Orca Network News - July, 2009
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
July 1, 2009 through July 31, 2009.
July 31, 2009 (Save Our Wild Salmon)
Today, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), joined by 20 additional co-sponsors from across the nation, introduced the Salmon Solutions and Planning Act (SSPA) in the House of Representatives. The bill would provide Congress and federal agencies with up-to-date, thorough information about how best to protect and restore wild salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest's Columbia and Snake River Basin.
Challenging the expensive status quo while calling for an approach that puts all recovery options, including lower Snake River dam removal, on the table, Congressman McDermott said, "I'm not willing to practice the politics of extinction, doing nothing until there is nothing left to do, until there are no more wild salmon left to save. I'm willing to listen, but I'm not willing to wait."
United States taxpayers and Northwest ratepayers have spent more than $8 billion on efforts to protect and restore endangered wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake River Basin. And yet, populations of wild Snake River salmon have shown little improvement since being listed under the Endangered Species Act in the 1990s; most are hovering well below levels required for recovery. Declining runs have curtailed fisheries and hurt regional economies throughout the Pacific salmon states of Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
"For the fishing industry, it's all about the jobs - and we've lost more than 25,000 fishing-related jobs coastwide due to the decline of Columbia-Snake River salmon. Without abundant, harvestable populations of salmon, our coastal communities will never economically recover," said Glen Spain, Northwest Regional Director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, a major commercial fishing industry group. "This new bi-partisan bill gives President Obama and Congress a chance to step in and ensure an economic future for salmon-dependent communities through sound science and effective salmon restoration, instead of the denial and bungling of the past."
Orcas and Ecotourism
July 31, 2009 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog by Candace Calloway Whiting)
How much of our fascination with orcas is too much? How many boats, how much underwater noise can they take? At what point, given the dwindling salmon supply, are the whales either going to leave this area permanently or gradually succumb to the environmental stressors and just die off?
No one knows. And that is the problem.
We do know that they are endangered locally, and their survival depends upon our ability to figure it out and set sustainable guidelines…compromises between our desire to watch them as they live their lives as wild, free, and peaceful animals and their ability to cope with us. And in these rotten economic times, we do have to take into serious consideration the businesses and individuals that rely upon the income generated by whale watching tourism. But the whales may not be able to endure it much longer.
King salmon are mostly a no show in Puget Sound, but hope is the good fishing at Sekiu will eventually head this way
July 31, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The king salmon run into Puget Sound still remains a no show, but many are still hopeful that the outstanding fishing at Sekiu is a sign of things to come.
In the first 12 days of the Sekiu sport fishery about 3,000 kings have been caught.
"The tribes knocked the living daylights out of them there, and now the sport fishery is doing good [at Sekiu area]," said Steve Thiesfeld, a state Fish and Wildlife recreational salmon manager. "I suspect at some point they will push into Areas 9 and 10 [central and northern Puget Sound]."
One known factor is that these hatchery kings being caught at Sekiu are either headed to the south for the Columbia River or coming into Puget Sound.
"When I look back the peak of the run usually peaks in the third week of July to the third week of August," Thiesfeld said. "I don't look at this as an abnormal year and you have to look at the whole spectrum."
Scientists who debated on fisheries team up for comprehensive study
July 31, 2009 (Seattle Times)
When a study two years ago warned that commercial fisheries could be wiped out in 40 years, University of Washington biologist Ray Hilborn got out his flamethrower and blasted what he called a "mind-boggling stupid" conclusion.
The other side fired back, and for a while it looked like a full-fledged fish war would break out between scientists who forecast doom and those who see reason for hope.
Then the groups started talking to each other.
The result is a new analysis published Thursday in the journal Science that provides the most comprehensive look at fish stocks around the world. While the researchers found 63 percent of commercial species have been fished to perilously low levels, they also report that many species have rebounded when fishing pressure is scaled back.
"The bad news is that this analysis confirms there is an increasing trend toward species collapse in fisheries," said Boris Worm, a marine ecologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Worm was the lead author of the 2006 study that predicted marine harvests would peter out by 2048.
Now he believes the situation might not be quite that grim by midcentury. The new analysis shows that it is possible to rebuild ecosystems, and that future collapses can be avoided if nations act wisely.
If he makes it to 2048 - he'll be 79 years old - Worm said he hopes to host a seafood party.
But the scientists cautioned that there's little monitoring of the 75 percent of the world's seafood catch that comes from the developing world. As wealthy nations tighten fishing regulations, industrial fleets shift to Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. "This is going to cause a lot of ... stock collapses in the coming decades," said co-author Tim McClanahan, of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Kenya.
An Orca named Lolita - Part 4
July 30, 2009 (Examiner.com)
Educated millions of children? How? By performing tricks so that she can eat?
Do they tell these children that orcas live with their families in pods and that removing them from the sea is like taking a child from its bed during the night so that it will never see its mother or family again?
Do they tell them that orcas stay with their mothers and their pods for life, and only two things can separate them from their pods – captivity or death? Or that Lolita has been alone and not seen another orca since 1980 when Hugo died?
And do they tell them that by putting an orca in a tank, the orca is no longer able to use its echolocation or hunt for food and thereby becomes sensory deprived?
Fin whale hit by cruise ship had no food in its stomach, tests show
July 29, 2009 (Vancouver Sun)
The fin whale hit by a cruise ship and dragged to Vancouver had no food in its stomach, indicating it may have been sick before dying, said Paul Cottrell, marine mammal coordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The preliminary results of the necropsy don't reveal if the impact of the ship killed the whale or if it had been dead already, Cottrell said.
But it does reveal the female whale had a thin layer of blubber. While a thick layer indicates good health, providing a good layer of insulation and indicating the whale has been foraging, a thin layer doesn't necessarily suggest bad health, Cottrell said.
It was to be dropped on the west coast of Vancouver Island, after Fisheries and Oceans scientists took into account currents and wind direction.
Cottrell said marine ecosystems develop around the carcasses.
"The sheer mass of flesh is there for years quite often, and it's just teeming with life," he said.
Use of Sonar That Spooked Orcas to Be Limited in Sound, Navy Says
July 29, 2009 (Kitsap Sun)
Within the Puget Sound region, the Navy will no longer conduct training exercises with the kind of sonar that sent killer whales scampering during an exercise in 2003, according to Navy officials.
