Orca Network News - June, 2002

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

June 1, 2002 through June 30, 2002.
Springer's Story
Loggers and tree huggers join to fight a common threat: suburbia
June 29, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Sometimes you have to cut the trees to save the forest.
Environmentalists who fought the timber wars of the 1980s and '90s have a tough time embracing that notion. But as suburban development spreads steadily over once-rural landscapes, some tree-cutters and tree-huggers are finding common ground -- or at least a common enemy: suburbia.
Some environmentalists are forging alliances with the timber industry, taking the pragmatic view that responsible forestry beats strip malls.
A coalition of veterans from both sides of the timber wars announced their plan in January. They want to sell tax-free bonds to pay for the property, then sell timber from the land to pay off the bonds. If Congress approves their unprecedented financing method, land-conservation groups across the West and around the country are poised to copy it.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, every day 100 acres of forest in Western Washington is converted to commercial, residential or industrial uses.

Crisis in the Deep Blue
June 30, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Like the owners of the Arctic Wind, most humans have long viewed the oceans' bounty as limitless and thought of the oceans' capacity to absorb waste as infinite. Lord Byron expressed the sentiment two hundred years ago:
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean -- roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin -- his control Stops with the shore.
But the poet never encountered rockhopper gear, global positioning systems or persistent organic pollutants. Today, the shore no longer provides a meaningful boundary. In January 1998, 1,600 marine scientists, fishery biologists and oceanographers authored a joint statement that the oceans are in serious trouble and that trouble is mostly traceable to human abuse.
For 3 billion years, all life on Earth was marine. Like other terrestrial critters, we humans still carry the sea with us. Our tears, our sweat and our blood recapitulate our salty origins.
As might be expected after so long, the sea is incredibly diverse. For example, 32 of the 33 animal phyla are found in marine habitats -- only insects are missing. Fifteen of these are exclusively marine phyla, and five more are predominantly marine.
Contemplating this astonishing variety -- much of it under serious stress -- beneath the surface of the ocean offers a new dimension and new urgency to Aldo Leopold's famous observation in A Sand Country Almanac: "We know now what was unknown to all the preceding caravan of generations, that men are only fellow voyagers with other creatures.... This new knowledge should have given us, by this time, a sense of kinship ... a wish to live and let live; a sense of wonder over the magnitude and duration of the biotic enterprise."

State leadership urged to protect whales
June 28, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Because the federal government won't take aggressive action to help the diminishing orca population, environmental groups yesterday called on the state to take a leadership role.
"We have the authority at the state level ... to start recovery processes," said Pam Johnson of People for Puget Sound.
The groups are asking Gov. Gary Locke and state agencies to do more to stop industrial pollution, to pay for a rescue tug to prevent oil spills, to clean contaminated sites and to speed salmon restoration.

Upper Cedar to open to fish
June 27, 2002 (Seattle Times) After a hiatus of more than a century, salmon soon will spawn in the protected upper reaches of the Cedar River, marking an important milestone in Seattle's quest to improve and restore habitat in the watershed.
The newly opened waterways will support about 4,500 coho, 1,000 chinook and 350 steelhead each spawning season, according to state Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates.
"No one project is going to mean recovery for salmon. It takes a regional approach looking from headwater to saltwater, but we're doing our part," said Bruce Bachen, fish biologist for Seattle Public Utilities.
The fish can use the help.
"Right now, the chinook and steelhead (runs) on Cedar River are so low that there is plenty of room for improvement," said Kirk Lakey, Watershed Stewardship Team Biologist with state Fish and Wildlife.

The Truth on Warming
June 27, 2002 (The Nation) Most greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for approximately 100 years. The upshot of this undeniable chemical fact is that no matter what remedial steps are taken today, humanity is doomed to experience however much global warming the past 100 years of human activities will generate. That does not mean we should make matters worse by continuing to burn fossil fuels, as Bush foolishly urges; our children and grandchildren deserve better than that. It does mean, however, that we as a civilization must not only shift to green energy sources immediately but also begin planning how we will adapt to a world that is bound to be a hotter, drier, more disaster-punctuated place in the twenty-first century.


