in the area with Lolita are still alive.
The friends are human supporters willing to pay for her return to Puget Sound and for rehabilitation they hope would lead to her release.
Efforts to bring Lolita home began in the mid-'90s, when Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Center for Whale Research, and then-Gov. Mike Lowry first called for her return. Balcomb wants to give her "a place of honor in her home waters."

Since first orca capture, views have changed
January 16, 2008 (Seattle Times) To understand how orcas, also known as killer whales, moved from being feared sea creatures to celebrated marine-park performers, it helps to look back at the history of orca capture, which began in the Pacific Northwest.
It all started in 1964, when the Vancouver Aquarium commissioned a sculptor to kill an orca to use as a model for a life-size statue.
At the time, most people had never heard of a killer whale, but they did have a reputation among fishermen for stealing fish. There also were stories of orcas attacking seals, porpoises and even other whales.
Shooting an orca was generally viewed among fishermen as an acceptable response in an open-water encounter.
The Vancouver Aquarium's plan took an abrupt turn when its director decided instead to save the whale the sculptor had just harpooned. The whale was named Moby Doll, although it proved to be a male, and taken back to Vancouver. He captivated the public and became international news, though he lived only 87 days in captivity.
And thus an interest in orca captivity was born.

A fight for orca's freedom
January 16, 2008 (Seattle Times) Lolita's life changed on Aug. 8, 1970, when the capture nets closed in on her family of orca whales. Her days of swimming and foraging for salmon in Puget Sound ended abruptly, and she was sold to the Miami Seaquarium to live out her days as a performer.
After more than 25,000 shows, Lolita continues to be an attraction at the Seaquarium.
While Florida may be a retirement haven for people, the performing-mammal industry has no retirement plan. But Lolita has family and friends in Washington state, and those friends want to bring her home to retire.
The family is a group of 43 orcas, known as L pod, from which she was taken. Lolita continues to vocalize in her native L pod language, which orca experts say may help her to be recognized after such a long absence. Fourteen of the whales who were in the area with Lolita are still alive.
The friends are human supporters willing to pay for her return to Puget Sound and for rehabilitation they hope would lead to her release.

Klamath groups offer dams plan to restore salmon runs
January 16, 2008 (Seattle Times) A deal calling for removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River to restore struggling salmon runs has been forged among farmers, Indian tribes, fishermen, conservation groups and government agencies battling over scarce water in the region.

What happens when great white sharks go fin-to-fin with killer whales?
January 16, 2008 (National Wildlife Magazine) Earlier that morning, a fisherman spotted two killer whales-rarities around the Farallones-feeding on a sea lion. Several hours later, Pyle heard from the captain of a tourist vessel: "Get out here fast. A killer whale's got a shark!"
Pyle sped out in his research boat and found the two killer whales, which appeared to be a mother and calf. "The calf was dragging the shark through the water," Pyle recalls. After five minutes, a chunk of liver popped out of the 10-foot great white shark. As the calf ate the liver, Pyle filmed the sinking carcass with an underwater video camera.
The incident was beyond odd. No one-anywhere-had ever recorded seeing a killer whale attack a great white. And then something even stranger happened: The sharks of the Farallones vanished.
From September to December, this huddle of rocks 30 miles west of San Francisco hosts thousands of seals and sea lions-and one of the world's largest congregations of great white sharks, with as many as 15 materializing out of the murky waters at one time to investigate another shark's kill. Pyle and colleagues at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory have studied the shark population here since 1989.
Researchers had never before observed a disappearance of white sharks from the Farallones in the midst of the fall season. Yet prey remained abundant. Did the whales scare off the sharks? Do killer whales commonly attack sharks in the open ocean, where human observers are scarce?
Initially, witnesses speculated that the mother whale was protecting her calf, or dishing up a shark-liver "treat." However, by examining photos and videotape, Alisa Schulman-Janiger, director of the Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project and a biologist with the American Cetacean Society, identified the "calf" as CA2, an adult female, and her companion as CA6, also an adult female. Both belong to the L.A. Pod, a cetacean gang so strange a better moniker might be the "Odd Pod."
"They are very intriguing," says Schulman-Janiger. "They don't fit into any known group of killer whales. They look different. They are small, almost like pygmies. Their vocalizations don't match any other killer whales' from anywhere." Other killer whale groups specialize, preying upon either fish or marine mammals, but the L.A. Pod "is kind of opportunistic," says Schulman-Janiger. "They feed on fish, squid and sea lions."

