Orca Network News - July, 2004
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
July 1, 2004 through July 31, 2004.
July 31, 2004 (WOAI San Antonio) The Humane Society of the United States is raising questions after a killer whale repeatedly submerged a veteran trainer at a South Central Texas water park.
The group wants SeaWorld parks to stop conducting interactive shows with humans and the whales in the water together. It has also asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the Animal Welfare Act, to investigate what went wrong.
During an afternoon Shamu show last Friday at SeaWorld San Antonio, Ky, a 6,100-pound whale, belly-flopped on trainer Steve Aibel, then nosed him into a tank as Aibel tried to get out.
Video footage of the episode has been aired across the country.
Aibel said he was not in danger. Jim Boyle, a retired Air Force master sergeant who sometimes goes to SeaWorld, told the San Antonio Express-News that he doesn't buy it.
Ky isn't now performing the deep-water interactive sequence. SeaWorld, owned by Anheuser-Busch, is investigating the episode.
Andrews and a USDA spokeswoman in Washington said they were not aware of any investigation by the agency.
Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Humane Society, said Ky's upbringing at SeaWorld has left him a "social misfit."
Ky's parents were involved in a Feb. 20, 1991, tragedy, when champion swimmer Keltie Byrne drowned at age 20. Byrne fell in a pool during a show at Sealand in Victoria, British Columbia.
According to those who testified in a coroner's inquest, Ky's father and mother and a third whale batted Byrne around in their pool, keeping her from lifesaving equipment. One expert blamed the whales' behavior on their confinement in the pool.
Bush eases pesticide rules
July 30, 2004 (Seattle Times) The Bush administration yesterday made it easier for the government to approve pesticides used by farmers and homeowners, saying it no longer would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to first consult other federal agencies to determine whether a product could harm endangered species.
The change affects federal regulations that carry out the Endangered Species Act, a law that protects about 1,200 threatened animals and plants.
Federal officials portrayed the action as a more efficient way to ensure the species are protected from pesticides sprayed across the landscape. They were also cheered by pesticide, farm and forestry groups, which have been put on edge by conservation lawsuits challenging the use of pesticides near lands and streams that harbor protected species. The most high-profile of these suits earlier this year resulted in a Seattle federal judge imposing a temporary ban on spraying 38 pesticides along thousands of miles of Northwest streams.
Conservationists attacked the rule change as another example of the Bush administration weakening protections for endangered species, including Northwest salmon that are sensitive to low levels of some pesticides.
The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has repeatedly sued the government to force species protection, reported this week that pesticides aggravate the plight of nearly a third of all threatened and endangered species.
Killer whale gets monitored
July 29, 2004 (Calgary Sun) Department of Fisheries and Oceans has reached a tentative agreement with Vancouver Island First Nations leaders to jointly monitor Luna, the orphan killer whale. Final details have not been released but Fisheries officials and the Mowachaht-Muchalaht band will monitor the whale's activities together -- as well as launching a public education and enforcement program.
The stewardship program, estimated to cost about $90,000, will cover only the summer months.
Court ruling favors fish over more electricity from river dams
July 29, 2004 (Seattle Times) A U.S. District Court judge yesterday barred the federal government from a first-ever attempt to reduce the summer spill that improves passage of young salmon past dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
The government had wanted to push more water through turbines — rather than over spillways — during strong summer power markets, a move that could have raised up to $28 million in additional revenue for the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets wholesale power throughout the Northwest.
Young salmon migrate from freshwater spawning grounds out to ocean feeding grounds. Biologists have said flushing the salmon over spillways rather than through turbines can improve their survival rates.
U.S. District Court Judge James Redden's ruling was a strong rebuke to the National Marine Fisheries Service, which had concluded that spill could be reduced beginning Aug. 1 without harming the recovery prospects for an endangered fall run of Snake River chinook salmon.
And the ruling was a significant judicial affirmation of the power of the Endangered Species Act, which has propelled a multibillion-dollar effort to restore wild salmon runs around the region.
The Columbia and Snake dams are operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The dams have been a significant cause of the decline of Northwest wild salmon, which are now outnumbered by the millions of hatchery fish that make their way down rivers each year in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Despite an upsurge in numbers in recent years, the wild fish remain far below historical peaks.
Killer whale turns on trainer
July 28, 2004 (ABC News) A killer whale has attacked its trainer during a show at a Texas theme park, as several thousand stunned spectators looked on.