FISHERIES SERVICE EVADES RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT ORCAS
June 26, 2002 (Orca Network Press Release)

Orcas denied endangered status
June 26, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) While the Marine Mammal Protection Act governs the harassment, capture or killing of marine mammals, the Endangered Species Act would have provided much stronger protections. For example, it would have given strong ammunition to environmentalists challenging government-sanctioned dumping of pollutants, and required the government to set forth a detailed plan for rebuilding the orca population.
"NMFS (the federal agency) is in the Department of Commerce, and commerce is the name of the game in America -- all the dams, all the industrial lubricants, all the development we've done in the past that has contributed to this. That's all something NMFS doesn't want to address," Balcomb said.
Like many, he predicted that the agency would seek to make whale-watching boats into scapegoats for the larger problems.
"It's cheaper to just, 'Let's get the public thinking about this whale watching, and we can hire some enforcement officers and have them wave their badges,'" Balcomb said.
Feds: Puget Sound orcas not endangered - Area whales are not a separate species June 26, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)
Puget Sound Orcas May Die Out, Over a Little Detail June 26, 2002 (Los Angeles Times)
U.S. refuses to protect NW whales June 26, 2002 (The Olympian)
State's orcas won't be listed June 26, 2002 (canada.com)
Whale advocates call decision a ‘death warrant' June 26, 2002 (MSNBC)
Federal protection denied for Puget Sound orcas June 26, 2002 (Seattle Times)
Government decides against listing orcas as endangered June 25, 2002 (KING-TV)
Feds Say No to Local Orca Endangered Listing June 25, 2002 (KIRO-TV)
Local Orcas Left Off Endangered Species List June 25, 2002 (KOMO-TV)

Southern resident orcas won't go on endangered list
June 25, 2002 (KING5-TV) The National Marine Fisheries Service said Tuesday it would not list a group of Puget Sound orcas under the Endangered Species Act, despite years of decline and the chance the whales could vanish within the next century.
"The bottom line on causes is we don't know the answer," he said.
Feds won't list orcas under Endangered Species Act June 25, 2002 (Associated Press)

Humanity is taking more than Earth can give - Researchers calculate the planet is ecologically overburdened by 20 percent
June 25, 2002 (San Francisco Chronicle) Nobody doubts that people put a heavy burden on the biosphere. Now, a global team of ecology experts, working under the sponsorship of famed Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, has tried to weigh just how heavy the load might be.
The bottom line is a single, sobering number: 120 percent.
Adding up all the farming, fishing, mining, building and fuel consumption, researchers calculated our global ecological demand to be the equivalent of 120 percent of the Earth's capacity to sustain these activities.
Human use exhausts Earth June 24, 2002 (BBC)
In debt to the Earth, and we can't repay June 25, 2002 (Independent - UK)
Earth can't meet human demand for resources, says study June 25, 2002 (Environmental News Service)
Earth faces supply crisis, study finds June 25, 2002 (Toronto Globe and Mail)

Hoping Springer's Call Is Music To Pod's Ears
June 25, 2002 (KOMO-TV) "This little bay here would have a net stretched across it," says Dr. Paul Spong, from the aerial vantage point of Air 4.
He's talking about a small inlet called Dongchong Bay on Hanson Island off the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The plan is to put Springer in a small pen inside the bay, to wait for her orca family to arrive next month and then let her loose.
"That's a very distinctive call right there," acoustics researcher Helena Symonds refers to a whale call displayed on a computer acoustics program. They are the sounds of Springer, recorded in Puget Sound last winter. When Symonds first heard the recorded calls, "It just triggered something."
Symonds began sifting through the thousands of recorded orca sounds to find one bit of tape -- a whale call recorded in 1988.
And Symonds knew right away. Played back to back, even an untrained ear can hear the similarity. It's Springer and her mother, each recorded 14 years apart.
Like a fingerprint or DNA, in the orca world the sounds are definitive evidence of a connection, "because the acoustic traditions are passed on from the mother to the offspring," adds Symonds.
In addition to solving the mystery of who she is, that acoustic tradition will also be key to Springer's reunion. The hope is that she and her extended orca family will each recognize their common calls, and they will accept the orphaned orca back home.

