Orca Network News - July, 2008
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
July 1, 2008 through July 31, 2008.
July 31, 2008 (KING5 TV)
If you see a harbor seal pup that appears to be abandoned on the beach, stay away from it. That's the message from the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
The Network says it's normal for seal pups to be left alone on the beach while their mother searches for food. It doesn't mean they're abandoned.
"We have been busy responding to seal pups in our region, most of them healthy and just needing to rest on the beach while mom is out catching lunch," said Susan Berta of Orca Network. "But we have also sadly had several incidents of people picking up and carrying the pups around, transporting them in boats and cars, and removing them from the beach to take to a veterinarian. These pups will never go back to their moms."
If the pup has been unattended for 48 hours, or is clearly in distress (injured), contact the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-866-ORCANET or 360-678-3451, or NMFS a 1-206-526-6733.
Swimmer: High-pitched noise preceded whale's stranding
July 31, 2008 (Maui News)
A Kihei man reported Wednesday that he heard what he believed were sonar noises in the water when he was swimming and diving off Papohaku Beach in west Molokai on Sunday.
Colin Crosby, who said he has been in Hawaii for 20 years, reported the sounds after learning about a whale stranding on the south shore of Molokai on Monday that some whale advocates suspect was the result of Navy sonar use.
A statement by Crosby was issued Wednesday by Earthjustice, the legal agency that has represented the Ocean Mammal Institute and other groups challenging sonar use around marine mammals.
A Navy spokesman, Mark Matsunaga, said he could not comment on whether there was sonar use occurring at the time Crosby reported hearing the noise, but he said the Navy is analyzing data on its training exercises using sonar.
Crosby told The Maui News he was swimming off the beach at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday when he heard what sounded like a squeal that repeated itself and increased in intensity.
"It was like an electronic wail that was increasing in pitch, a series of sounds like signals," he said.
He said he and others camping with him heard the sound even when they were out of the water. But Crosby said he did not see any ships or other potential sources of the sound nearby.
The Earthjustice statement said the Cuvier's beaked whale, a deep-diving whale, is believed to be vulnerable to mid-frequency sonar, which was scheduled to be used during Navy exercises as part of the ongoing Rim of the Pacific program.
Paul Achitoff, an Earthjustice attorney, said the evidence "is about as strong as it can be," with a whale known to be susceptible to injury from sonar stranding a day after sonar soundings were heard in the area.
National Marine Fisheries Services to review effects of pesticides on salmon and steelhead
July 31, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
The National Marine Fisheries Services will review the effects of 37 pesticides on salmon and steelhead under a lawsuit settlement reached Wednesday with environmental and fishing groups.
The federal fisheries agency will complete the reviews over a four-year period. The first deadlines are in October, when the agency is supposed to finalize three biological opinions on organophosphate pesticides.
Most of the 37 pesticides have been found in California and Pacific Northwest rivers used by salmon and steelhead. Currently, a court order requires farmers - as a temporary measure - to leave buffer strips between fields sprayed with these pesticides and many salmon streams, according to Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney for Earthjustice, which represents the plaintiffs.
Oregon's Sandy River successfully reinvents itself after dam removal
July 30, 2008 (Oregonian)
Scientists are impressed how fast the river is digesting Marmot Dam sediment
The removal of the nearly 50-foot-high dam by Portland General Electric in October gave scientists perhaps their best chance to watch as a river digested a vast amount of rocks, sand and gravel collected over many decades in a reservoir.
Some had worried that sediment piled behind the dam would suffocate salmon and block tributaries downstream. It did nothing of the sort. In fact, the river has since digested the equivalent of about 150 Olympic-size swimming pools full of sediment -- without a hiccup.
"Never has this much sediment been released at once into such an active and hungry river," said Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station. He has studied the dam removal and given presentations on the results at conferences from Sacramento to Venice, Italy.
He was just invited to give his Marmot Dam talk in China.
"There's a global interest right now in river restoration," Grant said. "Marmot is certainly one of the best-documented and most spectacular examples of dam removal in the sense that the river was allowed to process the material itself."
The river has so far removed about half the material backed up behind the dam. It's difficult to tell that a dam once blocked the popular salmon stream. The river shoves and piles gravel and cuts into the shore the way a healthy river should.
Scientists were especially impressed with how rapidly the river scoured the sediment away. Some models predicted the river would need two to five years to carry off half the sediment pile, but it did so in months.
"One of the best things to come out of this is learning how it can be done, and done successfully," Alsbury said. "I really just could not believe how quickly it looked natural again."