During an afternoon performance in the whale pool at San Antonio Sea World, a young male whale named Ky started pushing his trainer, Steve Aibel, under water.
Mr Aibel was not hurt in the incident, which lasted several minutes.
Mr Aibel says he suspects that Ky, who is near breeding age, may have been acting like an aggressive teenager. He says the solution to the problem was to calm the whale down.
"What we do as trainers is all the time we look for opportunities to reinforce calm, relaxed behaviour and if you watched, that's really what I was waiting for," he said.
"I was waiting for him to calm down, I rubbed him down, exited the pool and we moved on from there."
Mr Aibel says he has worked with the animal for 10 years and he has not lost trust in his charge as a result of the incident.
"I had full faith in this animal, knowing him for 10 years, that he would do the right thing, and I think he did. He calmed down, we moved on and things are great," he said.
Justin Lecourias, who witnessed the attack, said: "The whale was staying between the [exit] ramp and the trainer and finally the trainer jumped on top of the whale's back and leaped over him and another trainer caught him.
"The whale turned around and slammed down on the ramp and he was pretty upset that the trainer got out of the pool."
Nature's turn again
July 27, 2004 (Everett Herald) The legacy of the long-closed Tulalip landfill lives on - but this time in a good way.
Millions of dollars in fines paid by Puget Sound area businesses that dumped industrial waste in the landfill in the 1960s and 1970s are now being spent to create nearby wetlands that will be twice as big as the landfill.
"It's inspiring," Scarlett said, gesturing to Ebey Slough and a nearby wetlands the city of Marysville has already restored. "What a fabulous spot."
Construction won't start for at least two years, but the Tulalip Tribes and their partners have gradually purchased 334 acres of former farmland south of Marysville since the landfill was taken off the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list in 2002.
Plans for the Qwuloolt Project, the proposed name for the wetlands, call for removal of a dike on the northern edge of Ebey Slough. That will allow a blend of Snohomish River and tidal water to wash over 270 acres, once used mainly as a dairy.
Qwuloolt means marsh in Lushootseed, the native language of Puget Sound area tribes. No name could be more appropriate for their project, say supporters, who look forward to the day when the decades-old dike is breached.
Seventy-five percent of the Snohomish River delta's intertidal wetlands have been lost since settlement, and that loss has created major problems for endangered salmon and other wildlife.
"Salmon are to water what canaries were to mines," said state Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip.
Young salmon need sheltered areas off the main river where they can hide and grow as they move from fresh water to salt water. Without a sheltered area in which to hide, they may be forced into Puget Sound prematurely.
EPA accused of shoddy job on judging pesticide risks to salmon
July 27, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Conservation and fisheries groups gave the government two months' notice yesterday that they plan to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unless it does a better job gauging the risks various pesticides pose to salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
In a letter sent to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt, lawyers with the environmental defense firm Earthjustice said the agency failed to use the best available science when it concluded that more than three-dozen pesticides either would not harm or would not likely harm threatened and endangered salmon runs.
Earthjustice, which is representing the Washington Toxics Coalition, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and other groups, cited an April 2004 draft letter from NOAA Fisheries -- the federal agency in charge of restoring salmon -- saying it did not support EPA's findings.
In January, a federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary ban on the use of 38 pesticides near salmon streams throughout the region, pending a final decision in a lawsuit that environmental groups filed alleging even tiny amounts of toxins in rivers harm salmon.
Trouble with Luna
July 26, 2004 (National Post) Limbs dangled. Rows of sharp whale teeth flashed. Parents giggled and took pictures as their offspring pulled at a gnarled plastic boat fender lodged between the orca's gaping jaws.
You remember Luna, the young killer whale that has been hanging about this scenic coastline of northwest Vancouver Island for the past three years.
He has become an international celebrity. But to local fish farmers, loggers and float plane operators, the hardworking men and women who eke out a living on the sea, Luna is ''that whale.'' They say it with a dismissive sneer, much the same way Bill Clinton described Monica Lewinsky as ''that woman.''
Luna, they say, is a mischievous pest that chews on their equipment and interferes with their work. He is swimming around Nootka Sound like he owns the place. He poses a risk to human life, insist his detractors.
So there I was, on Saturday morning, stepping aboard the MV Uchuck III, a converted freighter. Joining me were about 100 other gawkers. Everyone was buzzing about Luna.
As we approached the landing, a U.S. couple told me of their encounter with Luna the night before, down at the government dock.