Fisheries Service to announce today if it believes orcas need protection
June 25, 2002 (Seattle Times) Puget Sound's resident killer whales were putting on a clinic of all things orca, slapping pectoral fins, swimming in tight formation, breaching, even cartwheeling in front of Dave Ellifrit and a crew from the Center for Whale Research.
But underlying last week's exuberant performance is the somber recognition that Puget Sound's resident orcas are in a worrisome state of decline.
Today, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is scheduled to announce how far it's willing to go to try to help protect Puget Sound's southern resident orcas. Groups seeking federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) point out the orca population is in trouble, the salmon runs - once a major source of killer-whale food - are hammered, and the fat from whales has been found to contain disturbingly high levels of toxins.
Today's announcement is a major moment for what may be the region's most charismatic icon, coming after years of extensive study of the southern pods. Much of that study, especially population dynamics, has been led by the Friday Harbor-based Center for Whale Research, started in 1976 by Ken Balcomb.
ENDANGERED SPECIES? Orca decision due today June 25, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)

Kayakers observe a river of reality where cleanup efforts run upstream
June 23, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) As Canada geese and 11 kayakers floated nearby, a river otter poked its whiskered head out of water laden with PCBs, mercury and phthalates (plastics byproducts) at a sewer outfall that frequently dumps storm drainage and sometimes raw sewage into the lower Duwamish River Waterway during rainstorms.
A great blue heron took to the air near towering cement plants that have contributed arsenic and other pollutants to sediments in the river where chinook and coho salmon spend weeks or months waiting for their gills to adjust from fresh water to saltwater.
This dark, watery stew of industrial poisons and polluted runoff provides a home for mergansers that dive into it, ospreys that nest above it, sandpipers that walk its beaches, plus eagles and peregrine falcons, kingfishers and cormorants, harbor seals and sea lions.
It harbors sole, clams, crab and salmon that -- despite public health warnings - - are sometimes caught and consumed by people unaware they're loaded with carcinogens and hydrocarbons.

Scientists wait for test results as Springer perks up
June 23, 2002 (Victoria Times Colonist) Springer the killer whale calf is staying in the U.S. for at least another week to wait for medical test results.
The two-year-old northern resident whale won't be in the clear until final test results for viruses and bacteria are in. Blood tests were taken Thursday and more tests are scheduled for Tuesday.
If she's healthy enough and does not have any medical problem that could endanger other whales, she will be moved to Johnstone Strait, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.
Once there, Springer will be contained in a sheltered area to wait for the rest of her pod to show up this summer. It's hoped that her group will accept her and that she will want to rejoin them.
An acetone smell on her breath, which might have indicated a medical problem, has disappeared. Springer's caregivers are trying to stave off depression, which can lead to stress. Her favourite stick and a log are among items Fisheries Services staff are using to keep the whale interested in her surroundings and responsive.

Rockfish limits only beginning of restrictions
June 22, 2002 (Seattle Times) In an effort to protect several depleted species of rockfish, the Pacific Fishery Management Council this week approved sweeping fishing limits to take effect this year and outlined options for more restrictions in 2003.
Options under consideration for next year could put much of the prime Pacific halibut fishing grounds off limits to Washington sport fishermen and also limit the areas open to sport fishing for rockfish.
The protection efforts are the undersea equivalent of forestry efforts to protect the spotted owl, said Phil Anderson, a Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist who serves on the council.
Rockfish - often sold in supermarkets as red snapper - are a signature fish of the West Coast, with more than 80 species swimming off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and California.

Baby orca's health is better, and experts are upbeat
June 22, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The bad breath has faded, the worms are going and the orphaned baby orca of Puget Sound looks healthy enough to be shipped back to her native Canada within a month, federal fisheries officials said yesterday.
The orca's handlers also think they know what's causing the pesky skin irritation that has plagued the young killer whale -- and it's probably nothing that a reunion with her long-lost family won't cure.
"She's responsive, she's bright, she's alert and she's sensitive to a lot of things in her environment," said an upbeat Dr. Pete Schroeder, a veterinarian treating the orca. "She has pretty close to a clean bill of health now. ... Her best move now would be to take a trip north."
Two tests have also shown that the orca does not have an inborn genetic defect affecting her metabolic system, as National Marine Fisheries Service scientists originally feared. That notion stemmed from a chemical-like odor on the breath of the whale, which remains unexplained.
Orca's fate turns on new tests June 22, 2002 (Seattle Times)