Gregoire urges fast action on climate change measure
January 15, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) On the first day of the 2008 legislative session, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced a multifaceted climate change bill that could dramatically reshape the state's economy.
The legislation proposed Monday would lay the groundwork for concrete limits on greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2012. It would give the state Department of Ecology the authority to regulate those emissions.
It would require big polluters to track their carbon dioxide releases beginning next year, with annual emissions reports starting in 2010.
And it would establish a clean jobs training fund that would start handing out money beginning next year to prepare the work force for employment in the renewable energy sector, biofuels production and other areas of green power.
"It is action. It is no longer just about goals," Gregoire told a news conference attended by major players in climate issues.
The announcement made clear that global warming would be a main focus during this election-year session. Limited to 60 days, it will be tough for lawmakers to shepherd controversial or costly laws through the convoluted legislative process.

Makah hopeful about whaling again by 2010
January 14, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The new leader of the Makah Tribe said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the tribe will win federal approval to resume hunting gray whales next year or early 2010.
Micah McCarty, who assumed the senior tribal post earlier this month, said the tribe is committed to seeking federal approval to hunt whales.
But McCarty, 37, added that some tribal members are increasingly frustrated by the lengthy legal process -- tribal whale hunts have been held up by court challenges since 2000 -- and the possibility that environmental groups or animal rights organizations could take new steps to further delay federal approval.
The next step in the Makah's waiver request is a draft environmental impact statement by the Fisheries Service. This report -- expected no sooner than spring -- then will be followed by a final impact report. Next will be a hearing by an administrative law judge. Public comments will be collected along the way.
Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Humane Society of the United States, which opposes the whaling, said environmental groups are closely monitoring the Makah's waiver request, ready to pounce.

LBI whale sets off debate over sonar
January 13, 2008 (Press of Atlantic City) The mysterious death of a True's beaked whale that washed ashore in Beach Haven on New Year's Eve has once again raised concerns that Navy sonar is harming marine life. Military scientists at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., are trying to determine if sonar injured the ears and brain of the whale.
Robert Schoelkopf, director of Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, recovered the whale, but said he does not send every animal for sonar damage testing.
"The only reason I decided to have testing done on this one is because it was a beaked whale and a deep-diving whale and didn't have any other visible injuries," Schoelkopf said.
Sonar can rupture the inner ear and organs, and cause internal bleeding and total disorientation, according to Schoelkopf. Once this damage is done, the animal becomes disoriented and may beach itself.
According to Jim Brantley, environmental media relations officer for the U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., there is no scientific evidence that proves and connects sonar to the killing of mammals.
But Michael Jasny, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, disagrees and says the Navy will find itself alone in the scientific community with that conclusion.

Debris another culprit harming marine life in Puget Sound
January 13, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Lost fishing gear, creosote pilings add to dangers
Lost fishing nets are deathtraps.
In a single week, a gillnet lost near the San Juan Islands killed: one harbor seal, 68 red rock and kelp crabs, 30 spiny dogfish sharks, 25 sockeye and five chinook salmon, 30 rockfish, 40 kelp greenlings, 90 flatfish, 110 spotted ratfish and 30 ling cod.
Creosote pilings are stealthier killers.
The chemicals that keep marine worms and other pests at bay are fatal to herring eggs. The saturated wood will leach its toxic chemicals for half a century, causing fatal mutations in the developing eggs even at low levels of exposure. Its deadly effects on other creatures are less well-known.
While polluted mud and stormwater grab headlines, Puget Sound's restoration efforts also are targeting the macroscopic junk trashing the marine environment. And they're making a difference.
In the past five years, 631 derelict fishing nets and 1,256 commercial and sport crab pots were pulled from the Sound. In the past three years, 1,200 tons of creosote-soaked driftwood and 2,000 tons of pilings were cleaned up.