The use of mid-frequency active sonar by the Navy has been associated with the deaths of deep-diving beaked whales in five incidents in Europe and the Bahamas over the past 12 years, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The proposed permit for training off the coast would allow the "take" of 26 species of marine mammals. Take can include death, injury or harassment. Under the permit, the Navy would be required to take measures designed to avoid permanent injury to the animals, though other levels of harassment would be allowed. Measures include actively searching for marine mammals before and during an exercise.
Michael Jasny of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the book is not closed on Navy training in Puget Sound, because the Navy could apply for a permit in the future.
"Puget Sound is a highly vulnerable area," Jasny said. "The best and clearest solution would be for the Navy to propose Puget Sound as a protected area or an exclusion area."
Jasny said he is troubled by the use of sonar within Puget Sound under those exceptions.
In April of this year, the fast-attack submarine USS San Francisco left Bremerton following repairs and was heard emitting loud sonar pings in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Val Veirs, a resident of San Juan Island, maintains a series of underwater microphones called hydrophones. By his calculations, Veirs said the sound intensity was on a par with the Shoup.
The San Francisco sonar event falls under "safety and navigation," said Sheila Murray, spokeswoman for Navy Region Northwest.
On Tuesday, the agency announced the publication of proposed rules for protecting Southern Resident killer whales from whale watchers, particularly in the San Juan Islands. It appears, however, that no announcements were made (except for publication in the Federal Register) about proposed rules for protecting all marine mammals from Navy sonar and demolition activities.
U.S. and China sign memorandum on climate change
July 29, 2009 (Reuters)
The United States and China, the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases, signed an agreement on Tuesday that promises more cooperation on climate change, energy and the environment without setting firm goals.
Chinese and U.S. officials signed the memorandum of understanding at the State Department following two days of high-level economic and strategic talks.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it highlighted the importance of climate change in U.S.-Chinese relations.
"It also provides our countries with direction as we work together to support international climate negotiations and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy," said Clinton at the signing ceremony.
She said the sides discussed in detail how to cut emissions ahead of a U.N. conference in Copenhagen in December that aims to set new global goals on controlling climate change.
The document, released by the State Department, did not set any firm targets but reiterated support for a 10-year cooperation deal signed last year by the Bush administration and created a new climate change policy "dialogue" which would meet regularly.
"It is not an agreement per se for each side to commit themselves to some particular target. It sets a structure for dialogue," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.
The memorandum listed 10 areas of cooperation, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner use of coal, smart grid technologies, electric cars, and research and development. This month, during a visit to China by Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the two countries launched a $15 million joint project to create more energy-efficient buildings and cars and study the development of cleaner-burning coal.
New rules proposed for vessel traffic near orcas
July 29, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The federal agency in charge of protecting Puget Sound orcas proposed new rules Tuesday to prohibit vessels from coming closer than 200 yards of the endangered mammals.
Many U.S. and Canadian whale-watching operators and private boaters follow voluntary guidelines that recommend vessels give whales a 100-yard buffer.
But those guidelines "just haven't been working," said Brian Gorman, a spokesman with the fisheries service in Seattle. "Some pay attention to them, some people ignore them."
"We think it's a good move to try to back off and give the whales some more space," said Jenny Atkinson, executive director of The Whale Museum on San Juan Island.
Pollution and a lack of food, particularly salmon, are believed to be the whales' biggest threats, but stress from whale-watching, commercial and recreational boats has also contributed to their decline.
"Giving them a little more space so they have less competition can't hurt and must help," said Val Veirs, who operates a hydrophone network that monitors underwater noises in inland Washington waters. "There have been multiple studies on multiple species that show that boats nearby and boats making noise do change the animals' behavior."
While there are other serious issues harming the orcas, this is one that can dealt with quickly, he added.
NOAA's Regulations on Vessel Effects includes scientific references, the Federal Register notice, a draft environmental assessment, questions and answers about the proposed regulations, a map of the proposed no-go zone, a regulatory review document and a large number of comments from the 2007 "advance notice of rulemaking."
New rules proposed for vessel traffic near orcas
July 28, 2009 (Bellingham Herald)
The federal agency in charge of protecting Puget Sound orcas has proposed new rules to prohibit vessels from coming closer than 200 yards of the endangered mammals.
NOAA's Fisheries Service said Tuesday the rules will safeguard killer whales, which depend on sophisticated sonar to navigate and find food. The whales can be affected by underwater noise from boats and vessels that approach too close or block their paths.
The proposed rules would prohibit vessels from intercepting or park in the path of a whale. It also sets up a half-mile zone along the west side of San Juan Island from May 1 to September 30 where generally no vessels would be allowed.
Scientists Find a Microbe Haven at Ocean's Surface
July 28, 2009 (New York Times)
Scientists are now discovering that the top hundredth-inch of the ocean is somewhat like a sheet of jelly. And this odd habitat, thinner than a human hair, is home to an unusual menagerie of microbes. "It's really a distinct ecosystem of its own," said Oliver Wurl, of Canada's Institute of Ocean Sciences.
This so-called sea-surface microlayer is important, scientists say, in part because it influences the chemistry of the ocean and the atmosphere. "One of the most significant things that happens on our planet is the transport of gases in and out of the ocean," said Michael Cunliffe, a marine biologist at the University of Warwick in England. The ocean stores a large fraction of the global-warming gases we produce; at the microlayer, the gases are pulled down.
Recent surveys carried out by Dr. Wurl and his colleagues have revealed that the microlayer has a rich supply of sticky clumps of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are made by single-cell organisms called phytoplankton that live lower in the ocean to stick together in colonies. Eventually the carbohydrates break off the phytoplankton and clump together. Dr. Wurl's studies indicate that many of them rise to the microlayer, forming a film.
"I really imagine it as tiny pieces of jelly floating on the ocean," Dr. Wurl said.
Hydropower boom may not be a bust for salmon
July 27, 2009 (Los Angeles Times)
With the big push for renewable energy, hydropower is getting a new lease on life. The Chelan County Public Utility District in Washington state is trying to get more power out of the Columbia River without harming endangered salmon. How will this change the dialogue about dams and fish?
Giving dam-generated electricity a big new lease on life under the mantle of clean energy has proved problematic for environmentalists, who have long seen dams as fish-killers. But more of them are coming to see the benefits of so-called incremental power, done in conservation-smart ways.
John Seebach, director of the Hydropower Reform Initiative launched by the conservation group American Rivers, said his organization has elected to support "green" credentials for incremental power generated at existing dams as long as it provides protections for fish and other wildlife values.