Springer Could Be Moved To Canada In 2 Weeks
June 21, 2002 (KOMO-TV) Some encouraging news about Springer, the orphaned orca. She's looking healthy enough her rescuers say she could be back in her native Canadian waters in as little as two weeks.
But the good news is that Springer has a virtual clean bill of health -- her skin condition is improving, and she has no genetic disorder. If the next test results come back clean, she'll be on her way to Canada.
No Date Set For Orca Move to Canada June 21, 2002 (KIRO-TV)

Immediacy of fishing cuts a surprise
June 21, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) Federal and state regulators Thursday imposed a surprise first wave of sharp cutbacks in ocean fishing off the West Coast next month -- six months earlier than predicted -- because of unexpectedly high harvests of depleted rockfish.
The restrictions, approved at a heated meeting in San Francisco of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, include measures that ban California sport fisherman from water over 120 feet after July 1 and prohibit commercial trawling off Oregon and Washington after Sept. 1 from 600 feet out to 1,500 feet. That amounts to a closure of almost the entire contental shelf to California sport fishers, who use hook and line, and, after Sept. 1, the majority of the continental shelf to Oregon and Washington trawlers.
"Given the stock assessments are so grim, I don't think we had any choice," said Bill Robinson, a member of the council and an assistant regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service. "And this is just a preview of what 2003 is going to look like."
Oregon and Washington commercial trawlers were spared immediate economic harm when the council decided -- at the last minute -- to leave trawling quotas largely unchanged for July and August.

Remote bay awaits orphan orca
June 21, 2002 (Tacoma News-Tribune) The isolated cove, about the size of a small lake, may soon become the temporary home of the ailing orphan orca caught last week in Puget Sound. The whale that scientists call A-73 is the focus of the world's first attempt to rescue, heal and return a lost whale to her native waters.
Veterinarians who examined the orca the day of the capture said she was skinny by whale standards, but preliminary medical test results suggest she suffers from nothing that might prevent her eventual release. However, Canadian officials say they won't bring her north until the medical evaluation is complete, which probably won't happen until at least next Thursday, said Michelle McCombs, a spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Jim McBain, the SeaWorld veterinarian who helped capture the orphan whale, has said he believes the 2-year-old could be adopted by a maternal female in the northern resident group.
No Date Set For Springer's Move To Canada June 21, 2002 (KOMO-TV)

Springer Gets Big Appetite
June 20, 2002 (KOMO-TV) After days of light nibbling, a solitary young killer whale captured in busy central Puget Sound last week ate 10 salmon Thursday in her net pen at a federal research station on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Thursday's intake totaled about 50 pounds - getting closer to the 60 to 80 pounds a day recommended to increase her weight.
Test results from blood and other samples taken from A-73 last week may not be available until Tuesday, Gorman said. Of special concern are tests for communicable disease that could pose barriers to her release in Canadian waters.
Preliminary reports don't show anything alarming, he said.
"She's doing well and she's in good physical shape. ... She's in relatively good health," Gorman said.
Once she's certified healthy, the plan is to move her to a netted-off cove on the east side of Canada's Vancouver Island, where her pod spends summers - arriving as early as late June or as late as August.

Finback whale songs may be mating calls, says study
June 20, 2002 (Environmental News Network) Scientists lowered microphones into the Pacific Ocean and came up with evidence suggesting that the booming songs sung by finback whales are mating calls, rather than sonarlike navigation signals.
The findings raise concerns that shipping noises and other human-made sounds at sea could interfere with the whales' breeding.
Tyack agreed that the findings raise concerns about shipping noise. While military sonar is used intermittently, shipping noise is continuous. Shippers, however, can easily make their vessels quieter through better maintenance of engines, propellers, and other equipment, Tyack said. "By putting a little extra money into improving the machinery, the noise can be reduced," he said.

Orca getting used to pen, eating more
June 20, 2002 (Seattle Times) The whale is eating "maybe three or four fish a day rather than the one or two she was eating originally," said Brian Gorman with the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is overseeing the orca's care.
The fish - live Atlantic salmon donated by a nearby fish farm - weigh about 5 pounds each, so her intake is still well below the 60 to 80 pounds a day recommended to increase her weight.
"No one here seems terribly worried about that," Gorman said. "They all seem to feel that when you move a whale to a new environment," a certain adjustment period is to be expected.