''We played with him for at least an hour,'' bragged Bob, an entomologist from Texas. ''It was awesome.''
The Uchuck docked. Luna swam behind the stern. We all rushed to the end of the boat. No one wanted to get off. Luna then swam over to a small aluminum craft and began chewing on a fender hanging from its side.
Then began the game with the fender. A boy yanked it from the whale's mouth and dangled it in the air. Luna made a strange warbling sound and lunged at it. The crowd screamed with delight. This went on for another half-hour. The game would have lasted even longer, had the parents not grown tired of it.
CANADA VS. FIRST NATIONS - Lonely Luna's fate being negotiated
July 24, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) Springer, a 4-year-old female killer whale, was rescued from the ferry lanes near Vashon Island two years ago and is now swimming with her family in Canadian waters.
Luna, a male about the same age, is living alone in Canada's Nootka Sound, where he was first spotted three years ago.
In the spring of 2002, Springer had some notable medical problems -- a major factor in the decision to capture and move her.
Luna has stayed healthy and is doing quite well on his own -- except for his loneliness which causes him to cuddle up to boats for attention, expects say.
But Luna has something Springer never had: a band of native people who feel a spiritual connection to him and wish to "let nature take its course."
Clearly, we are not going to do anything that might involve relocation in the short term, said Don Radford, regional administrator for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Theres a belief that the young whale is the embodied spirit of the late Chief Ambrose Maquinna, since the orca showed up within days of the chiefs death. The whale was named Tsu-xiit in a special ceremony and was accepted into the band. The mourning period of Ambrose Maquinna, Mikes father, wont be over until a potlatch is held in November 2005.
There is a great sense of pride with our people here,Maquinna said. We are a living history and a living culture. Our people were enhanced by nine days on the water (communing with the whale). For us, nothing has changed.
Military, Industry Sonar Harms Whales-IWC Report
July 22, 2004 (ABC News) Sonar used by the military to spot enemy submarines is to blame for increasing cases of whales being stranded on beaches and dying, the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission said in a report this week.
The IWC report adds weight to theories that sonar harms the giant sea mammals, a hypothesis that has been disputed by the military and by the oil and gas industry which uses the technology to search for energy reserves.
"There is now compelling evidence implicating military sonar as a direct impact on beaked whales in particular," said the report released at the IWC's four-day annual convention which was winding up Thursday.
The report cited examples of bizarre and self-destructive whale behavior that seemed to have been caused by military sonar, such as a mass stampede of 200 melon-headed whales into shallow water in Hawaii last month during a U.S.-Japanese naval training exercise. One animal died.
Scientists are unsure exactly why sonar causes whales to get stranded. One theory is that the noise disrupts their communication and navigation systems. Another is that the signals confuse whales in deep water, forcing them to surface quickly, suffering rapid decompression and a form of the bends.
The report may strengthen the hand of U.S. conservation groups which are threatening to sue the Navy over its use of mid-frequency sonar.
Depleted beluga whale population is stable, U.S. says
July 22, 2004 (Environmental News Service) A depleted population of beluga whales has stabilized five years after Alaska Natives agreed to virtually stop hunting them, the National Marine Fisheries Service said Wednesday.
Beluga whales in Cook Inlet, an icy channel that runs from Anchorage to the Gulf of Alaska, number 187 this summer, according to a count just completed by the federal agency. They numbered 174 last year and 192 the year before that, it said.
More than 1,000 belugas may have lived in Cook Inlet in the 1970s and 1980s, but the population shrank precipitously after that, service experts say.
In 1999, an agreement between Natives and the agency sharply limited hunting. A year later, the service designated the whales as "depleted," a protected status authorized by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Hunters killed only six belugas between 2001 and 2004, the agency said.
Some say pollution from Anchorage and elsewhere, waste from Cook Inlet oil and gas operations, and disturbances from vessel traffic have combined to harm the region's whales.
Plastic left holding the bag as environmental plague
July 21, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Imagine a world without plastic shopping bags. It could be the future.
There is a growing international movement to ban or discourage the use of plastic bags because of their environmental effects. Countries from Ireland to Australia are cracking down on the bags and action is beginning to stir in the United States.
Critics of the bags say they use up natural resources, consume energy to manufacture, create litter, choke marine life and add to landfill waste.