One organization that has tried to set standards for what can be considered "green" hydropower is the Low-Impact Hydropower Institute, based in Maine, which certifies hydropower projects, much like an organic food label. It looks at protections for such things as water quality, fish protection, recreation and cultural resources protection.
Fred Ayer, executive director, said the institute has certified about 110 dams, from Maine to Alaska, with a capacity of about 2,000 megawatts. This has been possible because of a dramatic change in the hydropower industry itself, which now has far more managers with resource protection backgrounds.
"When I entered this business 35 years ago, the people running the show were pretty much engineers and accountants - and their lawyers," he said. "Today, if you go to a big hydropower conference, half the people in the room will be women. I mean, that was unheard of before."
"In the Columbia/Snake [rivers], a lot of salmon and steelhead survive passing through the dams and make it out to the ocean, but they don't make it back," Brandon said. "We think that the accumulated stress of going over eight dams stresses the immune systems of the fish, making them more vulnerable to parasites, disease and predators once they're out in the ocean."
Colville tribes to get new salmon hatchery
July 27, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation plan to break ground next spring on a $41 million hatchery to boost salmon runs on the Upper Columbia River.
The Bonneville Power Administration will pay for the Chief Joseph Hatchery as compensation for the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, which cut off salmon runs to the upper third of the Columbia Basin.
Tribal officials say the hatchery will help the tribes retain their heritage by increasing the number of fish for subsistence and ceremonial use. It will also support nonnative sport fishing in the nearby towns of Bridgeport and Brewster.
Scheduled to open in 2012, the hatchery will release nearly 3 million chinook smolts each year.
When the Grand Coulee Dam was built in 1941, it was built without fish ladders. The dam also flooded Kettle Falls, where one of the Northwest's most prolific salmon fisheries had flourished for thousands of years.
An Orca named Lolita - Part 3
July 26, 2009 (Examiner.com)
On August 8, 2009 Lolita will have been held captive for 39 years. She has performed shows day after day after day. She spends her days and nights alone in a tank at the Miami Seaquarium. If that wasn't bad enough, the tank she is in is too small and illegal in size.
Orcas are very social beings. They live in a family structure called a pod. They are not solitary creatures. Lolita was taken from her family, L pod. Her family is still here in the state of Washington. They are one of three southern resident pods of orcas who live in the Puget Sound region. They swim, hunt, eat, and play together. An orca stays with their family for life. The only two things that can take them away from their pods are capture and death.
Dead whale found wedged against cruise ship
July 26, 2009 (Vancouver Sun - video)
VANCOUVER - A fin whale - a threatened species in Canada - was found dead and firmly wedged against the bow of a cruise ship following its arrival from Alaska.
The ship, Princess Cruise Lines' Sapphire Princess, docked at Canada Place Saturday morning.
"It is unknown how or when this could have happened, as we have strict whale avoidance procedures in place when our ships are in the vicinity of marine life," the cruise line said in a news release.
The adult whale was an estimated 70 feet long, according to Lisa Spaven of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
It was wedged on top of the bulbous bow, the part that cuts through the water.
The ship's captain was unaware of the whale until the vessel had docked, Spaven said.
She said she believes the whale was struck north of Vancouver Island since fin whales are not normally found in the Johnstone or Georgia straits.
The fisheries department will need to conduct a necropsy in order to determine if the ship struck the whale while it was alive or if the whale was floating dead at sea and then got caught in the bow, Spaven said.
Vancouver Sun Video
32 whale-watchers rescued after boat sinks in open water
July 24, 2009 (Vancouver Province)
A whale-watching boat with 32 people aboard hit something in the water off Mayne Island Thursday afternoon and sank.
All the passengers and two crew were rescued quickly by a nearby vessel.
"No one even got wet in the transfer [to the other boat]," said Cedric Towers, president of Vancouver Whale Watch.
Towers said after the boat struck the object, the 45-foot Zodiac-style vessel began to take on water.
Coast Guard Officer Bruce Campbell said it was very fortunate that the other boat was nearby and was able to immediately rescue everyone from the sinking vessel.
Company general manager Pamela Thurston said passengers were transferred to the Express, another boat belonging to the whale watching company, as the boat sank. According to witnesses, it sank in 10 or 15 minutes.
A new twist in dam removal on the Snake River
July 24, 2009 (Seattle Times editorial)
Dam removal on the Lower Snake River always lurks in the ruminations of U.S. District Judge James Redden on salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin.
Whether viewed as a threat or remediation, I could not imagine dams being breached. Until now.
Twenty-one community leaders from Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Wash., sent a July 8 letter to their senators and representatives asking to be included in any future assessments of the dams' status. Any decision directly affects the welfare of residents.
The towns sit at the end of the line, behind Lower Granite Dam, at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Accumulating sediment and rising reservoir levels mean protective levees will have to be raised if the dams stay. Higher levees further isolate the communities from the water, but also would require relocating municipal infrastructure built to the current flood risk.
Feds OK money to protect Sound
July 24, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The state's Puget Sound protection and restoration plan has received a federal seal of approval that could help bring in tens of millions more in federal money.
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it had approved the state Puget Sound Action Agenda under its National Estuary Program, making it the feds' plan for restoration and protection of the Sound.
"Now we have a federally endorsed plan, and that means federal money coming into Puget Sound can be directed to implement the plan," said Tom Eaton, director, EPA Washington Operations Office in Olympia.
Sea Otters Rebound from Extermination
July 22, 2009 (KUOW)
It's an unheralded environmental success story featuring the number one species on the cute and cuddly list: Sea otters are rebounding along the Northwest coast. It started in 1969 with a couple dozen survivors from a reintroduction effort. Today, there are well over a thousand. They are expanding their range into more populated stretches of coastline. That raises the risk for potential conflicts. Correspondent Tom Banse tagged along on the annual sea otter census.
Historically, sea otters were found in coastal waters from Baja California to Russia. Now it's something of an adventure to go find them.
Individual sea otters have been spotted exploring inland into Puget Sound. There have also been sporadic sightings in recent years along the Oregon Coast, drawing kayakers to investigate. Lynch says the curiosity of the otters and their novelty to people could spell trouble on both sides.
EPA action to bring more help for troubled Puget Sound
July 22, 2009 (Seattle Post-Globe)
It's official: Puget Sound now has the status of national treasures like Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades in the eyes of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency last week made a significant if bureaucratic-sounding announcement by approving Puget Sound's restoration project under the National Estuary Program.