Getting Our First Peek At Springer In Her New Home
June 19, 2002 (KOMO-TV) Biologists say after a week in captivity, the killer whale calf is active and alert but she is not eating as much as expected.
"No one's been in the water with her since those original divers came out," says Barre, "we've really been taking a step back, little by little, less people."
The NMFS says it doesn't expect to release any specific information about Springer's medical condition for several days, and still has no time frame for reintroducing the killer whale to her native waters in Canada.

Orphaned orca's kin could act as mother
June 15, 2002 (Seattle Times) Researchers who have been tracking orcas for three decades will try to exploit their understanding of genealogies, including mothers, grandmothers and aunts, to give "A-73" - the orphaned whale also known as Springer - the best odds of finding a relative willing to adopt her back into the wild.
"We're all trying to get her back up north, and that will be the focus for the next couple months," Bain said yesterday.
Unlike Washington's southern residents, who are organized in J, K and L pods, the northern resident community of about 200 orcas is broken down into clans and pods.
The clans - A, G and R - share their own types of calls.
In the A clan, the biggest with more than 100 whales, are nine pods, including three A pods, numbered A-1, A-4 and A-5.
The A-5 pod members tend to stretch out the last notes of their vocalizations, like someone from the South, speaking slowly, said Bain, a University of Washington orca biologist.
The A-1 members have short terminal notes, speaking fast like New Yorkers. And the A-4 members sound like they have an echo in their vocalizations.

U.S. ocean policy 'not working'
June 14, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Some say orca rescue is example of an irrational marine action.
Our stewardship of the ocean, as both a natural habitat and a provider of natural resources, is about as disjointed and arbitrary as it can get, said William Ruckelshaus, a member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy meeting this week in Seattle.
"But if we're going to rescue whales, we need to pay attention not to individual members of the species, but to the whole ecosystem in which they live," said Fletcher, who said a first step should include better enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act.
"How we ought to do some of these things needs to be directed at the watershed level," he said. "The current policy is still command and control."

Capture of orphaned orca goes smoothly off Vashon Island
June 14, 2002 (Seattle Times) It would have been a textbook orca capture, if a textbook for such a thing existed.
"It was almost a nonevent," said Jim McBain, a veterinarian for SeaWorld's parent company. "We're relieved that we now have her in the pen, but we're still worried about the next step."
"Her condition is a concern," said veterinarian McBain. "This is not a robust killer whale."
Capture of orca goes smoothly
June 14, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) "Everything went as if the animal knew what to do," said Jim McBain, a Sea World veterinarian who assisted the team. "She handled it well. She was very cooperative."
The dramatic capture sets the stage for the sickly whale to be nursed back to health for several weeks and returned to her whale family in Canada. But whether that joyous reunion will occur remains far from certain.
She will stay in her 40-by-40-by-15-foot pen here for two weeks. Then she may be moved to a somewhat larger pen nearby. If she receives a clean bill of health, she could be transported back to Canada for a midsummer reunion with her long-lost whale family, or pod.
But that chain of events is far from certain.
Canadian officials have said they will not allow the whale to be returned to their waters unless they are convinced A-73 is free of communicable diseases. If they are not convinced, or if the whale's health declines, the National Marine Fisheries Service would have to decide what to do. Such a situation is unprecedented, and Lohn refused to speculate on how it might be resolved.
Orca arrives safely at rehabilitation site Money, health obstacles to possible reunification with pod June 14, 2002 (Vancouver Sun)
Orca orphan begins journey to Canada June 14, 2002 (Toronto Globe and Mail)
First-Rate Rescue June 14, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)