Removing the dam makes for faster and easier fish access to about 100 miles of river above the dam. The project also calls for removing a dam on the Little Sandy this summer, opening six miles of salmon stream that had been completely blocked.
Whale stranding provokes claims of a sonar injury
July 30, 2008 (Maui News)
A coalition of opponents of the Navy's use of sonar in training around Hawaii charged on Tuesday that a 15-foot whale stranded on Molokai was injured by sonar use during the Navy's RIMPAC exercises.
A necropsy and a magnetic resonance imaging examination were performed on the whale Tuesday after it was flown to Oahu and examined at a laboratory at Hawaii Pacific University, she said.
It quoted a whale researcher, Robin Baird of Cascadia Research, in charging that Cuvier's beaked whales "appear to be particularly susceptible to harm from midfrequency active sonar."
"The exact mechanism of harm is not known, but whales stranded in association with naval exercises have exhibited gas bubble lesions, somewhat similar to the bends that human divers experience when they rise too quickly from a long dive," Baird said.
Rare whale death raises questions on Navy
July 30, 2008 (Navy Times)
Federal authorities plan to conduct a necropsy of a rare species of whale that was found stranded in shallow waters off Molokai this week.
The Coast Guard flew the carcass of the 2,000-pound, 15-foot-long Cuvier's beaked whale to Oahu where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will try to determine what caused the whale to beach itself.
Beaked whales have been at the center of a dispute over the Navy's use of midfrequency sonar ever since several washed ashore with bleeding around their brains and ears during naval exercises in the Bahamas in 2000.
Marine mammal researchers say beaked whales appear to be most susceptible to the impact of sonar but haven't pinpointed exactly why.
The Navy is holding a monthlong series of international naval drills, the Rim of the Pacific exercises, in Hawaii waters through Thursday. Sailors were scheduled to practice using sonar during the last stage of the exercises.
Don't forget about orcas
July 30, 2008 (PNW)
Whidbey Island's Orca Network continually does good work in keeping orca whales in the minds of islanders and others who love Puget Sound.
The small population of Southern Resident orca whales delights islanders on a regular basis on both sides of Whidbey Island. Their great black-and-white bodies can be seen in Penn Cove, Admiralty Inlet and Saratoga Passage as they pursue their favorite meal of salmon. People with view homes see them most often, but sometimes others get lucky and see them while boating, walking the beach or taking a ferry. It's a sight that is never forgotten. Without the orcas, the Puget Sound area would lose its soul.
On Friday, Aug. 8, the Orca Network is remembering a dark chapter in the history of Puget Sound: the days in the 1960s and early ‘70s when orcas, then called killer whales, were captured and sold to aquariums. Forty-five whales were captured while 13 others died in the roundups. The population barely survived and to this day is still struggling to recover. Orcas are long-lived in the wild, but only one captured orca is alive today. Efforts continue to free Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium and bring her home to Puget Sound.
The Captain Whidbey Inn, which overlooks Penn Cove in which the most notorious orca roundup took place, is the site of the Aug. 8 event. There will be displays, speakers and much information on how to help save the orcas. If you want to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-ORCANET. Proceeds further educational efforts, which is ultimately the only way to save the orcas.
Navy blasts not big threat to fish, orcas, feds decide
July 30, 2008 (Seattle Times)
The U.S. Navy can keep setting off underwater explosions in Puget Sound without posing a serious threat to protected salmon, steelhead and orcas, a federal wildlife agency has concluded.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that dozens of naval exercises involving explosive charges up to 20 pounds could kill thousands of salmon. But the agency also said it wouldn't make a significant dent in the overall fish populations and the Navy had taken steps to minimize the damage.
The training is being closely watched by some environmental groups, who fear the underwater blasts could hurt salmon, orcas and seabirds protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The local Wild Fish Conservancy and the Washington, D.C.-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, claiming the Navy, NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service broke the law by letting explosions continue while failing to rule whether they threatened endangered species.
NMFS examined Navy training involving as many as 61 detonations per year in three places: Crescent Harbor, off the east side of Whidbey Island; Port Townsend Bay; and the northern part of Hood Canal.
The most serious damage could come in Crescent Harbor, where as many as 3,000 juvenile chinook and 23 adult chinook could be killed each year.
But that would be more than offset by a Navy project to restore a wetland nearby along the shore, which could produce as many as 15,000 young chinook and 250 adults returning to the nearby Skagit River.
The fisheries service said a Navy policy to check the area for animals such as orcas before setting off explosions would help minimize risks.