"Every time we use a new plastic bag they go and get more petroleum from the Middle East and bring it over in tankers," said Stephanie Barger, executive director of Earth Resource Foundation in Costa Mesa, Calif. "We are extracting and destroying the Earth to use a plastic bag for 10 minutes."
One of the most dramatic impacts is on marine life. About 100,000 whales, seals, turtles and other marine animals are killed by plastic bags each year worldwide, according to Planet Ark, an international environmental group.
Kulongoski challenges hydro dam spills
July 20, 2004 (Oregonian) The governor joins a lawsuit against increased flows to generate electricity that he says would harm salmon fisheries
An industry-backed effort to boost power production at Columbia and Snake River dams seemed all but certain to begin Aug. 1 with the federal government's recent approval. Supporters said the action would save electric ratepayers tens of millions of dollars. Federal fisheries authorities said no harm would come to threatened salmon.
But certainty evaporated when Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski became an active opponent, joining conservation groups and Native American tribes in a lawsuit contending that thousands of salmon would be killed by the changes in dam operations.
Essential Luna: 'Not your typical momma's boy,' orca learned to survive
July 19, 2004 (Victoria Times Colonist) For nearly 30 years, every birth, death and social habit of the endangered southern resident population of killer whales, identified by their dorsal fins, has been documented by the Centre for Whale Research in Friday Harbour, helped by researchers at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. Called J,K and L pods, they number 83 mammals. L Pod is the largest group, with 41 members. Luna, a healthy young male, would be a welcome boost.
Luna, or L98, was born in September 1999. He was the first baby for L67, or Splash, and in 2002 she gave birth to another calf, believed to be male. Luna was first noticed alone in Nootka Sound in July 2001, when he was the orca equivalent of a toddler.
Each pod has its own dialect and recordings show Luna still speaks L pod's language.
Ken Balcomb, senior scientist for the Centre for Whale Research, said it is believed Luna went into Nootka Sound with an uncle, who then died. "They would not be far from the rest of the whales, but far enough that they couldn't hear each other," Balcomb said.
To the surprise of researchers, Luna survived on his own and learned how to feed himself. He is growing fast and estimated to be about 4.5 metres long and about 1,800 kilograms (or 4,000 pounds). "He grew up fast and got away from his mom faster than most. He wasn't following the typical momma's boy plan," Balcomb said.
Whales 'absolved' on fish stocks
July 19, 2004 (BBC) Whales are hardly ever in competition with humans for fish, a world respected fisheries expert says.
Arguing that whales eat fish which could feed the world's hungry people is "cynical and irresponsible", he said.
Dr Pauly's comments were made as the International Whaling Commission began its four-day annual meeting in Italy.
"It's the rich countries that are sucking the fish out of the poor countries' own seas."
The sonar threat: Navy should protect whales from damage
July 19, 2004 (Eugene Register-Guard Editorial) It's becoming increasingly apparent that submarine-detecting sonar systems can be lethal to whales, and the U.S. Navy should make whatever adjustments are necessary to protect marine mammals.
The linkage between whales and sonar isn't hard to figure. Marine mammals depend on sound to navigate, find food, locate their mates, identify predators and communicate. Flooding their ocean habitat with unnatural, high-intensity sound unavoidably affects them. Anyone with a house, a teenager and a stereo system should understand the dynamics.
A scientific study published last year determined that whales and other marine mammals can be killed or harmed by sonar. It theorized that the animals can become frightened by the man-made sound and surface too quickly, causing nitrogen in the blood to gassify, which can cause internal bleeding.
The Navy can do several obvious things to limit the damage to whales caused by sonar - especially in a post-Cold War environment when our admirals aren't living in fear that a Soviet nuclear submarine will suddenly surface off U.S. waters and flatten San Diego.
The Navy should start by not training or testing in those easily identifiable regions of the ocean attractive to concentrations of marine mammal species known to be sensitive to sonar systems. Scientists also recommend that the Navy establish safety zones around sonar-trans- mission vessels and, perhaps most importantly, reduce the strength of sonar signals.
The lunacy over Luna
July 19, 2004 (Victoria Times-Colonist) At the T-Hawk Cafe last month, owner Debbie Sinclair watched more than the usual Gold River socializing as her customers sat in vinyl booths and around Formica tables, drinking coffee from sturdy white mugs.
She watched a sea change.
It came as shiny television satellite trucks and a fleet of SUVs filled the small parking lot each morning, and reporters, scientists and bureaucrats filled up on made-from-scratch omelettes and hash browns.