The move paves the way for substantially more millions in federal dollars to flow here to try to help restore pretty yet polluted Puget Sound, where some marine life are disappearing and orcas' weakened bodies accumulate toxic PCBs.
The upshot of the EPA's approval of the Puget Sound Action Agenda is that $20 million in federal money is to arrive here in fiscal year 2009, and Congressman Norm Dicks hopes to boost it to $50 million. Compare that to just three years ago, when Puget Sound got only $2 million toward a job so big it's expected to eventually total in the billions.
Mike Sato, spokesman for People for Puget Sound, said "it would've been really incredibly unheard of for EPA to have not blessed the project," so the news didn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Sato points out that, to be successful, people living around the Sound need to understand that what they do in their daily lives adds to pollution in the waters: "The problems in the Sound and along the shoreline are not the problems because of what goes on in the water, but because of what goes on in the land."
It's as if we all live in a giant funnel. Oil drips from the bottoms of cars onto roads, and with every rain washes into storm drains and eventually into Puget Sound. So it goes with pet droppings, litter, fertilizer and other no-nos that swirl into storm drains. "The entire issue of run-off, stormwater, impervious surfaces is really where the rubber meets the road," Sato said. "It brings us back to transportation choices, it brings us back to development standards, it brings us back to what density we use for various areas, what areas we want to keep in green space -- probably the thorniest issues you have to do in an area that is growing.
July 20, 2009 (Miami Herald)
"The Cove" is a damning indictment of the town, its crimes and the cover-up Japan's government goes to great pains to maintain, keeping this barbaric ritual away from the eyes of everyone, even the Japanese people.
It's also an edge-of-your-seat caper film. Filmmaker Louis Psihoyos of the Oceanic Preservation Society takes the audience along on a secret mission to document this horror. If they can film it, the world, even the people of Japan, will demand that it stop, or so they hope.
Hollywood has made so many heist pictures that we've committed the story beats to memory. The team is assembled. The quarry is "cased." The hi-tech gear is rounded up. They rehearse. And then there's the caper itself, where things never go exactly as planned.
But how might real people with specialized skills actually "steal" something that a lot of other people are determined to protect? Psihoyos pulls together free-divers, special effects wizards and gonzo cameramen with thermal night-vision gear. They follow O'Barry to Japan, where they are searched, interrogated, followed and harassed every step of the way.
"The Cove" touches on Japan's corrupt efforts to preserve this "tradition," bribing poor island nations of the Caribbean to vote with them on the International Whaling Commission. The corruption spreads to Japan's food supply - mislabeling mercury-tainted dolphin meat as "whale," whales Japan still claims it is killing only for "research."
Does the Oceanic Preservation Society get its evidence? See "The Cove" to find out. But don't be surprised if you flinch the next time somebody suggests, "Hey, let's go to SeaWorld."
Black goop afloat off Arctic coast identified as algae
July 17, 2009 (Anchorage Daily News)
A sample of the giant black mystery blob that Wainwright hunters discovered this month floating in the Chukchi Sea has been identified.
It looks to be a stringy batch of algae. Not bunker oil seeping from an aging, sunken ship. Not a sea monster.
"We got the results back from the lab today," said Ed Meggert of the Department of Environmental Conservation in Fairbanks. "It was marine algae."
Miles of the thick, dark gunk had been spotted floating between Barrow and Wainwright, prompting North Slope Borough officials and the Coast Guard to investigate last week. A sample was sent to a DEC lab in Anchorage, where workers looked at it under a microscope and declared it some kind of simple plant -- an algae, Meggert said.
The goo fast became an Alaska mystery. And the new findings still leave questions unanswered: Why is there so much of it in a region where people say they've never seen anything quite like it?
Local hunters and whalers didn't know what to make of it. The Coast Guard labeled the substance biological, but knew little else. The stuff had hairy strands in it and was tangled with jellyfish, said a borough official.
Tooth marks on an adult orca may spell minor conflict
July 17, 2009 (Watching Our Waterways - Kitsap Sun Blog)
Whale watchers in the San Juan Islands have been reporting a killer whale with unusual wounds on his dorsal fin. News of the injury spread quickly among whale watchers the past few days. But experienced observers recognize the marks as "tooth rakes."
Tooth rakes are what you may see when one marine mammal bites another. Young orcas often leave marks on each other while playing, noted Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island.
In this case, rather large tooth rakes were seen on an adult male - namely L-78, a 20-year-old whale named Gaia.
"Another whale bit him," Ken told me. "Oddly enough, we think it was his mom."
Bring our orca Lolita back home - 3 Events
July 17, 2009 (Examiner.com)
Monthly Protests at Miami Seaquarium
All are invited to protest Lolita's cramped and lonely captivity and support her retirement plan on SATURDAY, July 25th in front of the Miami Seaquarium, 12 Noon til 2 PM.
Penn Cove Orca Capture Commemoration
Sunday August 9th, 2009, 4:00 - 7:00pm
Coupeville Rec Hall, 901 NW Alexander
Coupeville, Whidbey Island WA
Walk for Lolita
August 8th, Key Biscayne
Obama pulls back on Bush logging plan
July 17, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The Obama administration on Thursday scrapped the Bush administration's last-ditch attempt to boost logging in Northwest forests by scaling back protection for the northern spotted owl.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday that a plan to increase logging on federal lands in Western Oregon could not stand up to challenges under the Endangered Species Act. He said the Department of Interior would develop new measures protecting the spotted owl.
The Bush administration had cut the size of critical habitat for the owl and revised the spotted-owl recovery plan to make the logging increases possible.
The Western Oregon Plan Revision was created to increase logging on millions of acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands and boost federal revenues shared with timber counties. The plan was five years in the making, but was only completed in the final days of President George W. Bush's administration.
To make the deadline, BLM argued that it did not have to consult with federal biologists over the potential harm to spotted owls and salmon, and would do that on individual timber sales as they were offered. Salazar said their review determined that argument would never withstand a court challenge.
Signs pointing to a big Chinook year
July 16, 2009 (Everett Herald)
When was the last time you looked at the results of a salmon derby in this state and saw a nearly 40-pound chinook at the top of the leaderboard? Or, rarer still, the top four fish weighing in at 30 pounds or better?
Many of the top derby fish looked like Fraser River "footballs," Engholm said, but not all. There were probably Nooksack and Skagit chinook in the catch, he said, particularly since one of the hottest spots was in the south San Juan Islands, in the Tide Point/Strawberry Island/Thatcher Pass area, for fish in the 20s.