Governors' plan aims to make ocean healthier
July 30, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
West Coast governors Tuesday released an action plan for improving ocean health by curbing pollution, preventing oil spills and reducing harmful shoreline development.
The strategy also calls for a coordinated look at ecologically sound offshore energy development, including "opposing all new offshore oil and gas leasing, development and production" and investigating renewable wind, wave, current and tidal energy.
"Our ocean currents ... don't know any boundaries," said Gov. Chris Gregoire. "We share the same problems. Today we say, like we have on global climate change, we share the responsibility to find the same solutions."
The agreement also was signed by Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. All three held a joint press conference Tuesday by satellite.
Environmental groups likewise were united in their support of the effort.
Environmentalists Blame RIMPAC For Beached Whale
July 29, 2008 (KITV)
Environmentalists are blaming the Navy's RIMPAC exercises for a whale beaching itself on Molokai.
The whale repeatedly "stranded itself" on Molokai Monday, and a veterinarian euthanized the whale in the afternoon, officials said.
The Navy said it would be "speculative" to connect the whale's death to its exercises in the Pacific Ocean this month, but environmental lawyers who have sued the Navy over sonar's effect on whales in the past said the Navy's response is a "disgrace."
The 2,500-pound whale went ashore at Kawela Beach, north of Kaunakakai on Molokai, and kept stranding himself even after volunteers pushed him back into the ocean several times.
Scientists said it is a Cuvier's beaked whale that lives in deep water. Now, they are trying to figure out why it beached himself.
The death happened during the Rim of the Pacific military exercises, when 35 naval ships from 10 countries hold exercises in waters around Hawaii.
Groups sue Navy over explosives disposal
July 29, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Two environmental organizations, one based in the Seattle area and another in Washington, D.C., on Monday sued the Navy in federal court, saying that its continuing practice of detonating explosives in Puget Sound is potentially harmful to marine life and out of compliance with at least two major environmental protection laws.
"We believe they are in violation of the law," said Brian Knutsen, a Seattle attorney representing the D.C.-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Wild Fish Conservancy, a local group with headquarters in Duvall.
According to the lawsuit, the Navy conducts anywhere from three to five training exercises every month in which personnel detonate explosives in Puget Sound to dispose of them and to improve ordnance handling
The detonations, which the plaintiffs said take place in Hood Canal, Crescent Harbor and offshore from Port Townsend, cause "substantial fish kills and other impacts to the marine environment."
Rarely seen beaked whale dies on Molokai
July 29, 2008 (KHON Honolulu)
A rarely seen sea mammal beached itself on Molokai today.
Residents and visitors made numerous attempts to save the beaked whale, but late this afternoon, the animal had to be euthanized.
Beaked whales sort of looks like dolphins.
They usually spend their time deep in the ocean, so you wouldn't usually see them if you went whale watching.
Beaked whales are deep sea animals that feed on or near the ocean floor.
Beaked whales are highly sensitive to sonar waves, but no word yet on what caused this whale to beach itself.
"No visible injuries other than what's described as reef rash, you know on its belly," said Drew Murphy.
The whale's carcass was flown to Oahu by the Coast Guard tonight.
NOAA's partners at Hawaii Pacific University will do a necropsy -- to hopefully find out what may have caused the animal to beach itself.
Killer whales suspected in deaths of 3 humpbacks
July 23, 2008 (Anchorage Daily News)
At least three dead adult humpback whales are floating in the waters of Lower Cook Inlet and killer whales are suspected.
North Gulf Oceanic Society researchers first spotted the dead humpbacks Sunday near East Chugach Island, Pearl Island and Kachemak Bay.
"Definitely, there's been killer whales on these humpbacks and it's thought they were preyed upon by killer whales," said Barbara Mahoney, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
But did the killer whales actually kill the humpbacks, or did they just happen on the carcasses and feed on them?
Some killer whales kill other whales and some don't. Transient killer whales do.
Transient, mammal-eating killer whales feed primarily on sea lions, seals, porpoises and other whales. They prey silently. They are not to be confused with the more gregarious, fish-eating, "resident" killer whales, said Kate Wynne, a marine mammal specialist with the University of Alaska.
Resident killer whales are known to frequent many of the same areas, but do not socialize with the transients, Wynne said.
There are about 70 or 80 transient killer whales in the Gulf of Alaska, compared to about 700 identified resident killer whales, Matkin said.
Dolphin call tells calf who's mum
July 23, 2008 (BBC)
Female bottlenose dolphins whistle 10 times more often than usual after giving birth in order to help newborns recognise who is "mum".