Suddenly, village residents became possessive about Luna, the lonely killer whale in their backyard of Nootka Sound. They began to question the plan to truck him down-Island to be with his pod.
Experts said that Luna, once he had other whales to be with, would not bother boats and float planes as he had been doing for three years, endangering people and himself.
"People started looking at what was happening and they just didn't want him being around a lot of boats (in Juan de Fuca Strait) or being put into an aquarium," Sinclair said.
"They started caring more about it."
As trust in the outsiders waned, residents' support for the actions of the First Nations grew.
"The Mowachaht/Muchalaht came into their own. There was a growing respect for them as people realized they were a force to be reckoned with," Trevis said.
Then groups such as the Centre for Whale Research in Friday Harbour, which was supposed to monitor Luna in Juan de Fuca Strait, drew back, saying it made no sense to release the boat-loving whale at the height of the boating season.
Effort to relocate killer whale put off at least until fall
July 19, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Efforts to relocate a friendly but lonely and potentially dangerous killer whale will not be resumed before fall at the earliest, Canadian officials have decided.
The decision announced by Lara Sloan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Fisheries and Ocean, leaves Luna free to continue to hang out in Nootka Sound off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Tulalip wetlands healthy
July 19, 2004 (Everett Herald) A study of four wetlands on the reservation finds little bad news. In fact, the biologist's findings are pleasantly surprising.
Sevigny and others have been studying the wetlands on behalf of the Tulalip Tribes since February, searching for amphibians such as tree frogs to salamanders. They're also tracking vegetation distribution patterns and measuring water quality.
It's tedious work. But the baseline study will help environmental planners and give the Tulalips a way to measure changes in the future.
Another study is being done in Quil Ceda Village, said state Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, who also is the village's general manager.
"We're constantly looking at the wetlands for salmon enhancement," he said.
Sevigny, a wildlife fisheries biologist, and others from the tribe and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission set out special traps to catch amphibians. They measure the larvae and tadpoles and keep samples of the adult amphibians.
By developing data on their size, the researchers can compare those in one wetland with those in another and see if some are developing faster or differently.
Even the wetlands close to houses and people appear to be in really good health.
"Throughout history, wetlands have gotten a bad rap. They're associated with stinky, smelly places that you can't use - you can't farm them or build your house there."
"In reality, they have the highest concentration of wildlife that use them on an annual basis," Sevigny said.
Environmentalists Seek Limits on Sonar
July 14, 2004 (ABC News) Environmentalists and Other Groups Want Limits on Sonar Linked to Whale Deaths
Environmental and animal rights groups threatened Wednesday to sue the Navy unless it takes new steps to protect whales and other species from booming waves of sonar designed to detect enemy submarines.
In a letter to Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, the groups said dozens of whales off the coast of Washington, Puerto Rico, the Canary Islands, Portugal, and other locations have beached themselves during Navy maneuvers sometimes hemorraging blood through their eyes and ears.
The letters signed by representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Futures Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Humane Society of the United States called on the Navy to identify low-risk areas for routine training, establish safety zones around transmit vessels, and reduce the strength of the sonar signals.
A study published in the science journal Nature last year said it appeared that whales and other marine mammals could be killed or harmed by the sonar. Scientists have theorized that when animals get frightened by the sound, they surface too quickly, causing nitrogen in the blood to transform into gas, which can block blood vessels and cause bleeding in vital organs.
The letter to the Navy followed a bizarre incident July 3 in which roughly 200 melon-headed whales herded together near the coast of Hanalei Bay in Hawaii. One beached itself and died a few days later.
Kerry unveils new forest plan that would cut timber subsidies
July 14, 2004 (Spokane Spokesman-Review) Democrat John Kerry would cut $100 million in annual government subsidies to the timber industry to pay for a new Forest Restoration Corps that would invest in the long-term health of national forests, his campaign said Tuesday.
Shifting spending from commercial logging operations on federal lands would allow for creation of new jobs while restoring forests, streams and rangelands that have been mismanaged or severely damaged by wildfires, campaign aides told the Associated Press.
The new program, reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps that President Franklin D. Roosevelt established during the Great Depression, is one of the highlights in a three-page plan titled "John Kerry's Forest Plan: Putting Communities First."
Proposal would drop forestland protections
July 13, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Protection of the nation's most remote and pristine wilderness would be significantly weakened under a proposal announced by the Bush administration yesterday.