Actor Rallies Celebrities in Orca Campaign
January 12, 2008 (Kitsap Sun) More than two dozen celebrity actors, singers and producers apparently have joined a campaign to return a captive killer whale named Lolita to her home waters of Puget Sound.
Calling on friends in the entertainment business, actor Raul Julia-Levy has offered endorsements from actors Johnny Depp, Lindsay Lohan, Jean Claude Van Damme and Harrison Ford; musicians Janet Jackson and 50 Cent; and producers Jonathan Sanger and Ed Elbert. Many other famous names are on the list.
Howard Garrett of Orca Network, who has been leading the Free Lolita Campaign for 12 years, said Julia-Levy's passions have breathed new life into the effort. The goal remains to purchase the 40-year-old Lolita from Miami's Seaquarium and reintroduce her to close relatives still swimming free in Puget Sound.
"We have known from the beginning in 1995 that we would need some celebrity or nationwide spokesperson and a big donor," Garrett said. "Raul is working on both. He has some very good connections."
Julia-Levy said most of the celebrities he has contacted don't require a hard-sell approach.
Lolita was captured in Puget Sound on Aug. 8, 1970, at the age of about 3, according to Orca Network. She was placed in a pool in Miami and trained to do tricks before an audience. Today, she is the only survivor out of 45 Puget Sound orcas that were captured and shipped to marine parks around the world. All the others were dead by 1987.
Garrett says female orcas may live to be 90 years old, participating in a rich culture of social interaction.
He and others including Ken Balcomb, the dean of Puget Sound orca research believe returning Lolita to the wild would improve her quality of life and offer an incredible learning opportunity. More importantly, they say, it's the right thing to do.
He wanted to get Johnny Depp involved because the actor's "love for humanity and animals is extraordinary." Julia-Levy said he approached Depp at a movie premier, where Depp not only agreed to join the cause for Lolita, but expressed concern about other captive whales and dolphins of which he was aware.
"When I looked at Johnny's face, a tear came out of my eye," Julia-Levy said. "He said, 'You don't have to sell this so hard."
"Thanks to Raul, this seems more real than ever before," Garrett said. "The amazing thing is how he finds the right people and gets them fired up."
On the Web
Celebrities and a 'beautiful whale'
January 12, 2008 (Kitsap Sun - Watching Our Water Ways - blog by Christopher Dunagan) Usually, if I want to know something, I'll just call up a scientist, agency official or politician and ask for a straight answer. But getting a quick interview with a top celebrity is practically impossible. Furthermore, I discovered that getting a quick, definitive response from their managers, agents and publicists can be nearly as difficult. Maybe if I would have been a reporter for the New York Times…
Anyway, actor Raul Julia-Levy has generated a growing list of more than two dozen celebrities that he knows and has contacted personally. He put me on the phone with a couple of them, actor Esai Morales and rapper Truth Hurts. Julia-Levy is adamant that accomplished entertainers don't need the permission of their agents or managers to lend their names to an effort.

Salmon arrive late, but Klamath Basin returns beating goals
January 12, 2008 (Seattle Times) After three straight lean years, 2007 returns of wild fall chinook salmon to the Klamath Basin have exceeded the minimums set by federal fisheries managers.
However, the numbers of young fish known as jacks returning to the basin so far indicate low returns of mature fish in fall 2008, unless preliminary counts improve.
Preliminary counts from fishing-counting stations and carcass surveys show about 50,000 salmon returning to the Klamath and Trinity rivers and their tributaries in Northern California to spawn, California Department of Fish and Game senior biologist Larry Hanson said Friday from Yreka, Calif.
For unknown reasons, Klamath salmon returned three to five weeks later than normal, with some stragglers showing up as late as January, Hanson added.
The returns, which do not include fish from hatcheries, were particularly good in light of the high level of fishing allowed in the ocean and at the river's mouth this year, Hanson added.
The Klamath Basin once was the third-biggest salmon producer on the West Coast, but returns of fall chinook have been struggling for decades from loss of habitat to logging, mining and dams, and overfishing. Spring chinook are practically wiped out. Coho salmon are a threatened species.