And that leads (cleverly, I thought) right into prospects for today's highly-anticipated opening of the marine area 9 and 10 selective chinook season. Because of the size of the Bellingham Derby fish, and the reports for the past couple of weeks of kings in the 30s being taken off Neah Bay and Sekiu, plus the word from Anthon Steen at Holiday Sports in Burlington about a 42-pounder and a couple of 30s out of the lower Skagit, it seems at least possible this could be a chinook year. If it is, local salmon fishermen will have to decide whether to head for Possession Bar, where the selective king fishing was hot two summers ago, or to Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, where the better action took place last year.
Across Admiralty Inlet at Point No Point, Krein said candlefish are the predominant bait, so he switches to smaller Coho Killer spoons or needlefish-size squids, again in white or green. He'll be right on bottom in 70 to 120 feet of water, starting at the point and following the ebb toward Skunk Bay.
And yes, for those of you still fighting the Indian wars, tribal driftnetters are fishing the other 31/2 days each week and taking fair numbers of chinook. Do the arithmetic, check your calendar, and see that likely there will be more fish available to recreationists the farther away you are from the end of the net fishery each week.
Nisqually restoration: Back to nature
July 15, 2009 (Tacoma News Tribune)
"It's not that this wouldn't have happened without the economic stimulus money," said Jean Takekawa, the refuge manager. "We were determined and were not going to give up. But it's definitely taken some of the pressure off."
In April, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the $12 million delta project would receive $3.4 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That was in addition to $1.45 million added in the 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife budget.
In addition, a $50 million appropriation to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Puget Sound restoration is working its way through Congress. An as-yet-undetermined portion of that money also is headed to the Nisqually.
Combined with restoration being accomplished independently by the Nisqually tribe, it will result in the almost complete re-creation of the estuary, creating new habitat for endangered salmon, songbirds, amphibians and mammals.
Sea lions are flooding into Bay Area rescue centers
July 15, 2009 (Los Angeles Times)
Scientists think El Niño could be responsible. The El Niño weather pattern brings warm water currents to the California coast about every five years.
Fish follow colder currents farther out into the ocean, depleting the sea lions' food supply near the coast. Young sea lions tend to be more affected because they are not experienced hunters.
Scientists on Thursday announced the arrival of El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean, but a complete transition has not occurred off California, said Joe Cordaro, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
El Niño conditions usually last for about 12 months, he said.
Water temperatures have increased since the end of May, a change that coincided with an increase in sea lion deaths, said Bill Sydeman, president and senior scientist with the Farallon Institute.
"We're due for a strong one," he said. "It looks like an El Niño is brewing, and the effects will depend on how much it spreads."
Navy holds open house tonight to show off sea turbine plans
July 15, 2009 (Peninsula Daily News)
The U.S. Navy is taking steps to design and install a hydropower system offshore of Marrowstone Island and wants to float the proposal in front of the public before it sinks any turbines.
An open house is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. today on the proposed tidal energy kinetic hydropower system in Admiralty Inlet.
Oregon to fund Klamath River dams' removal
July 15, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Oregon will finance most of the cost of removing four Klamath River dams to help salmon under a bill signed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, federal officials met in Klamath Falls with representatives of PacifiCorp and the states of California and Oregon. The parties must have a binding agreement by September to restore 300 miles of spawning habitat on what was once the third-biggest salmon producer on the West Coast.
A preliminary agreement that serves as a framework for the negotiations both guarantees and limits the amount of irrigation water that will be available to farmers in the Klamath Basin, and offers hundreds of millions of dollars for salmon restoration work and research.
In recent decades, the needs of farms and fish in the area have been pitted against each other while declining salmon runs have triggered cutbacks in commercial and recreational fishing.
Long an opponent of dam removal, PacifiCorp shifted after it became clear the idea had strong public support and the utility could end up paying far more to continue trying to relicense the aged dams.
Feds ban krill fishing to save it for the whales
July 14, 2009 (Seattle Times)
No one fishes for krill off the West Coast, and federal fisheries managers want to keep it that way so the tiny shrimp-like creatures remain as plentiful as possible as food for whales, salmon, and seabirds.
NOAA Fisheries Service on Monday issued a final rule barring krill fishing inside the 200-mile limit in the Pacific off California, Oregon and Washington.
Krill are taken primarily off Antarctica, where scientists have raised concerns the fishery has upset the food web, making life tougher for penguins and other marine life. A smaller fishery has been going since the 1970s off British Columbia. The catch is processed into food for salmon farms, as well as home aquariums, and an oil consumed by people.
The Legacy of Flipper
July 12, 2009 (New York Times Magazine)
The idea that "each man kills the thing he loves" has been interpreted by many-from Oscar Wilde to Paulo Coelho-but it's always had a particular resonance in the environmental movement, where every hiking trail and ecofriendly resort inevitably destroys or alters nature in the name of love. For 69-year-old activist Ric O'Barry, the paradox is an apt expression for his cause: the preservation of dolphins.
"Everybody loves them, right?" he asks. "But be careful with the word love."
To O'Barry, even activities as seemingly benign as paying to see dolphins perform at SeaWorld or swimming with them in captivity constitutes abuse. "We love dolphins like they're our family-I hear that a lot. Really? You lock your family up in a room and force them to do tricks before they eat their dinner?" O'Barry says. "The dolphin is a sonic creature; its primary sense is sound. You put one in a bare concrete box with music blaring and people shouting, of course it's stressful! If people could see them in the wild, they'd never buy a ticket to a dolphin show."
O'Barry is sitting in a midtown bar, his scuffed sailor shoes and messy shock of white hair, bleached by years of sun and saltwater, endearingly out of joint with the city. He's in town to promote The Cove (opening July 31), a white-knuckle chronicle of his attempts to expose the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, where 2,000 a year are killed, legally, in a hidden lagoon. Funded by Netscape co-founder Jim Clark, the documentary plays like a behind-enemy-lines thriller. Largely shot in jittery handheld and frantic night vision, the at-times gruesome footage-dolphins spasming in death while impaled on spears, blood spurting until the entire cove turns red-can be hard to watch, which is the point. O'Barry wants to shock viewers into activism, doing for dolphins what Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth did for global warming. Like Gore's, O'Barry's cause is deeply personal. Only he feels he is to blame.
Nisqually restoration: Back to nature
July 12, 2009 (Tacoma News Tribune)
The back-up beeps of heavy equipment are drowning out the calls of songbirds at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge this month.