It would make the nation's governors the final barrier against increasing logging and other activity.
The policy, announced by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, would lift a ban imposed by former President Clinton on building new roads in national forests, a step that effectively sealed those lands -- including 2 million acres in Washington state -- from commercial activity and all but the most determined hiker.
The new approach, which has broad support from the timber and resource industries as well as many Republican governors and members of Congress, would allow new roads to be built in previously undisturbed areas unless a governor asked that the land remain off-limits. Critics insist the policy would destroy some of the last pristine places in the country.
Although many governors in the West welcomed the proposal, Gov. Gary Locke called it a bad idea.
Environmentalists, members of Congress and other elected officials, however, immediately condemned Bush's proposal, calling it a sellout to big timber companies and yet another rollback of environmental protections that runs counter to sweeping public support for the original roadless rule.
A rare catch -- sockeye in Lake Washington
July 13, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, in consultation with tribal leaders, announced yesterday that enough sockeye are returning this year to allow recreational fishing in the lake from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sundown. It will be only the sixth time in the past 20 years that sockeye could be caught in the lake.
Steve Thiesfeld, the Department of Fish and Wildlife's recreational salmon biologist for Puget Sound, said the state and tribes agreed after reviewing weekend counts of sockeye from the Ballard Locks to update their sockeye run estimate to 385,000. The goal had been 350,000.
In 2002, 29,000 boats only caught an average of 12,000 sockeye a day over the three days fishing was allowed.
Contributing to this year's surplus is the temporary sockeye hatchery on the Cedar River.
Plan to cut back spilling water at dams challenged
July 12, 2004 (The Columbian) A federal judge in Portland will decide whether federal dam managers legally can divert summertime water toward dam turbines, rather than flushing ocean-bound salmon safely across Columbia Basin dam spillways.
Sixteen environmental groups on Friday amended a 2001 lawsuit over the operation of federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, charging the Army Corps of Engineers and National Marine Fisheries Service with violating the Endangered Species Act by approving a plan to reduce the planned summertime spilling by 39 percent.
Depending on one's outlook, spilling water could be viewed as extravagantly wasteful or the least dam managers can do for salmon imperiled by a river system drastically altered by hydroelectric dams.
Spilling water saps a dam's ability to generate surplus power that could be sold at market rates in California, thereby reducing wholesale rates in the Northwest. But biologists generally consider spilling water to be much safer for imperiled Snake River fall chinook than shooting them through turbines, where they might clang off the huge blades or suffer an effect similar to the bends in deep-sea divers.
The lawsuit is before U.S. District Judge James Redden. Oral arguments are set for July 28 in Portland.
New focus on sonar and whales
July 11, 2004 (Honolulu Advertiser) Residents of Hanalei Bay on the Hawaiian island of Kauai woke up last weekend to a distressing sight: As many as 200 melon-headed whales, a small and sociable species that usually stays in deep waters, were swimming in a tight circle as close as 100 feet from the beach, showing clear signs of stress.
Attention quickly focused on the Navy and its use of active sonar -- a wall of sound sent out to find underwater objects that can reach the decibel levels of a jet engine. Sonar has been implicated in several recent mass whale strandings around the world, and the latest research has strengthened the association and suggested that the actual number of incidents may be far greater than anyone realized. The most recent study found that over the past 40 years, mass strandings of the most noise-sensitive whales off Japan occurred repeatedly in the waters near a U.S.-run naval base, but were unknown in comparable areas elsewhere.
Several hours after the Hanalei Bay episode began, locals learned that a six-ship Navy fleet 20 miles out to sea had begun a sonar exercise the morning that the melon-headed whales headed toward shore.
Unless a different and convincing explanation can be found, the Hawaii incident is destined to become the newest case in a high-stakes battle between environmentalists and the military over a technology that has been a staple of Navy operations for decades. Marine mammal advocates say it has become increasingly apparent that sonar can lead to death for whales, porpoises and other sea creatures, and something must be done to limit its toll. But the military says that to protect the nation, it needs to use more sonar, not less.
Tardy whales appear to be back
July 9, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) As many as 27 "missing" orcas appeared to be wandering back into Washington state waters Thursday, about a month behind schedule.
The whales, including all of the group known as K Pod and about seven members of L Pod, were reportedly spotted by whale-watching boats and other observers in Canadian waters the past two days, said Howard Garrett of Orca Network, which keeps track of whale sightings.