Seattle's shoreline gets cleaned up
January 11, 2008 (Seattle Times) Volunteers descended on downtown Seattle's shoreline Thursday looking to rid the beach of tons of creosote-treated wood that routinely washes up on an incoming tide.
The wood, which carries a whiff of tar from the preservative, is considered harmful, if not toxic, to marine life.
The two-day cleanup by the state Department of Natural Resources is part of a larger effort to clean up Puget Sound.
"It's one part of the overall impact on the Puget Sound," said Lisa Kaufman, restoration manager for the state Department of Natural Resources, which is working to remove contaminated pilings as part of Gov. Christine Gregoire's Puget Sound Initiative.
The Department of Natural Resources has been removing creosote-treated wood and pilings from around Puget Sound since 2004, Kaufman said.

Gray whale in Bremerton
January 10, 2008 (Kitsap Sun - Watching Our Water Ways - blog by Christopher Dunagan) I normally don't write about sightings of marine mammals. Orca Network does a fine job of keeping track of whales through its network of shoreside observers, ferryboat riders and researchers.
I make an exception, however, when an animal remains in one place for an unusually long time or at an unusual time of year. A sighting of a gray whale in Bremerton this week meets both criteria.
The animal was still in downtown Bremerton this morning, swimming around near the end of the destroyer Turner Joy.
If you spot a whale, it is greatly appreciated if you phone or e-mail Orca Network, (866) ORCANET, or phone Cascadia Research Collective, (800) 747-7329. Cascadia conducts considerable research on gray whales and often sends out professional observers to try and identify gray whales in Puget Sound.

The Earth Organization Joins Hollywood Celebrities to Free Whale
January 9, 2008 (PRWeb) The Earth Organization announced today they have joined forces with the Orca Network and a long list of Hollywood celebrities to free Lolita, an orca whale, from the Miami Seaquarium after 37 years of captivity.
Lolita the orca whale, kept in a substandard tank at the Miami Seaquarium for the past 37 years, has recently gained some powerful friends dedicated to her release into retirement. The Earth Organization (TEO), an international, non-profit dedicated to finding effective solutions to environmental and conservation issues, announced today that they have joined forces with the Orca Network and a wide variety of concerned celebrities to help find a reasonable solution to what some conservationists describe as a travesty of inhumanity.
Philanthropist and actor Raul Julia-Levy recently teamed with Howard Garrett and Susan Berta of the Orca Network who have lead the campaign for Lolita's release. "No one has the right to deprive any innocent living creature from their freedom," said Julia-Levy. "It's time for Lolita to go home."
They are joined by an ever-increasing list of concerned celebrities, among them Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Lindsay Lohan, Jean Claude Van Damme, Robert Downey Jr., Bob Barker, Jonathan Silverman, Jennifer Finnigan, Bokeem Woodbine, Esai Morales and Truth Hurts. Also supporting Lolita's release are prominent producers Ed Elbert and Jonathan Sanger.
"Our first concern when Raul contacted us was whether or not Lolita could safely be released into retirement after so many years in confinement in a tank that is not as deep as she is long," said Barbara Wiseman, TEO's International President. Having consulted with Executive Director and research biologist for the Center for Whale Research Kenneth Balcomb III, as well as Howard Garrett, Executive Director of the Orca Network, Wiseman said "We now feel confident that this is not only possible, but should be accomplished immediately." Of the 134 orca worldwide taken from the wild, 112 have died in captivity, with the average lifespan in captivity being less than 10 years. Lolita was captured when she was about 5 years old. Wild orcas live to an average of 50 years with a few having reached over 90. "It is astonishing that she has lived as long as she has under these conditions," stated Garrett. "She deserves to live out her remaining years with her family."
Lawrence Anthony, world-renowned conservationist and founder of TEO, best known for his amazing act of courage in rescuing and protecting the animals of the Baghdad Zoo for the first 5 months of the Iraqi war, stated "Lolita has demonstrated that she recognizes her mother's unique vocal sounds. The Orca Network's plan is compelling and well-thought out to ensure her successful re-assimilation into her native habitat. The only humane thing to do is now free her."
Celebrities are taking a strong stand on the emotional issue. In an interview yesterday Jean Claude Van Damme vowed, "We are not going to stop this campaign until we see the results. And the result we're looking for is to free Lolita."
Actor, producer and activist Esai Morales stated "I believe the salvation, protection and care of other sentient beings brings us much closer to our own humanity. Orcas are fascinating. We can not take these majestic creatures for granted or exploitation." He went on to say, "What has Lolita done to deserve this? She has served her time. It's time for her to go free."