After 12 years of planning and preparation, excavators, dump trucks and bulldozers are resculpting the Nisqually River's vast delta, turning back to nature what was destroyed by industrial agriculture a century ago.
The flurry of activity is partly because of good weather. This summer's near-record streak of dry days has enabled the earth movers to proceed at maximum efficiency.
Ironically, the activity also is because of the national recession. Bad times for the economy have been very good for the Nisqually project.
Cherry Point herring still near record lows, renewing concerns about Gateway Pacific terminal
July 12, 2009 (Bellingham Herald)
The Cherry Point herring population showed no increase during the 2009 spawning season, meaning that the population remains near record low levels.
Herring are an important food source for salmon and seabirds, and the weakened state of the Cherry Point population has renewed environmental concerns about a proposed new development in the area: the Gateway Pacific bulk cargo terminal.
SSA Marine, the global shipping services company based in Seattle, has permits in hand to do some core drilling off the Cherry Point shoreline this summer, as part of preliminary engineering work that would be a first step toward eventual pier construction.
Kurt Stick is a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist who conducts annual studies to estimate how many herring spawn along Cherry Point and nearby shorelines. For 2009, his estimate was 1,341 tons, a bit below the 2008 estimate of 1,352 tons.
The 2009 total is also significantly less than the 2,169 tons estimated for 2007, when the herring seemed to be enjoying a modest rebound after several years of sharp declines.
Watching Whales Watching Us
July 10, 2009 (New York Times Magazine)
The suspicion of a causal relationship between whale strandings and either seismic tests or the use of new high-tech sonar tracking devices in military-training exercises had been mounting for some time. Similar coincidences had been noted off the coasts of Brazil, the Bahamas, the Galápagos Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Japan, as well as in the waters off Italy and Greece. Necropsies performed on a number of the whales revealed lesions about their brains and ears. The results of the examinations performed on the Canary Islands whales, however, added a whole other, darker dimension to the whale-stranding mystery. In addition to bleeding around the whales' brains and ears, scientists found lesions in their livers, lungs and kidneys, as well as nitrogen bubbles in their organs and tissue, all classic symptoms of a sickness that scientists had naturally assumed whales would be immune to: the bends.
In the end, the Supreme Court dispute over the use of sonar can be viewed as a turning point in our fraught relationship with whales - a moment when new insights into the behavior of our long-inscrutable, seabound mammalian counterparts began forcing us to reconsider and renegotiate what once seemed to be a distinct boundary between our world and theirs. Scientists have now documented behaviors like tool use and cooperative hunting strategies among whales. Orcas, or killer whales, have been found to mourn their own dead. Just three years ago, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York discovered, in the brains of a number of whale species, highly specialized neurons that are linked to, among other things, the use of language and were once thought to be the exclusive property of humans and a few other primates. Indeed, marine biologists are now revealing not only the dizzying variety of vocalizations among a number of whale species but also complex societal structures and cultures.
Whales, we now know, teach and learn. They scheme. They cooperate, and they grieve. They recognize themselves and their friends. They know and fight back against their enemies. And perhaps most stunningly, given all of our transgressions against them, they may even, in certain circumstances, have learned to trust us again.
Penn Cove Orca Capture Commemoration
July 10, 2009 (Examiner.com)
Penn Cove Orca Capture Commemoration - In memory of the 45 Southern Resident orcas captured in Washington State, and the 13 orcas killed during the captures, and in honor of Lolita, the sole survivor.
Sunday August 9th, 2009, 4 - 7 pm
Coupeville Rec Hall
901 NW Alexander
Coupeville, Whidbey Island WA
Featuring historic KING 5 TV news clips of the 1971 Penn Cove capture, with commentary by the late Don McGaffin.
Purchase tickets by contacting: email@example.com or 1-866-ORCANET or at the door. Orca Network is a 501 c3 nonprofit and Washington State Charitable organization. Cost is $20/person, with proceeds going to Orca Network Educational programs.
On the 39th anniversary of the first Penn Cove Orca Capture, Orca Network holds its annual commemoration of all the Southern Resident orcas taken during the capture era, and honors Lolita, the only survivor, who lives alone at the Miami Seaquarium where she was delivered in 1970.
Car washers seeing more rules on soapy runoff
July 10, 2009 (Seattle Times)
It's one of the great American summer pastimes: Pulling the car onto the driveway on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon, lathering it up with soap, rinsing it off and watching the sudsy water flow toward the storm drain.
Now, officials in Washington and elsewhere are telling residents to either take that old ride to the car wash, or hold the soap and wash the car over gravel or grass to filter the dirty water.
The officials are trying to prevent the runoff, with all of its soap, grim and metals from the car, from reaching rivers and streams and harming the fish and other aquatic life in them.
"The soaps are just as toxic as some of the chemicals we regulate in the industrial (sector). They kill fish," said Sandy Howard, a Washington Department of Ecology spokeswoman.
An Orca named Lolita
July 9, 2009 (Examiner.com)
Many years ago an orca was born in L pod. She swam to the surface to take a breath of air, and then swam next to her mother. She fed on her mother's milk for the first year of her life. She was gradually weaned and introduced to eating fish. She was taught and learned to fish on her own. She learned the different sounds and songs of her pod and the other two resident pods. She swam in the sea and her mother taught her to breach, spy hop, and slap her tail against the water.
Then on August 8, 1970 life as she knew it ended. She was captured in Puget Sound and sold to the Miami Seaquarium, where she remains to this day. It is time for Lolita to retire and return to L pod where she belongs.
Lolita, who is 22 feet long, is presently in a tank that is only 35 feet wide. According to the Animal Welfare Act, her tank should be at least 48 feet in length. Orcas swim an average of 80 miles per day. For Lolita, this is like living in a bathtub.
Global warming accord spells lifestyle changes
July 9, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Leaders of the world's biggest - and dirtiest - economies have agreed for the first time to limit the warming of the earth to a relatively safe 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) - an important target in fighting climate change.
It sounds simple, but it implies a dramatic shift in the way we generate electricity, fuel our cars and build our homes and skyscrapers.
It means diverting investments in new power stations from fossil fuels to wind, solar and other renewables - which is a politically tricky task in the United States.
It also means wealthy countries need to raise tens of billions of dollars a year to help poor countries develop in cleaner ways than the industrial world did over the last 150 years.
Stillaguamish salmon run's future rests on 45 fish
July 8, 2009 (Everett Herald)
They caught 81 smolts.
Thirty-six of those juvenile chinook died.