The findings by a US team appear in the journal Marine Mammal Science.
These "signature whistles" are unique to each animal, allowing them to be used for identification.
Bottlenose dolphins are highly social; in their first weeks, calves encounter many adult females that they could potentially mistake for their mothers.
Scientists report non-native fish threat to salmon
July 22, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
A panel of scientists has advised letting anglers catch more shad, smallmouth bass and walleye in the Columbia and Snake rivers to help out wild salmon.
The reason is that hydroelectric dams have turned the rivers into a series of lakes where non-native fish have an advantage. Those fish eat a lot of baby salmon, compete with salmon for food and pass on disease.
But the head of fisheries for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says not enough people fish for these species to make much difference.
Ed Bowles noted that there's been a bounty on northern pike minnow, a voracious predator of young salmon, and their numbers still have not been appreciably reduced.
The Independent Science Advisory Board report said non-native species -- fish, shellfish and plants -- should be treated as a significant threat to salmon, on a par with habitat loss, climate change and development from a growing human population. It identified the reservoirs behind dams as hotbeds of non-native species, where they are better adapted to warmer and more slow moving water than salmon.
Bowles said the dams remain the No. 1 threat to Columbia salmon, slowing the migration of young fish to the ocean and making them easier targets for predators, whether fish, birds or mammals.
Salmon thrive in Canadian desert
July 17, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Dateline Earth)
That's right -- not only does Canada have a desert. It has a desert where salmon, quite apart from the downturns elsewhere -- are doing pretty well.
So reports Mark Hume of the The Globe and Mail's West coast bureau. Where a run of sockeye was falling off the charts, a tribal organization called the Okanagan Nation Alliance worked with a variety of organizations on both sides of the border to return the run.
These sockeye are coming up the Columbia, and it's starting to look like they will return this year in big enough numbers for Native Americans -- First Nations, as they're known north of the 49th Parallel -- will actually be able to catch fish again for the first time in a long, long time, Hume reports. And it looks to be a record return. Where 14,000 sockeye spawned at Osoyoos Lake just five years ago, the biologists are expecting something like 10 times that this year -- maybe more.
EPA details perils of climate change
July 15, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Government scientists detailed a rising death toll from heat waves, wildfires, disease and smog caused by global warming in an analysis the White House buried so it could avoid regulating greenhouse gases.
In a 149-page document released Monday, the experts laid out for the first time the scientific case for the grave risks that global warming poses to people, and to the food, energy and water on which society depends.
"Risk [to human health, society and the environment] increases with increases in both the rate and magnitude of climate change," scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency said. Global warming, they wrote, is "unequivocal" and humans are to blame.
The document suggests extreme weather events and diseases carried by ticks and other organisms could kill more people as temperatures rise.
U.S. proposes to put smelt on endangered list
July 10, 2008 (San Francisco Chronicle)
The delta smelt, a tiny but important fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, could officially become "endangered" under a proposal announced Wednesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Smelt are an indicator of the delta's health, and nearly 750,000 acres of farmland and 25 million people from the Bay Area to Central and Southern California rely on water from the delta.
The smelt population has plummeted with the decline of the delta's health, and in 1993 it was listed as threatened.
The smelt, once ubiquitous in delta waters, is now close to extinction and could disappear entirely within two years. The debate over its status follows a federal court order last year to reduce delta pumping and to study the inadvertent killing of smelt at two giant pumping stations near Tracy, where fresh delta water is diverted throughout California.
The condition of the delta, once a rich, biologically diverse refuge of fish and wildlife, is regarded by many environmentalists as dire. Some say it is no longer a true delta but a maze of man-made islands bordered by stagnant sloughs and buttressed by fragile levees that will disappear in the next big earthquake.
Other delta species have been classified as endangered, including the coho salmon and the winter-run chinook salmon. The steelhead, the green sturgeon and the spring-run chinook salmon are classified as threatened.
Orca may join Snells' pod
July 8, 2008 (Stuff.co.nz - New Zealand)
The Conservation Department hopes the juvenile orca released from Takapuna Beach at the weekend will catch up with another pod.
A group of between 10 and 15 has been seen off Martins Bay near Snells Beach.
"All we can do is let it get on with its life and look after it when it's in trouble."A phone number for sightings has been set up by Orca Research Trust founder Ingrid Visser.
"We welcome her expertise. She understands orcas better than anyone in the country," Mr Trusewich says.