Mining bid on Maury Island gets a bit closer to reality
January 9, 2008 (Seattle Times) A bid to mine away a chunk of Maury Island for sand and gravel moved a big step closer to reality Tuesday when the gravel company Glacier Northwest won a pivotal court case against environmentalists and King County.
The Washington Supreme Court declined, without comment, to hear an appeal of a lower-court ruling that granted Glacier Northwest a critical permit.
That permit was needed to build a massive pier to carry gravel from the land to barges offshore in Puget Sound.
The Supreme Court action marks the end of that legal road for mine opponents, who have said the massive expansion of an existing mine threatens an aquifer used for drinking water, as well as federally-protected chinook salmon and orcas that swim in the Sound.
But the gravel barges won't start running yet. The company still needs a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a lease from the state Department of Natural Resources, which owns the underwater land where the dock would be built, said Pete Stoltz, the company's permit coordinator.
Mine opponents, meanwhile, are still trying to block the company from getting all the permits it needs, and lobbying the Legislature to change state environmental law to block the mine on the island, which is joined to Vashon Island.
Mine opponents would go to federal court to challenge the Army Corps permit, if the Corps issues it, said David Mann, an attorney representing Preserve Our Islands and People for Puget Sound.
"Obviously we're disappointed. But the fact remains that Maury Island is not the place to put a mine of this size or type," said Amy Carey, president of Preserve Our Islands.

He sounds alarm on polluted oceans
January 7, 2008 (Boston Globe) His discovery, with a partner in the late 1960s, that humpback whales sing songs provided an ethereal soundtrack for the animal conservation movement, But the final gift is not going to be music to the ears. Because sitting inside those biopsy samples is the first overall baseline assessment of pollution in the world's oceans.
"What we've analyzed so far," Payne said, "is shocking. It's well beyond any degree of pollutants that I thought would exist."
Payne, 72, the founder and president of the Lincoln-based Ocean Alliance, is getting ready for his Al Gore moment. Once all the samples have been analyzed - the nonprofit conservation advocacy group needs about $1 million dollars in additional funding to complete the job - Payne is going to make it his mission to spread another inconvenient truth.
"If we don't do something about ocean pollution," Payne said from the study of his hillside home in South Woodstock, Vt., "I think there's a very good chance that humanity will lose access to fish from the sea. And because seafood is the principal source of protein for over a billion people, you could easily argue that this is the largest public health crisis in the world."
Yet the success of Gore and others in sounding the alarm on climate change has overshadowed many of the other potential disasters facing the planet. "Every time someone says 'the environment,' they think global warming," Payne said. Ocean pollution "is not even on people's radar." He wants to change that. It's time, he says, to go from "save the whales" to "saved by the whales."

Entertaining Science: SeaChange–Reversing the Tide
January 7, 2008 (Science and the City) A dramatic lecture devised, written and presented by scientist, Roger Payne and his wife, actress Lisa Harrow. Roger Payne, who discovered that humpback whales sing songs, has been working for the conservation of whales for decades. SeaChange weaves the knowledge of science and the wisdom of poetry into a compelling presentation arguing that the human species is not the overseer of life but an integral part of life's complex web, and that our survival requires that we attend not just to our own well-being, but also, to the well-being of that entire web of life.
SeaChange: Reversing the Tide blends the poetry of Shakespeare, Shelley, Robert Frost, Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver and others with a clear exposition of the consequences of our current indifference to Natural Laws and the benefits that can be achieved by living in accordance with those laws.