There are 45 fish left.
Stillaguamish tribal biologists are planning DNA tests for each fingerling to determine whether they are male or female, and whether they are members of a dwindling community: the Stillaguamish River's south fork chinook strain.
If the fish are of the strain, and if there is a sufficient male-to-female ratio and if the biologists can keep each fish alive for at least three years in a high-tech controlled environment, there may be a chance for the genetically unique south fork chinook strain to survive.
"We have to keep these guys alive," said Charlotte Schofield, a technician with the Stillaguamish Tribe's Natural Resources Department.
Tribal biologists estimate that the run has about 100 fish. Environmental damage in spawning areas has made it nearly impossible for the fish to procreate. Tribal fisheries experts tried last year to capture some of the chinook as they returned upriver in order to help them spawn in a safe area, but so few fish returned that the project couldn't move forward. The last option for the strain is for experts to catch the fish as smolts -- shortly after they leave the spawning grounds and move toward saltwater.
DNR calls for halt to Maury Island gravel mine
July 8, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The company hoping to build a 305-foot dock on Maury Island as part of a controversial gravel-mining operation has been told to halt construction until it shows the state how it intends to protect Puget Sound.
Democratic state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, in a letter to Northwest Aggregates, told the company Tuesday that current plans to protect sensitive eelgrass beds and the spawning of herring are "vague, ill-defined, and in some cases nonexistent."
The state wants more precise details on how the company will comply with a lease issued in December by Goldmark's predecessor, Republican Doug Sutherland, in his waning days in office. The lease costs the company $1,500 a year.
"We want to put Northwest Aggregates on notice that we will be very closely monitoring," Goldmark said in an interview. "Since I took office I have endeavored to examine the lease and the company's management plan, and I've determined that there's some very tight restrictions that need to be enforced over the life of the lease."
But Goldmark said he was not sure the company would be able to comply in a manner the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) considered appropriate, given that there are plans to clean up Puget Sound and that the operation is in a state aquatic reserve.
Company spokesman Peter Stoltz said the mining company was taken aback by the letter, which he received late in the day.
The mining project has been a source of conflict for years, as residents of Maury Island complained that it would be loud and risky for threatened salmon, orcas and Puget Sound's nearshore environment. The company insisted it had cleared every environmental hurdle put in front of it.
DNR calls for halt to Maury Island gravel mine
July 7, 2009 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark has asked Northwest Aggregates to halt operation of its Maury Island gravel mine until it shows how it's complying with terms of a state lease.
In a letter to the company Tuesday, Goldmark said he has "grave concerns" about how its dock and gravel loading operation may affect the health of Puget Sound.
The lease, granted by Goldmark's predecessor Doug Sutherland in December, allows the company to build a barge-loading pier on state aquatic lands in the Maury Island Aquatic Reserve. Goldmark says the company hasn't provided the state enough information, including how it plans to prevent the loss of eelgrass beds and prevent stormwater discharges into nearby waters.
Pete Stoltz, with the company, says he has not had a chance to review the letter.
DNR's letter to NW Glacier Aggregates.
100 orcas make a tremendous sight
July 7, 2009 (Shetland News)
THE CREW of the Shetland coastguard helicopter search and rescue 102 was treated to a spectacle when they followed a group of around 100 killer whales while out on an exercise on Saturday morning.
He said he had never seen anything like it: "It was a tremendous scene. I would guess the group was not short of a hundred animals."
They alerted the team of killer whale researchers from Aberdeen University who are presently based in the isles as part of their academic work into the activities of the local orca population.
Yesterday (Sunday), the team's whale speech researcher Volker Deeke said they had managed to launch their dinghy within two hours of having been alerted, but unfortunately they were not able to track them down again.
"We had flat calm conditions and we ran out to the northwest, but we couldn't find them, unfortunately.
"The helicopter was out again later the same day and kept a look out but they could find them again either," he said.
Citizen scientists document Dungeness orca casualty
July 6, 2009 (Peninsula Daily News)
In January 2002, Sue Long drove to Dungeness Bay to watch a drama unfold. A female orca had been found dead on the spit, and a juvenile male, probably her offspring, had beached himself on the spot and refused to return to the water, despite the efforts of marine mammal rescuers.
"They'd start pulling him out into the water, and he'd come back," Long said.
"The whole crew was pouring water over him, trying to keep him alive."
Then she learned that the carcass of the female, known as CA-189, had been buried on a farm in Sequim to let the flesh decay, then sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine lab in Seattle for further cleaning.
Last week, the bones arrived at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, where Long and other volunteers are documenting them prior to reassembly.
When CA-189's blubber was tested for toxins, the reading for PCBs was the highest ever recorded for an orca -- approximately 1,000 parts per million parts blubber, Jacobson said.
Warning on trout hatcheries could force changes
July 6, 2009 (San Francisco Chronicle)
Hatchery-raised steelhead trout pass on genetic defects that hamper survival of even their wild-born offspring, according to a study that biologists say could lead to a radical shift in the way salmon breeding programs operate on the West Coast.
The recent Oregon State University study found that even hatchery fish whose parents were wild develop and pass on genetic defects severe enough to hamper the reproductive ability of their offspring.
The implication, scientists said, is that hatchery programs for all salmonid species, including steelhead, chinook and coho, could actually be harming the natural balance and contributing to the demise of the once plentiful salmon runs in California, Oregon and Washington.
"Past studies have always suggested that hatchery-produced fish are of lesser quality, but this study shows it is more disturbing than we thought," said Tina Swanson, a fishery scientist and the executive director of the Bay Institute. "This is the clearest indication that hatchery-produced fish can actually harm wild stocks. It underscores my suspicion that hatcheries are not the solution."
The Sacramento-San Joaquin River fall run is historically the largest run of salmon on the West Coast and the vast majority of those fish are mass produced in hatcheries.
Scientists point to a host of environmental and habitat problems, including a warming ocean, for the decline. A biological review this month by the National Marine Fisheries Service placed much of the blame on diversions by the state and federal water systems.
Hatcheries, though, have always been seen as part of the solution. The Oregon study released in June shows that they may instead be part of the problem.
The Oregon study, which shows that even cautious breeding of fish can be harmful, means that the mass production of salmon in California hatcheries could be much more damaging than previously thought, according to scientists.
"If steelhead are at all similar to chinook then this is very, very, very worrisome," said Swanson, adding that nobody even really knows if any wild fall run chinook still exist. "We're doing a bunch of things that we already know are wrong and this study has identified another flawed practice."