Rescue risked orca's life: expert
July 8, 2008 (New Zealand Herald)
Shifting a young orca from one side of Auckland to the other on a trailer was risking its life, an expert on marine mammals says.
Associate Professor Liz Slooten, an Otago University marine mammal biologist, said last night that although orca had a large home range - they had been known to move between Auckland and Kaikoura - the 4-year-old female rescued on Friday would be in danger if it remained on its own.
While she was unwilling to criticise the animal's relocation by trailer from Auckland's west coast to Takapuna Beach on the east, she questioned whether there were alternatives.
Orca Research Trust founder Dr Ingrid Visser, who spent yesterday unsuccessfully hunting for it among other orca, said it was relocated because of the danger trying to refloat it in the rough seas at Whatipu posed to it and its rescuers.
Another factor was that the orca was likely to join a new pod.
"We wouldn't have done it if it wasn't viable. The orca social structure in New Zealand is very fluid. The animals move quite frequently from one group to another and spend years with one group then maybe just a couple of weeks with another group."
Entangled whale in Juan de Fuca missing
July 8, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Rescuers on Monday are waiting for another sighting of a humpback whale spotted over the weekend entangled in crab pot lines so they can attempt to free it.
The director of the Olympia-based Cascadia Research, John Calambokidis says the "word is out" Monday for boaters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The whale was last seen Sunday near Clallam Bay, tangled in lines with three buoys.
The young animal had multiple crab lines attached around the pectoral fin, mouth and trailing back to the fluke had scars indicating it had been entangled for quite some time, a Cascade Research news release said.
U.S. coral reefs in decline, report says
July 8, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Almost half of the coral-reef ecosystems in U.S. territory are in poor or fair condition, mostly because of rising ocean temperatures, according to a government report released Monday.
The reefs discussed in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report serve as breeding grounds for many of the world's seafood species and act as indicators of overall ocean health.
"They are a major indicator of something that could go wrong with the environment," said Timothy Keeney, NOAA's deputy assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere.
Keeney said 25 percent of all marine species need coral reefs to live and grow, while 40 percent of the fish caught commercially use reefs to breed.
"If we lose the reefs, you lose a very significant and important habitat," Keeney said.
The report found that coral bleaching caused largely by rising sea temperatures is a major factor. Carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels is absorbed by the oceans and makes the waters more acidic and corrosive on corals.
Land-based pollution, such as sewage, beach erosion, coastal development and overfishing also are to blame.
Watchers in NW Washington look for entangled humpback whale
July 7, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
John Calambokidis, director of Cascadia Research, a marine mammal research group, says searchers last saw the whale early Sunday off Slip Point east of Clallam Bay before it disappeared.
Calambokidis says the whale, apparently a calf, was tangled in lines through its mouth and around its left pectoral fin.
He says the situation is life-threatening, because the whale will continue to grow, but the lines will not stretch.
Lost orca needs public's help
July 7, 2008 (New Zealand Herald)
Aucklanders can help to save a healthy but confused killer whale today by keeping an eye out for the lost orca.
Washed up on the city's west coast on Friday and relaunched on the east coast's Takapuna Beach on Saturday, the orca was spotted high up the inner Waitemata Harbour's Henderson Creek yesterday by a pair of kayakers.
Orca Research staff responded, with police, coastguard and boaties, to try to shepherd the juvenile 4-year-old female to the Hauraki Gulf.
But boat traffic, especially from ferries, further confused the whale, Orca Research Trust founder Dr Ingrid Visser told the Herald.
Orca hunted stingray, often into very shallow water, and juveniles sometimes came in too far, she said.
"But we've spent about five hours with her and she's still swimming very strongly. She's just a bit disoriented as to how to get out. And that's understandable. She doesn't have a map in her head of the harbour. Normally she has her family to tell her where to go."
State and local governments side with builders on runoff pollution
July 7, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Yet who's standing in the way of requiring building techniques that a growing chorus of scientists says could rein in the largest source of most of Puget Sound's worst pollutants?
Gregoire's Ecology Department. And the city of Seattle. And King County. And Tacoma, and Pierce and Snohomish counties, and other local governments.
All are fighting in a state administrative court proceeding against environmentalists who want to require builders to use "low impact" techniques. Those methods slurp up rainwater that, in traditional developments, carries away pesticides, fertilizer, oil, dog poop and the other residues of our daily lives, dumping them in a nearby stream or bay.
We know how to stop this so-called stormwater pollution: development that mimics natural conditions, with big swaths of greenery to soak up rainwater. This building method minimizes hard surfaces such as rooftops and asphalt, replacing them if possible with plant-covered roofs, porous pavement and other techniques that soak up the rain.