Salmon Leader Joins Puget Sound Partnership
January 6, 2008 (Kitsap Sun) Joe Ryan, an attorney and member of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, will lead an ongoing effort to restore wild salmon populations throughout Puget Sound.
Ryan this week became "salmon recovery program manager" under the Puget Sound Partnership.
"I'm very energized to do this job," said Ryan, a Seattle resident. "It's complex and challenging and close to my heart."
At the end of last year, salmon restoration efforts were moved out from under the Shared Strategy for Puget Sound, which was dissolved, and placed under the new Puget Sound Partnership.
The Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, of which Ryan was a member, has been making regional decisions regarding salmon funding. The group will remain intact to advise the Puget Sound Partnership.
Joe Ryan, an attorney and member of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, will lead an ongoing effort to restore wild salmon populations throughout Puget Sound.
Ryan this week became "salmon recovery program manager" under the Puget Sound Partnership.
"I'm very energized to do this job," said Ryan, a Seattle resident. "It's complex and challenging and close to my heart."
At the end of last year, salmon restoration efforts were moved out from under the Shared Strategy for Puget Sound, which was dissolved, and placed under the new Puget Sound Partnership.
The Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, of which Ryan was a member, has been making regional decisions regarding salmon funding. The group will remain intact to advise the Puget Sound Partnership.

Strong chinook run likely
January 6, 2008 (Seattle Times) Fishery officials project a strong return of spring chinook to the Columbia River this year.
A panel of federal, state and tribal officials forecasts 269,300 spring chinook to return to the mouth of the Columbia.
The forecast is largely based on the big return of spring chinook jacks - sexually immature 2-year-old fish - last year. More than 16,600 passed Bonneville Dam last spring compared to 2,908 in 2006 and a 10-year average of 8,234, according to numbers from the Fish Passage Center, which collects data on juvenile and adult salmon passage through the mainstem hydrosystem in the Columbia River Basin.
Though the forecast for spring chinook on the Columbia River looks good, the spring run on the Willamette River is expected to be the lowest since 1997 - about 34,000 fish.

Dall's porpoise
January 5, 2008 (Vancouver Sun) What it's called: Dall's porpoise, or in Latin, Phocoenoides dalli.
What it looks like: From a distance -- and that's how most people probably will see a Dall's porpoise -- it's easy to mistake it for an orca because of its black body, white flanks and white-tipped fins. But it's much smaller than an orca. It grows to only 2.2 metres in length and 220 kilograms in weight compared to up to 4,000 kilograms and nine metres for orcas. It also has flattened spade-shaped teeth compared to the orca's sharp teeth, a concaved forehead near the point of its jaw, and deep blue-green eyes, which is highly unusual in animals of this kind. Young porpoises are grey with white markings.
Where to find it: Though it's one of the most common small cetaceans in the north Pacific and a frequent visitor to the bays and inlets of British Columbia, including the Lower Mainland, it's often difficult to see because it moves so fast. In fact, the Dall's porpoise has the distinction of being one of the fastest swimmers on the coast. Thus you have a better chance of seeing one from the deck of a ferry or a pleasure boat as they love to ride the bow waves of boats just below the surface of the water.
What it eats: Squid and a variety of school fish such as herring, capelin, hake, anchovy and eulachon. It uses its small teeth to capture its prey which it then swallows whole.
What eats it: Orcas will attack Dall's porpoises, and occasionally they will be caught accidentally in fishing nets.
How it breeds: Adults can live more than 20 years, but the average lifespan is thought to be closer to 10. Calves are born in June and July, and mating occurs shortly after. Calves are believed to stay with their mothers for up to two years. However, because the Dall's is such a speed demon, little is known about its behaviour at sea given that a quick glimpse is often the most anyone can ever expect to see of it.