If we don't support oceans, they can't support us
June 13, 2002 (Seattle Times guest editorial) By Kathy Fletcher and Kevin Ranker
The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy is holding in Seattle the sixth of nine regional public hearings on marine issues. The commission has a formidable challenge: to review our complicated interaction with the seas and make recommendations to Congress and the president by 2003.
Since 1970, 2 million new residents have settled within a few miles of Puget Sound, damaging critical habitat such as estuaries, wetlands and beaches. Runoff from paved areas, sewage discharge and the legacy of a century of industrial activity have taken their toll. We are only now beginning to see the effects on depleted salmon, orca and marine fish like rockfish and herring.
That's why the ocean commission should recommend a national ocean- restoration policy. Restoration means protecting the resources we have, stopping further damage and undoing damage we've done - a tall order, but absolutely necessary if we expect the oceans to continue to support us.
Restoring our oceans to productive health is possible if the commission acts and President Bush listens. If they fail, we may not get another chance for a generation. And by then, it may be too late.
OCEAN COMMISSION, OCEAN VISION June 14, 2002 (by Ed Hunt, Tidepool.org)
Orca coalition sees hope for ecosystem June 13, 2002 (NW Cable News)

Orphaned orca captured, placed in net pen
June 13, 2002 (KING5 TV) Operation orca proved successful Thursday after marine researchers roped and captured a distressed two-year old whale and placed her into a net pen near Manchester, Wash.
The whale, dubbed Springer is to be nursed back to health, relocated and released near her family in the waters off Vancouver Island.
Springer briefly struggled, but eventually calmed down and let scientists place her into a sling and hoist her onto the barge a little before 2 p.m.
Springer delivered safely to pen June 13, 2002 (CBC)
Crews successfully capture orphaned orca June 13, 2002 (KATU-TV Portland)

Time to pull our heads out of the sand
June 13, 2002 (David Suzuki Foundation) The prevailing scientific opinion is that we're quite rapidly depleting many of the resources we depend on for our well-being. We've heard variations on these stories again and again to the point that it's all become quite overwhelming. In fact, many people have stopped paying attention, and the media has stopped reporting all but the most frightening predictions.
Pundits and the public often lambaste the media for focusing on bad news. But I think a real problem is not so much the focus on the negative but the focus on conflict and controversy - especially in science.
We just have to stop ignoring the bad news and start taking the steps necessary to avoid the fate of the dire predictions we all hate so much. Maybe then, 20 years from now, the media will come to me looking for a contrarian view: something bad to say about the environment when the evidence shows that it has been improving for years. It's my hope that all I could do then is sit back in my rocking chair, smile, and have nothing to say.

Baby orca faces grave danger in today's attempt at capture
June 13, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) "This is not only fraught with uncertainties, but it is relatively high-risk," said Bob Lohn, the agency's regional administrator. "There is a chance that stress or pressure or unforeseen events may result in the loss of life for this orca."
One plus for the capture team is the fact that A-73 has become habituated to humans and boats. In fact, it appears to make this capture unique, said Joe Olson, president of the Puget Sound chapter of the American Cetacean Society, the oldest whale-advocacy group in the world.
The last of the Puget Sound orcas remaining in captivity is Lolita, which is housed at the Miami Seaquarium. A "Free Lolita" campaign based in Whidbey Island for years has tried to persuade the owners of Seaquarium, Coral Gables-based Wometco Enterprises, to let the orca return to Puget Sound. But they refuse.
As old friends, Tlingits bid farewell to orphaned orca June 13, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Wayward whale shows she's ready to be caught June 13, 2002 (The Olympian)

Orphaned orca to be moved Thursday (no longer online)
June 12, 2002 (KING-5 TV) On Wednesday, whale researchers pushed a portable net pen to the north end of Vashon Island, where the orphaned Orca, called Springer by researchers, has been residing. Researchers had hoped to conduct a practice run of Springer's capture on Wednesday, coaxing her into the pen.
Springer seemed to enjoy her interaction with the researchers.
The "wet run" proved successful Wednesday afternoon when researchers, petting and scratching her on her side, successfully coaxed Springer into the pen. Because the nets were not in place yet, Springer swam in and then quickly swam out of the pen - a victorious moment for researchers, who will attempt to lure Spring again back into the pen Thursday. Except this time with the net.
When killer whales enter the strait, Lohn said, there's a sense of "joyous reunion" as they squeak and call out, often leaping almost completely out of the water.
The goal is to release A-73 there as they arrive, giving her "a chance to bond with them at the time they seem to be celebrating among themselves."
Rescuers plan to isolate orca June 12, 2002 (Bremerton Sun)

Concern for B.C. orphan whale
June 12, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) As efforts begin to capture an orphaned Canadian killer whale hanging around a Seattle ferry dock, concerns are increasing about a young orphan male going it alone on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Both young animals are getting dangerously friendly with boats.
Fisheries Department spokeswoman Michelle McCombs is urging boaters to stay away from the animal, noting regulations prohibit disturbing or harassing whales.
L-98 is being monitored by scientists and is in good health, she said.
As for a family reunion, it is not known where the rest of the L-pod is at this time of year.