"Even hatchery reform is not a solution, which is why no matter what you do in the short term, the goal must be self-sustaining populations of wild fish," said Steve Mashuda, an environmental attorney for Earth Justice.
The positive thing about the study, Blouin said, is that it shows how quickly fish adapt. If steelhead can change their genetics and behavior to out compete others in the unnatural environment of a hatchery, he said, they can certainly do it in the wild.
"If you fix the habitat and leave it alone," he said, "natural selection will very quickly create a locally adapted population."
California water plan aims to save Puget Sound orcas
July 5, 2009 (Kansas City Star)
A plan to restore salmon runs on California's Sacramento River also could help revive killer whale populations 700 miles to the north in Puget Sound, as federal scientists struggle to protect endangered species in a complex ecosystem that stretches along the Pacific coast from California to Alaska.
Without wild salmon from the Sacramento and American rivers as part of their diet, the killer whales might face extinction, scientists concluded in a biological opinion that could result in even more severe water restrictions for farmers in the drought-stricken, 400-mile-long Central Valley of California. The valley is the nation's most productive farm region.
The plan has faced heated criticism from agricultural interests and politicians in California, but environmentalists said it represented a welcome departure by the Obama administration from its predecessor in dealing with Endangered Species Act issues.
The killer whale population is extremely fragile, and scientists said the loss or serious injury to just one could appreciably reduce the odds the southern resident pods would recover or survive.
The scientists who wrote the Sacramento plan also said hatchery-raised salmon couldn't be counted on to sustain the killer whales' survival.
Orcas play happily in the Hauraki Gulf
July 4, 2009 (New Zealand Herald)
A pod of killer whales made a splash with boaties in the Hauraki Gulf yesterday.
"One came up so close we could have touched it," said Grant Campbell, from Coastguard Northern Region. "It blew water over the back of the boat."
Orca expert Dr Ingrid Visser identified a large male from photographs as Spike, named for his large spike-like dorsal fin.
She also recognised a female, Dian, after spotting an old wound caused by a boat.
Visser said there had been several orca sightings lately as they came into the bays to hunt for rays. Islington Bay was a favourite haunt.
Campbell said there were at least seven orca in the pod.
Visser said orca visits were more common in winter months but there is no real season.
They might not be seen for three months and then visit every month for a while.
Project will nearly eliminate deadly ghost nets in Puget Sound
July 3, 2009 (Three Sheets Northwest)
Lost fishing nets strewn along the bottom of Puget Sound have been drowning thousands of fish, birds, seals, crabs and other marine life each year. And some of these ghost nets have been silently killing creatures for a decade or more.
But now a local conservation group will have the support it needs to clean up most of the mess, thanks to a $4.6 million federal grant.
The money, which comes from the federal stimulus package, will fund the Northwest Straits Commission's effort to remove 3,000 lost fishing nets littering Puget Sound.
"Derelict fishing gear is a worldwide issue," said Ginny Broadhurst, director of the commission. "We seem to have a particularly bad problem here."
Over the past seven years, the group has removed 1,200 nets from the Sound and around the San Juan Islands by piecing together funding from smaller grants. With the large infusion that's coming through NOAA Fisheries Service, Broadhurst estimates that 90 percent of the nets in local marine waters will be removed.
Other projects receiving federal money all involve restoration work. The project sites are the Elwha River floodplain in Port Angeles, Smuggler's Slough in the Nooksack River estuary near Bellingham, Qwuloolt estuary in Marysville, Fisher Slough marsh in Burlington and Hansen Creek floodplain in Milltown.
Global warming may impede eelgrass growth
July 3, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Scientist Ron Thom probably knows more than anyone else about the growth of eelgrass, the humble marine plant commonly found in sheltered bays, inlets and other shallow waters.
Each summer, he and other researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory here tread patiently along the muddy tidal flats of Sequim Bay counting, snipping and tagging strands of the plant that's so crucial to shoreline ecosystems.
Thom, a staff scientist at the Marine Sciences Laboratory, started the research almost 20 years ago. It's become the world's longest-running study measuring eelgrass growth.
Pollution and shoreline development have killed much of the world's eelgrass. Now, Thom's work has attracted widespread attention for data that suggest the plant's growth also could be vulnerable to changes in climate.
"Growth rate is so important with these plants because they are producing habitat for so many things," Thom said. "We typically don't have these long-term data sets to evaluate these things."
The plant provides habitat for young salmon, shellfish and birds, and helps prevent shoreline erosion.
Navy vs. Environmentalists Off Florida Coast
July 2, 2009 (New York Times)
Perhaps the last thing the Navy is looking for at the moment is a tangle with environmentalists. But that is exactly what it has - over a proposed $100 million naval warfare training range off the northern Atlantic coast of Florida.
According to the Southern Environmental Law Center and some other organizations, Navy ships would be performing exercises and sonar tests in areas otherwise protected for fish - including snapper and grouper - and close to a calving area for North Atlantic right whales.
"The Navy's proposing a dangerous perfect storm of increased traffic, construction, sonar and debris in an area critical to commercially valuable and endangered marine life," said Catherine Wannamaker, a lawyer for the law center.
Not so, said Jene Nissen, a Navy acoustic policy manager, who said sonar will have no impact on wildlife "a majority of the time," and whatever effects there would be he characterized as "minor and temporary."
Boater charged with violating orca protection law
July 1, 2009 (San Juan Journal)
The skipper of a Bayliner photographed getting too close to an orca off the west side of San Juan Island in May has been charged with violating the state law related to protecting Southern resident killer whales.
Specifically, the skipper is charged with approaching within 300 feet of an orca, according to the San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. The penalty is a fine of $1,025.
Charging documents identify the boater as Walter R. Osick Jr., 39, of Mukilteo.
"I was on the Ocean Magic, more than 100 metres away from the animals. It took Capt. Tyler to sound the horn several times to get this guy to slow down and stop," naturalist Marie O'Shaughnessy wrote to Orca Network at the time. "I just couldn't believe my eyes with what was going on. He almost ran over an orca. Ruffles and Granny were close by."
Capt. Jim Maya of Westside Charters said he witnessed the boat's behavior, and called it "one of the most appalling examples of harassment I've ever seen. And he kept it up long after seeing the orcas. He kept motoring beside and behind them, often within 20 yards, while pointing at them. He kept it up from Andrews Bay to the Limekiln Light. Many of the whale watch captains would have intervened, but we are restricted from going into this area while orca are present."