The flood was a dramatic example of what goes on whenever we get a heavy rain -- even when we escape floods, we increasingly pollute the Sound as development increases runoff.
Late last year, a team of more than 80 government scientists said stormwater is the major source of more than a dozen toxics plaguing the Sound, including arsenic, cadmium, copper, dioxin and PCBs.
Tom Holz is mad.
"I don't care what low-impact development costs the developer, it's cheaper for society," said the planner and engineer who has been pushing the concept for years. "Right now, it's a developer's choice whether we save Puget Sound and our fish."
Wind surge poses a risk to salmon and reveals flaws in BPA's power-regulating system
July 5, 2008 (Oregonian)
Columbia Basin river managers had a close call this week when they were forced to cut back on hydropower after a surge in wind energy blasted through the system.
The surge forced them to spill more water over dams, risking the health of migrating fish. For the first time, it also exposed serious kinks in a plan that was supposed to deal smoothly with just such emergencies.
As it turned out, the spills weren't heavy enough to harm fish. But the federal Bonneville Power Administration admitted that confusion and missteps by the agency and wind-farm operators marred proper handling of the situation.
"It was a wake-up call," said Brian Silverstein, a BPA transmission vice president.
Wind energy has grown dramatically in the Columbia River Gorge the past several years. Though touted as a clean and renewable resource, it also has increased stress on the hydropower system, which is used to balance wind's variability.
Problems began Monday afternoon when wind speeds jumped far beyond levels forecast by wind-farm operators. BPA, responsible for adjusting hydro generation to accommodate the wind, realized by evening that it could no longer handle the sustained surge without increasing spills to dangerous levels
Generally, spills are needed to help juvenile salmon make their way downriver. But too much water can prove lethal.
Cheers as young orca swims away
July 5, 2008 (New Zealand Herald)
A young orca is back at sea after more than a dozen volunteers completed an extraordinary overnight rescue mission yesterday.
The whale was driven 43km to Takapuna Beach on the back of a flat-top trailer after being stranded on the other side of the Auckland isthmus for more than 24 hours.
Among the crowd was the son of late, legendary ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Jean-Michel Cousteau, a renowned explorer, environmentalist and film producer in his own right, and his son Fabien are in New Zealand as guests of orca expert Ingrid Visser to shoot a documentary.
Cousteau told the Herald on Sunday the markings on the stranded whale suggested other orca had unsuccessfully tried to pull her back into the water.
The rescuers, joined by Project Jonah volunteers and Auckland Regional Council staff, raced against the incoming tide to manoeuvre the 3.4m orca, thought to be a 4-year-old female, onto a flat-top trailer so she could be moved to neighbouring, more sheltered Huia Beach.
Overnight, about 14 rescuers worked in pairs in two-hour shifts to keep her wet and comfortable.
Yesterday morning they drove her to Takapuna Beach, where she would have a better chance of navigating her way into open seas.
Five rescuers in bodysuits eased her into the water, rocking her to help her regain her equilibrium.
After a few tense minutes, she began swimming unaided, drawing a cheer from the crowd.
Salmon is keystone species for region
July 4, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Besides supporting fishermen, salmon is a keystone species in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, supporting wildlife from birds to bears and orcas.
A crash could cripple dependent creatures.
Mary Ruckelshaus, a federal biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, has been running climate models to peer into the future for Pacific Northwest salmon. Those models predict salmon will become extinct without aggressive efforts to preserve the clear, cool streams needed for spawning, efforts such as planting trees to shade streams and curtailing the amount of water siphoned off by farmers.
"It's sort of a time bomb," Ruckelshaus said.
Her models didn't factor in the potential for emerging diseases, such as the one that Richard Kocan, a fish-disease expert at the University of Washington and her former professor, has been studying.
Kocan views Ichthyophonus, or "ich," as a classic emerging disease. In the past decade, it has shown up in salmon on the Yukon, Kuskokwim and Taku rivers in Alaska and on various rivers in Washington, British Columbia and Russia.
Alaska's sick salmon
July 4, 2008 (Seattle Times)
More Alaskan salmon caught in Tanana end up in the dog pot these days, their orange-pink flesh fouled by disease that scientists have correlated with warmer water in the Yukon River.
The sorting of winners and losers at Moore's riverbank fish camp illustrates what scientists have been predicting will accompany global warming: Cold-temperature barriers are giving way, allowing parasites, bacteria and other disease-spreading organisms to move toward higher latitudes.