Late Thursday afternoon, the whales were near Point Roberts and about to cross into U.S. waters, he said.
Garrett said J Pod and most of L Pod have been moving around in unusual patterns this year, possibly the result of a shortage of salmon in areas that typically have adequate runs. A relative abundance of salmon somewhere else, such around Vancouver Island, could keep the whales on the hunt until the runs increase in Washington state and they settle into a more familiar pattern, he noted.
Summer, 2004 (National Parks Magazine) Decades ago, this beach on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula would have been alive with members of the Lower Elhwa Klallam Tribe harvesting clams rather than catching waves. The Elwha Klallam have long lived on these shores, relying on the salmon that made their way up the river to spawn as well as little-neck clams and Dungeness crabs found along the shoreline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Chief among the foods for the Elwha Klallam, along with eagles and many other animals living upriver, was the salmon. In fact, the Elwha once was one of the most productive salmon streams on the West Coast, producing nearly 400,000 coho, pink, chum, and sockeye salmon, steelhead, and mighty chinook salmon that sometimes topped 100 pounds. But those prodigious runs halted some 90 years ago, when a dam was built a mere 4.9 miles upstream from the Elwha's mouth, blocking passage. A second dam, completed in 1926, further severed the river from its once-close ties to the Pacific Ocean.
The scheduled removal of the two dams across the 48-mile-long Elwha River means more than restoring a historic run for salmon. It also provides a remarkable opportunity to restore the ecosystem of one of the finest wilderness parks in the National Park System, the 922,651-acre Olympic National Park. The $182-million restoration project is second only to the massive $30-billion proposal to restore the Everglades.
"People just aren't aware of how important salmon are to an ecosystem," says Heather Weiner, NPCA's Northwest regional director. "This is really a wonderful chance to educate them about the role of salmon, that these fish are important for the health of rivers."
Making space for fish
July 6, 2004 (The Olympian) Rebuilt pond will provide salmon with place to rest
In a never-ending effort to increase the salmon population, the Nisqually tribe and the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group embarked last week on a two-part project at Yelm Creek. The project will rebuild a pond and open a logjam to allow fish to access the spawning area.
"The creek is providing some really good habitat already," said Jeanette Dorner, salmon recovery program manager for the Nisqually tribe.
"We see that there's a lot of potential here to really increase the productivity of salmon in the watershed."
Nooksack logjam project raises flooding concerns
July 6, 2004 (Bellingham Herald) A group of residents in this valley said a plan to remove a levee and construct up to a dozen logjams in a several-mile stretch of the south fork of the Nooksack River could leave them vulnerable to flooding.
The project, being shepherded by the Lummi Nation Indian tribe, is intended to help various species of salmon, including the spring chinook salmon, which are listed as "threatened" under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
The logjams will help widen the river, scour deep pools where adult salmon can rest on their way to spawning grounds and where juvenile salmon can hide from predators, said Jim Hanson, restoration coordinator for Lummi Nation. And the removal of an 800-foot-long levee will give the salmon additional access to the cool waters of Hutchinson Creek, which now enters the Nooksack River's south fork from behind the levee.
But some residents said without the levee, the river will cut a path through old, abandoned channels of Hutchinson Creek, including Old Hutchinson Creek, and during flooding could send river water raging toward their homes.
A whale's story begs good ending
July 5, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial) We see the makings of a nautical soap opera: A lost orca and its pod.
In every episode there's a dramatic new twist to what was once a simple plot -- help a lost orca find its way back to its pod.
The story so far:
Luna, the overly friendly killer whale, has been declared a danger to himself and to the public. So, Canadian fisheries officials have been trying to relocate the 5-year-old orca some 200 miles south where he can hook up with his pod.
This plot -- simple as it sounds -- has become awfully complicated.
First there's the issue of a Native Canadian band because they don't want the whale captured. A native band believes Luna, who appeared in Nootka Sound in 2001 after separating from his pod, embodies the spirit of its late chief.
Then there's the love interest. Too many people "love" Luna in inappropriate ways. Just last week the friendly whale broke off a sailboat rudder in Mooyah Bay. Before that, Luna surfaced near a landing floatplane -- and he has become "dangerously friendly" with boats and people. All reasons to make the pod whole in far-off waters.
The problems raised by Canadian Native groups can be resolved -- and they should be, quickly. But that means true partnership -- listening to the concerns and finding solutions that work for Luna as well as for the other parties.
This story deserves a happy ending.