Baby orca's rescue begins tomorrow
June 12, 2002 (Seattle Times) Foster and federal marine officials outlined in detail yesterday how they plan to round up the orphaned orca off Vashon Island in the first tangible step toward moving her back to her community of fellow killer whales east of Vancouver Island.
Vets should have lab results for A-73 in three days, some within hours, but she will be held in Manchester for at least two weeks while she is nursed back to health. She has a skin pox, worms and a possible metabolic problem, and the capture will be the first chance for her to get a proper examination, said David Huff, veterinarian for the Vancouver Aquarium Science Centre and a consultant to Janet Whaley, a fisheries-service vet out from Silver Spring, Md.
Fisheries service hopes to keep gawkers at bay while capturing orca June 12, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Relocation planned to get orphaned orca back to home waters
June 11, 2002 (Seattle Times) Federal marine officials are planning to make a much-anticipated attempt Thursday to pull an orphaned orca from Puget Sound near Vashon Island and begin a long and unpredictable journey aimed at reintroducing the killer whale to her native Canadian waters.
The ailing orca will be secured by her tail with a rope, lifted by a sling to an awaiting boat and whisked to a sea pen at the National Marine Fisheries Service's field station in Manchester, Kitsap County. Close to a dozen people and several boats will be involved, said Brian Gorman, a fisheries-service spokesman.
Orphaned orca to be moved Thursday June 12, 2002 (KING-5 TV)
Orca getting cozy with pleasure boats June 11, 2002 (KING-5 TV)
Whale Experts Prepare For Capturing Orphaned Orca June 11, 2002 (KOMO TV)
Orphaned Orca to be Moved Thursday June 11, 2002 (KIRO TV)

In the Northwest: The reassurances are smooth, but tanker realities are rough
June 10, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The morning was Good Friday of 1989. The "hanging" came when the tanker Exxon Valdez got hung up on rocks of Bligh Reef. It spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil and soiled beaches as far as 460 miles away.
"You have 10 times as much marine traffic as we do," he observed. "We get the same oil tankers all the time. You get them from all over. Puget Sound . ... It's the next place for a serious accident."
He's right on the numbers. With a U.S. flag requirement, only 32 oil tankers ply Prince William Sound: Last year, they made 493 transits of the Alaskan waterway.
Down here, 115 tankers flying flags of many nations passed 560 times through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Tank barges carrying crude oil, refined petroleum or chemicals made 2,856 transits of Puget Sound.

Tribe digs into health of its food: Swinomish wonder if toxics have permeated diet
June 8, 2002 (Seattle Times) For thousands of years, as the tide has slipped from this beach, the table has been set with a bounty of sweet clams. Dungeness crabs have beckoned in nearby shallows.
But today some tribal members wonder what else they could be eating in these traditional foods that have sustained them for generations. Oil refineries, a chemical-manufacturing plant and agricultural lands share the air and watershed with the tribe's 3,000 acres of tidelands located on the Swinomish reservation, just outside La Conner in Skagit County.

NMFS plans to try to capture orphan orca next week
June 8, 2002 (KING5-TV) The federal government says it has set next week as the time when it plans to try to capture a young female killer whale that has been swimming near Vashon Island in Puget Sound, west of Seattle.
The plan is to capture the whale and then place her on a barge for a quick trip to a net pen in Kitsap County, which is west of Seattle.
A spokesman with the National Marine Fisheries Service - Brian Gorman - says the young female is to stay in the pen 10 to 14 days for treatment of some health problems and for tests to make sure she doesn't carry any serious health problems back when scientists try to reunite her with her pod.
Gorman says plans for the move to Canada are still being developed, but the initial plan is to keep her in an inlet that has been netted off "so she can swim freely and maintain muscle tone and wait for her pod to appear."