Species of whale dolphin found in Pakistan's waters
January 5, 2008 (Unique Pakistan) Surveys in near-shore and off-shore waters showed that the bottlenose dolphin, the humpback dolphin, the spinner dolphin, Risso's dolphin and the killer whale (which is scientifically categorised as a dolphin) occur in moderate numbers in Pakistan's seas, as does the finless porpoise. A number of whales, including Bryde's whale, Cuvier's beaked whale, the fin whale, the sperm whale and the well-known hump-backed whale, are also found in Pakistan's waters. According to Dr Gore, even the presence of the largest of whales, the blue whale, as been recorded. These species are known to occur in Oman, on the other side of the Arabian Sea, and earlier studies had suggested that some of the population may spend part of the year in Pakistani waters.
In Dr Gore's view, cetaceans are significant since these mammals are key species in the ecosystem. They reflect the number and diversity of fish stocks and are indicators of a healthy ecosystem.
Amongst the most serious threats faced by cetaceans, said Dr Gore, was the release into the sea of heavily-polluted water with traces of heavy metals by the ship-breaking industry. Other threats included falling fish stocks (less food available), the silting of rivers because of dwindling mangrove forests, the growth of toxic algae and the presence of rubbish and plastic bags in the sea which could prove fatal for whales and dolphins as well as turtles. Additionally, deadly collisions with large sea-faring vessels, some fishing practices, seismic surveys and military operations all posed a risk for these species' survival.
"The Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society is set to be inaugurated on Saturday [today]," said Dr Gore proudly. "It aims to create awareness about this valuable marine resource. Meanwhile, preparations are also under way to introduce dolphin-watching tourism in Pakistan, for which sites have been selected in Sindh and Balochistan. This eco-tourism will support poor fishermen who are already under stress because of depleting fish resources."

Whale-hunting Orcas of False Pass
January 5, 2008 (Vancouver Sun) The sight of combat between grey whales and killer whales can be unsettling.
Lance Barrett-Lennard has been studying killer whales for at least 23 years, first as a lightkeeper on the B.C. coast then as a research scientist for the federal fisheries department and now the Vancouver Aquarium.
For most of the year, he's the predator's biggest supporter.
But come May, when the long days of the northern summer draw him to the remote waters off Unimak Island in Alaska's eastern Aleutian Islands, he sees his loyalty towards the killer whales waver and his sympathies inexorably drawn towards the grey whales migrating north.
Lance Barrett-Lennard has been studying killer whales for at least 23 years, first as a lightkeeper on the B.C. coast then as a research scientist for the federal fisheries department and now the Vancouver Aquarium.
For most of the year, he's the predator's biggest supporter.
But come May, when the long days of the northern summer draw him to the remote waters off Unimak Island in Alaska's eastern Aleutian Islands, he sees his loyalty towards the killer whales waver and his sympathies inexorably drawn towards the grey whales migrating north.
Killer whales on the west coast of North America are divided by scientists into two groups: residents, which eat salmon and other fish; and transient, which eat marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, porpoises and dolphins.
Resident killer whales are more vocal than transients, which must employ stealth to sneak up on prey that is larger and faster than salmon and may be able to escape onto beaches or rocks.
Scientists normally hear the songs of transients only after a kill, but the whales off False Pass are heard more often -- once they start the chase, and for days while feeding at a larger carcass.
"They vocalize a lot more up there," he confirms. "Once they've got the grey whale on the run and lost the element of surprise, they start vocalizing."
Unlike the vessel-habituated southern resident killer whales off Victoria and the northern residents of Johnstone Strait, these transient whales are wary of intruders and keep a distance of 100 to 200 metres.
That makes it more difficult for the researchers to photograph the killer whales and compile a catalogue of individuals. So far, they have identified about 135 orcas during the peak migration of grey whales in May.

Celebrities Unite to Free Whale Confined to Years of Solitary Confinement
January 3, 2008 (Alternative Approaches) Actors, producers, singers and philanthropists have volunteered as spokespersons for the campaign to release of Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium to her native habitat in the Pacific Northwest after 37 years of captivity.
The list of celebrities and philanthropists for Lolita includes Johnny Depp, Hayden Panettiere, Lindsay Lohan, 50 Cent, Jean Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia-Levy, Bokeem Woodbine, Harrison Ford, Paul Rubio, Damon Whitaker, Robert Downey Jr., Jonathon Silverman, Jennifer Finnigan, Billy Zane, Bob Barker, Francesco Quinn, Gladys Portugal, Joan Fontaine, Mekhi Phifer, Mike Amato, Sticky Fingaz, The Game and Truth Hurts. Prominent producers who support Lolita's release are Ed Elbert and Jonathan Sanger, along with director Isaac Florentine.
Leading the campaign to free Lolita are the co-founders of Orca Network, Howard Garrett and Susan Berta, and philanthropist Raul Julia-Levy. Garrett has drafted a proposal for the safe retirement of the captive orca whale and has submitted it to the Miami Seaquarium where Lolita currently lives in a confined man-made pool that is not as deep as her body's length.
When Julia-Levy heard of Lolita's plight, he contacted Garrett to lend his support by rallying the celebrities for her release.
"Lolita's already made her captives millions of dollars. How much is enough. Greediness has its limits and it is time Lolita goes back to her family," said Julia-Levy. "We need to make Lolita's voice heard," Julia-Levy pleaded.
Executive director and research biologist for the Center for Whale Research, Kenneth Balcomb, mirrored Julia-Levy's sentiments. Balcomb said, "Lolita deserves to retire in her home waters. She's made millions for the marine park. It's past time she had a chance to retire and enjoy the rest of her life."
In a letter to supporters of Lolita's release, Garrett explains Lolita's history and describes the distinct culture and complex languages of orca whales. The letter also addresses the fact that although Lolita has lived in captivity for 37 years, she will be able to recognize her family and will remember her lifelong membership as a Southern Resident orca.