Danger issue grows after Luna damages boat
July 2, 2004 (Victoria Times Colonist) Luna, the orca in Nootka Sound who has been the subject of a tug-of-whale between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, has disabled a saiboat in the middle of Mooyah Bay.
The solitary killer whale, who has developed an affinity for boats and planes because he does not have other whales to play with, broke the rudder off the Georgia Dawn on Wednesday morning, meaning the boat could not be steered.
The coast guard responded to the incident and the boat was towed into the nearby Tuta Marina by the Wi-Hut-Suh-Nup, an aluminium boat belonging to the Mowachaht-Muchalaht.
Luna's behaviour has again raised fears about how the playful orca can be controlled as boating season picks up in Nootka Sound.
DFO decided earlier this year that the four-year-old orca should be caught, transported to Pedder Bay and released when his pod was within acoustic range, because he had become a danger to himself and the public.
However, the plans went awry because the natives, who believe Luna embodies the spirit of their dead chief Ambrose Maquinna, lured the orca away from the net pen in their canoes.
The plans are on hold until DFO and the Mowachaht-Muchalaht come to some agreement on the future of the whale.
The natives want to lead Luna down the west coast of Vancouver Island in their canoes to rejoin his pod.
DFO spokeswoman Lara Sloan said Luna's disabling of the sailboat is a reminder to everyone why it was decided to move him.
"This is not unusual behaviour for him and it is the reason why we wanted to go ahead with the relocation in the first place," she said. "He is a public danger."
Sloan said DFO wants to remind everyone to keep as far away from Luna as possible and not habituate him to human contact any more than he already is.
Shirley Andrews, owner and manager of the Tuta Marina, referring to the sailboat incident, said, "This happened last year as well and it's why I would really like to see him reunited with his pod.
"He's a baby. He's just playing. He doesn't mean to be a danger, but he is."
Luna also dislikes fish finders, ripping them off boats even if they are turned off.
"They emit some kind of wave which he doesn't like," Andrews said.
However, there are ways to avoid Luna when you are out in a boat, she said.
"You simply accelerate out of there and get away. If you happen to be fishing, you crank your motor and back out of there."
Luna the whale breaks boat's rudder
July 2, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) An overly friendly young killer whale that Canadian fisheries officials have been trying to relocate has disabled a sailboat.
Luna broke the rudder off a sailboat in Mooyah Bay on Wednesday. The Canadian coast guard responded, and the boat was towed into a nearby marina by an aluminum boat belonging to local Indians.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans decided earlier this year that, because Luna was a danger to himself and the public, the orca should be caught, relocated to a bay 200 miles south of here near Victoria, then released when his U.S. relatives were close enough for him to hear their calls.
But the plan was put on hold last week after a dispute escalated with local Indians who don't want the 5-year-old whale captured.
They believe the whale embodies the spirit of their late chief.
Luna's rescue turns into a tug of war
July 1, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) What started out as a well-intentioned rescue mission -- to capture a killer whale stranded in British Columbia and reunite him with his Puget Sound relatives -- has dissolved into a public-relations nightmare.
Forced to suspend the operation a week ago after running into stiff resistance from local Indians, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans is now being chastised by members of its own international advisory panel.
The plan to capture the orca, named Luna, was abruptly called off after a band of Vancouver Island Indians derailed the effort for more than a week by entering Nootka Sound in dugout canoes and drawing the whale to them by making a racket -- singing and banging paddles.
Critics say the aquatic tug of war waged by the Mowachaht/Muchalaht band with the government may have been averted had First Nation representatives been included in the planning process, as recommended.
"The band has a legitimate grievance here," said Paul Spong, a member of the advisory panel and executive director of OrcaLab, a B.C.-based research group.
The band's chief, Mike Maquinna, has offered to lead Luna down the Vancouver coast in canoes to reunite him with his family. He wants to see the original plan scrapped and the process started over.
Some of the advisory panel's scientists also supported the idea of leading Luna by boat.
"That was my plan from the beginning," said Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Friday Harbor-based Center for Whale Research. Catching Luna in a pen "wasn't the preferred way, as far as I was concerned. I don't think there was a consensus."
"I didn't see any threat to people," Balcomb said of past visits to see Luna. "He's in total control of himself and what he's pushing around."
Besides, he said, there are still relatives out in the ocean that could swim past Luna's location and possibly entice him back.
Kinship with a killer whale July 1, 2004 (Christian Science Monitor)