On Wildlife Conservation - A recipe for wild salmon
July 3, 2008 (San Francisco Chronicle)
The recipe for bringing back wild salmon is simple - ample cold, clean water; access to spawning and rearing areas; and abundant supplies of food. It's not complicated, but it will require a sustained commitment from everyone who values wild, local salmon.
Those who love to dine on salmon today are faced with a choice: wild-caught salmon harvested by fishermen or farmed salmon grown and harvested in captivity. This year, with the collapse of the West Coast's commercial salmon fishery, locally caught, wild California salmon is not available, but wild-caught Alaskan salmon is. We must continue to choose and demand wild, rather than farmed, salmon - on our plates, in our markets, and in our restaurants.
30,000 salmon escape farm pen
July 3, 2008 (Victoria Times Colonist)
A lone commercial seiner combed waters around Frederick Arm north of Campbell River yesterday in a vain effort to catch 30,000 escaped farm-raised Atlantic salmon.
The escape was one of the biggest for Marine Harvest Canada, the largest aquaculture business in the province.
It renewed First Nation, NDP and environmentalist calls for the industry to move to closed containers to raise fish and other marine species not native to Pacific coast waters.
But Homalco First Nation Chief Darren Blaney said the best intentions won't put an end to the accidental release of Atlantic salmon.
Raising the non-native species in closed containers is the only solution to protecting native stocks from the pollution, sea lice and disease possible from the farmed stock, he said.
Ruby Berry, salmon aquaculture campaign director for the Georgia Strait Alliance, said the industry talks about wanting to move to closed containers but "if they don't have to, they won't. ... Once they are required to [by law] the change will happen very quickly.
Backman predicted that the majority of the escapees would be eaten by seals and killer whales in the area. "Few will survive more than a few weeks or months."
But Blaney disagreed, saying Atlantic salmon have increasingly been found in rivers in the area that are depleted of Pacific salmon stocks. Blaney fears the Atlantic salmon will acclimatize to the streams, permanently affecting Pacific stocks.
Maury Island mine gets go-ahead from feds
July 3, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Opponents say they'll appeal in federal court
Federal environmental regulators, dismissing environmentalists' fears, gave the go-ahead Wednesday for a mining company to massively expand its operations on Maury Island at the edge of Puget Sound.
It was one of few obstacles remaining for Glacier Northwest to build a dock to accommodate football field-size barges to haul away sand and gravel that lies buried under hillsides covered in red-barked madrone trees.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it had carefully checked into each environmental issue raised by opponents but concluded they did not bear further study.
Opponents questioned how a big expansion of mining could be allowed on the shores of Puget Sound just as a major campaign to rescue the ecologically ailing water body is being launched.
"The process doesn't give us an answer on whether it's good for Puget Sound or bad for Puget Sound," said Kathy Kunz, chief of the regulatory section in the corps' Seattle office. "It is: Is it consistent with our regulations? And in this case, we found it is consistent."
Glacier Northwest called the decision, which followed approval by the Shoreline Hearings Board and two courts among others, "a major milestone."
Environmentalists, residents of Vashon and Maury islands and others asked the corps to order an in-depth environmental study that could have delayed the project for years. They fear harm to orcas and salmon, as well as other effects.
"This is not a surprise. The Army Corps of Engineers does not deny permits. We knew that," said Amy Carey, president of Preserve Our Islands, the group spearheading opposition. "It's an embarrassment for the corps. They've blatantly ignored rational and fact-based science ... (that) shows there will be significant risk to environmental and public health."
Opponents immediately announced plans to appeal the corps' decision in federal court. They already are appealing to a state administrative law judge to overturn the state Department of Fish and Wildlife's approval of the project.
Cousteau helps our Ingrid explore links between orca and humans
July 2, 2008 (Northern Advocate - New Zealand)
Working with Tutukaka's Ingrid Visser, of the Orca Research Trust, Mr Cousteau and his team hope to show similarities between humans and orca, "our marine counterparts".
Dr Visser had spotted orca from Antarctica in New Zealand waters. Now Mr Cousteau wanted to show the same whales travelled as far north as Papua New Guinea. Mr Cousteau was also concerned about the effect human beings had on the health of orca.
The documentary is tentatively titled Jean-Michel's Ocean Adventures: Mirror in the Water. It will screen on the National Geographic channel after its release next April.
Flip Nicklin, Alaska's whale ambassador to the world
July 1, 2008 (Alaska Magazine)
Flip Nicklin was once the nation's foremost whale photographer. His new job? Alaska's whale ambassador to the world.