Judge put limits on Navy sonar use
January 3, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A federal judge forbade the Navy on Thursday from using a powerful form of sonar within 12 miles of the California coast and slapped other restrictions on naval war games in a ruling that could have repercussions in the Pacific Northwest.
U.S. District Judge Florence Marie-Cooper said noise from the Navy's midfrequency sonar far outstrips levels at which federal rules require ear protection for humans on the job. Whales' hearing is extremely sensitive.
"The court is persuaded that the (protection) scheme proposed by the Navy is grossly inadequate to protect marine mammals from debilitating levels of sonar exposure," Marie-Cooper wrote in her ruling.
The Navy offered to reduce the sonar's intensity when whales approached within about 1,100 yards, and power down further before shutting the sonar off when the creatures got within 200 yards. The judge ordered sonar shut off when marine mammals are within 2,200 yards.
The judge also required the Navy to watch for marine mammals for an hour before using the sonar, among other conditions.
The restrictions could affect the debate in the Northwest over protecting Puget Sound orcas and other marine mammals.
Judge restricts Navy's use of sonar near coast, cites harm to whales January 3, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog by Lisa Stifler)
Navy must cut sonar use off California January 4, 2008 (Los Angeles Times)

Opening of Chukchi Sea to drilling blasted
January 3, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Environmental groups teed off Wednesday on the federal decision to open up nearly 46,000 square miles off Alaska's northwest coast to oil and natural gas leases, a decision the groups say will harm northern marine mammals.
The Minerals Management Agency planned the sale in the Chukchi Sea without taking into account changes in the Arctic brought on by global warming and proposed insufficient protections for polar bears, walrus, whales and other species that could be harmed by drilling rigs or spills, according to the groups.
The lease sale was planned without information as basic as the polar bear and walrus populations, said Pamela Miller, Arctic coordinator with Northern Alaska Environmental Center.
Miller and Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity said the MMS ignored dangers to animals and birds if an oil spill were to occur.
"No one yet has figured out how to clean up a spill in broken ice, so they just stick their head in the sand and pretend it won't happen," Cummings said.
He also said the agency's environmental assessment ignored changes brought by global warming.

Navy, Environmentalists Await Sonar Ruling
January 1, 2008 (Washington Post) A federal judge in California is scheduled to release a decision this week that will outline what the Navy must do to protect whales and other marine mammals from the loud blasts of its sonar equipment.
U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper's ruling in the closely watched case, expected by week's end, will not only affect Navy training exercises scheduled for the waters off Southern California over the next year but could also clarify how closely the military must follow environmental laws.
With marine scientists increasingly convinced that sonar can frighten, confuse, and sometimes injure or even kill sea creatures -- especially the acoustically sensitive whales -- and with the United States at war, the issue has become contentious and the stakes high.
"This case is really about whether the Navy has to follow the law," said Joel Reynolds, a lawyer who has argued the case for the Natural Resources Defense Council and has taken the Navy to court on several other sonar-related issues. "Is the military bound by environmental laws, or does national security trump them?"
Reynolds said that the council and other environmental groups, later joined by the California Coastal Commission, support the Navy's need to train sonar operators. The problem, he said, is that the Navy is unwilling to make the operational changes necessary to avoid harming whales during such training.

Back to Orca News Archives