And you thought all that orca whale coverage was just a fluke
June 7, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) IT'S BEEN TWO years since we basked in the aura of Dr. T.V. Skreen, celebrated consultant to the broadcast industry and part-time base-running coach for the Seattle Mariners.
We caught up with him at a fund-raiser for the Rampant Fescue Project, which is working to restore prairie grass to my back yard and other sensitive ecosystems. Skreen was the guest speaker, and after his illuminating talk – "An Orca in Every Newscast" – he was gracious enough to sit down for a few minutes and talk TV with me.
Here is an excerpt of that conversation.
TV GUY: Love your necktie, Dr. Skreen. Is that a "Free Willy" motif?
DR. SKREEN: Thanks. Yes, it is. Thought it would be appropriate to the topic of my remarks today.

Whale experts want international commission to protect orcas
June 7, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Experts want to create an international commission to protect orcas and reduce people's negative effect on the animals.
The recommendation was announced Thursday in a report on the Orca Recovery Conference last weekend.
The scientists, conservationists and government officials who attended the conference discussed the need to better protect orca habitat and prey, understand them better and reduce pollution.

Orca Network Culture Cruise
June 6, 2002 (San Juan Islander) Orca Network will hold a benefit cruise from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, June 29, 2002. Island Adventures boat tours in Anacortes is providing a large boat and crew for the cruise. The theme is the social life of orcas.

Friendly Luna looking for his pod
June 6, 2002 (CH News - Victoria BC) A two-year-old orca known as Luna has been swimming off the west coast of Vancouver Island for about a year, and CH TV's Jonathan Bartlett visited to find out more.
Luna, as area residents have named him, is a five-metre- long orca. He showed up in Nootka Sound near Gold River last June.
Killer whales normally swim with their families or pods their entire lives. Marine biologists speculate that Luna was separated from his mother and has decided to stay and wait for his pod to return.
He has become acclimatized to humans, however, and scientists worry that could pose a risk of Luna losing his natural instinct for the wild.
Luna (or L-98, his official name) is a member of L-Pod, a Southern resident group of orcas who frequent Nootka water in the summertime.

U.S. government report blames humans for global warming
June 4, 2002 (Environmental News Service) The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will increase significantly over the next two decades due mostly to human activities - but again rejected an international treaty to slow global warming.
A report quietly released last week by the Environmental Protection Agency gave a surprising endorsement to what many scientists have long argued: that oil refining, power plants, and auto emissions are important causes of global warming.

Stopping whale watching is not the right response to the whales' plight.
June 3, 2002 (People For Puget Sound)
  • Stopping whale watching is not the right response to the whales' plight.
  • Toxic pollution and declining salmon runs are the main reasons why our whales are in trouble. We have to deal with these very difficult issues if the whales are going to have a chance.
  • Whale watching could stop tomorrow, and all we would have accomplished is that whales would have fewer friends--they wouldn't be protected from the things that are destroying their health and reproductive success.
  • Regarding vessel noise, there are a number of other points of view and other data. According to Ken Balcomb, one of the most respected whale scientists and an expert on the southern resident community of orca whales, "One would think that if vessel harassment and acoustic disturbance were factors in population decline, the supposed effects [increased mortality, and decreased fecundity] would be noticeable in this extreme scenario [the era of capture], but the reverse is true."
  • Also, some of the loudest vessels are not whale-watching vessels at all but include large ships that also pose the risk of major oil spills.
  • There are legitimate concerns about whale watching-- and commercial operators have adopted practices in the past few years that are a far cry from practices in the past, and they deserve our appreciation. Commercial operators have also shown a willingness to continue to assess and modify their practices in the future.
  • The majority of whale-watching boats actually are recreational vessels. Educating recreational boaters in best whale-watching practices should be a high priority.
Cantwell asks NMFS to help save Puget Sound orcas
June 1, 2002 (Bremerton Sun) U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell called on the National Marine Fisheries Service on Friday to take a stronger role in efforts to save Puget Sound's orcas from extinction.
That means more research to determine what is killing the beloved marine mammals, greater enforcement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and development of an international agreement to speed response during a crisis, she said.
Cantwell said the National Marine Fisheries Service should develop an "international protocol" for dealing with killer whales, which cross back and forth between the United States and Canada.

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