Like a log floating on the surface of the choppy water, Flip Nicklin kicks and glides toward a giant circle of calm water off the coast of Lahaina, Hawaii. The circle-called a footprint-was created when a juvenile male humpback whale pumped its tail flukes to dive.
The footprint is a window to the world below. As Nicklin approaches, he can see the whale hanging straight down, hovering like an airplane on its nose, 20 feet below the surface. In this position, the whale is singing - a haunting, repetitive song that befuddled scientists for decades.
Quietly, Nicklin readies his camera, protected by a waterproof housing, and takes a deep breath. Then, almost effortlessly, he descends, free-diving to within feet of the behemoth, camera shutter clicking as the whale's song resonates in his bones.
Nicklin retired from the magazine with the publication of his last story in January 2007. Since then he has embraced a new role as whale ambassador to the world, focusing on North Pacific humpbacks, a population that spends summers in the Gulf of Alaska. He's working to establish an interpretive whale center in Juneau. Nicklin sees his life as a perpetual opportunity to teach people about Alaska's whales and the research that scientists are doing to better understand these amazing creatures.
"There's an incredible amount of important whale research going on right now," said Nicklin, who contributes to research but does not have formal academic credentials. "Somebody's got to get the word out and tell people about it."
A whale of a vision? Perhaps. But Jan Straley, who runs Sitka's WhaleFest, said that with Nicklin's winning personality and wealth of experience around whales, he might just be the best person to garner international attention for one of Alaska's most recognizable natural resources.
"Nobody does as good of a job as Flip at taking what researchers are doing and making that accessible to a general audience," she said. "Between his photographs and his efforts to raise awareness about research, there's no way to meet him and not be completely enthralled by the mere presence of whales."
"His passion and enthusiasm for whales and whale research is contagious" she said. "Most people already know his photography when they get involved, but for those who don't, seeing whales through his pictures is like a religious experience. They see the images, they hear his voice, and they just open up."
Flipper fondness down to PR pranks
July 1, 2008 (ABC Australia)
Dolphins are very cute and seemingly cuddly. But, according to Dr Karl, ya'd bettter watch your back when you're out in the water with 'em.
Dolphins get amazingly good press - even the Encyclopędia Britannica tells us that they are "noted for their friendliness to humans". They have enjoyed massive popular acclaim over the last few thousand years.
But don't you believe it - dolphins are just another wild animal, albeit with a cute smile. In fact, that permanent, fixed smile is not because they love us - it's just a happy accident caused by the curve of their mouth.
Overall, dolphins are perceived as creatures of universal love and goodwill, intent on spreading peace on Earth.
Trevor R. Spradlin and his colleagues presented a paper on this topic at the Wild Dolphin Swim Program Workshop.
They pointed out that "people have been seriously injured while trying to interact with wild dolphins" and "dolphins have been known to bite, ram, and pull people under the water's surface".
People helping to suffocate Hood Canal, scientists say
July 1, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Septic systems leaking nitrogen from sewage into the southern end of the picturesque fjord are contributing to a chain reaction that kills fish and depletes the richness of underwater life, scientists announced Monday at a summit in Bremerton.
The findings confirm what had been suspected for some time - that population growth and septic drain fields are a likely culprit behind lethally low underwater oxygen levels.
But the results of three years of intensive work by scientists have found that human impacts on an ecosystem can come even in surprising ways. Logging, for instance, has paved the way for more alder trees, which in turn release nitrogen into Hood Canal.
The scientific findings were released at a daylong meeting in Bremerton, held nearly six years after the first in a string of fish kills set off alarms about the health of Hood Canal.
Nitrogen has long been suspected as the chief culprit for the Hood Canal's woes, because it fertilizes algae growth. When the algae dies and decomposes, it sucks oxygen from surrounding water.
But where exactly was the nitrogen coming from? And what can make things get so bad that beaches are strewn with dead fish?
It turns out the ocean is the single biggest source of nitrogen flowing into the canal. And of the human activities, the amount of nitrogen coming from alders dwarfs septic tanks.
A study of layers of muck at the bottom of the canal showed low oxygen levels emerged periodically even centuries ago.
But today, heavily populated areas play a critical role by delivering doses of nitrogen during the most sensitive time, in some of the canal's most vulnerable areas, according to researchers.
Human influences - mostly septic tanks - can cut oxygen in the water in the southern end by half, or more, during critical summer months.
U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, who has helped steer more than $7 million in federal money toward the research, said remedies will likely include costly new sewage systems for parts of Hood Canal.