Orca Network News - June, 2005
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
June 1, 2005 through June 30, 2005.
June 30, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Human infants, like most mammal babies, sleep a lot, though not always when their parents would like.
But researchers have found that newborn bottlenose dolphins and killer whales do just the opposite -- they stay awake and are active virtually 24 hours a day for the first month of life. Their moms manage with only a little more shuteye than the newborns.
The behavior, reported today in the journal Nature, is at odds with the rest of the mammal family and upsets conventional wisdom that lots of sleep is critical to childhood development.
But after observing two adult female killer whales and their calves at Shamu Stadium at Sea World-San Diego and four dolphins and their calves at Gelendgick Dolphinarium and the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station on the Black Sea for up to five months, the researchers concluded that the newborns were dozing off for no more than 30 seconds at a time, and dolphin mothers were even more wakeful than the calves. Orca moms seemed to snooze a tad bit more than their babies.
Siegel and his colleagues point out that not sleeping and remaining active and responsive after birth has several survival advantages for baby whales and dolphins: By staying wakeful and moving, they're less susceptible to predators, the activity helps maintain body temperature until they add body mass and blubber, it allows for frequent respiration at the surface, and it facilitates rapid growth of the brain and body and trains the infants to be able to track and stay close to their mothers.
Court upholds ban on pesticides
June 30, 2005 (Seattle Times) A federal appeals court has upheld a ban on the use of pesticides near streams in Washington, Oregon and California until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines the chemicals won't harm salmon.
U.S. District Judge John Coughenour in Seattle ruled in January 2004 that no-spray buffer zones be put in place near rivers where there are threatened and endangered salmon.
The EPA, pesticide makers and farming groups appealed, arguing, among other things, that a coalition of environmental groups had not proved that dozens of pesticides in question would cause irreparable harm.
Lawyers with Earthjustice, a law firm representing the Washington Toxics Coalition, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides and other groups, hailed yesterday's decision as "a victory for salmon."
The appeals court also upheld Coughenour's ruling that stores selling pesticides in urban areas must post warnings that the products may harm fish.
Seattle's a hothouse of green power
June 29, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer column) The nation's largest wind energy farm sits on the Washington-Oregon border, an eyeful for motorists traveling between Pasco and Walla Walla. Seattle City Light is the Stateline Wind Project's largest customer.
Customers including Kinko's, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington have already approached City Light for assistance in buying green power, the council was told.
It shows how thinking outside the box, treated as heresy in Washington, D.C., is catching on in the provinces. In America today, new ideas flow from the bottom up.
The Seattle program is straightforward.
"Green tags" will be sold initially from the Stateline Wind Project for a premium of 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Commercial and residential customers will decide what percentage of their current electricity use they would like to "green up" and calculate how many kilowatt-hours to buy. They can make ongoing payments in each bill, or buy green tags in one upfront payment.
Green-Up will help Seattle practice what Mayor Greg Nickels has been out preaching.
Nickels is a driving force behind the recently adopted U.S. Conference of Mayors climate protection agreement, which commits cities to reducing global warming pollution by a dozen different methods.
As the Bush administration scorns the Kyoto Protocol on global warming -- and censors references to climate change in government documents -- the mayors want the United States to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and move toward wind and solar energy, fuel cells and less gas-guzzling cars and SUVs.
Consider, by contrast, what Congress has been doing -- albeit with resistance from Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
The House energy bill is a massive corporate welfare act.
It would provide production tax credits for "advanced" nuclear reactors, i.e., any kind of nuclear power plant. The federal government would be allowed to reimburse oil and gas multinationals for money spent on environmental review of their projects.
We're on the frying pan when it comes to global warming.
Winter snows fuel the Northwest's economy. So does summer meltwater from glaciers.
If we lose the snows, where does water come from to power turbines at dams, make the desert bloom or sustain our endangered salmon runs? What holds the snow if our forests die or burn?
NOAA Scientists Say Reports Altered
June 29, 2005 (Newsday) Many scientists at NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for balancing hydroelectric dams against endangered salmon, say they know of cases where scientific findings were altered at the request of commercial interests, according to a survey released Tuesday by two watchdog groups.
The survey was conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The survey posed 34 questions and was sent to 460 NOAA Fisheries scientists across the country. Responses came back from 124, or 27 percent.
"The conclusion is that political interference is a serious problem at NOAA Fisheries," Lexis Schulz, Washington representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said from Washington.
Among the findings:
* 58 percent of respondents said they knew of cases where high-level Commerce Department appointees or managers inappropriately altered NOAA Fisheries determinations.
* 53 percent said they were aware of cases in which commercial interests inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of NOAA Fisheries scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention.
* 13 percent said they knew of cases where environmental interests inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of NOAA Fisheries scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention.
* 44 percent said NOAA Fisheries routinely makes determinations using its best scientific judgment, even when political pressure is applied, while 37 percent disagreed.
Steven Murawski, director of scientific programs and chief science adviser for NOAA Fisheries, said from Washington that the survey represented about 6 percent of the nearly 2,000 scientists at the agency, and primarily represented the views of low-level staff who evaluate the work of others to develop management policy, not research scientists.
Salmon: Protect the evidence
June 29, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial) Sen. Larry Craig is illuminating the debate around saving fish. The Idaho Republican is making it clear that the opponents of salmon protection feel no need for the light of facts.
Indeed, Craig is trying to eliminate scientific evidence of what is happening to fish in the Columbia River system.
A Senate appropriations bill includes report language intended to kill an agency that has been collecting data on the survival of salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The effect of Craig's language would be to make it difficult or impossible for the Bonneville Power Administration to continue funding the vital work of the tiny, 11-person Fish Passage Center in Portland.
Craig also has raised the idea of using the appropriations process to undo the court decisions, an extremely bad idea both in principle and practice. Congress must preserve the center and the integrity of the courts. The Senate should not try to undo the Endangered Species Act or the science needed to protect threatened creatures and the environment they share with people.
The Race to Alaska Before It Melts
June 27, 2005 (New York Times) A product of the late ice age, the glacier looked old and tired on this hot day. There was a sense of loss, some people said, at watching this giant recoil. There were oohs and aahs but also more hushed tones, expressions of fear that the big land was somehow diminished, a little less wild. Just a few years ago, the spot where these tourists stood, on dry ground marked by Park Service signs, had been under ice.
Alaska is changing by the hour. From the far north, where higher seas are swamping native villages, to the tundra around Fairbanks, where melting permafrost is forcing some roads and structures to buckle in what looks like a cartoon version of a hangover, to the rivers of ice receding from inlets, warmer temperatures are remaking the Last Frontier State.
That transformation was particularly apparent at the visitor center here, where rangers were putting the finishing touches on a display that sought to explain the changing landscape of the country's northernmost state. The sign said, "Glimpses of an Ice Age past. Laboratory of climate change today," and it explained how the Exit Glacier has been shrinking over the years, and what scientists are learning as the state heats up.
New way to gauge whales' age
June 27, 2005 (News.com) Australian researchers are developing the first non-invasive and non-lethal method of determining the age of humpback whales.
The method, which relies on analysis of collected skin samples, undermined one of Japan's declared reasons for killing the mammals, Southern Cross University Associate Professor Peter Harrison said today.
"Our research is now focusing on using a new molecular technique to determine the age of humpback whales by looking at the DNA that's present in their skin samples," Professor Harrison, the director of the university's whale research program, said.
Japan says it needs to slaughter whales to understand their life cycles.
It also says it needs also to dissect their stomachs to track diets, and to examine skeletons and blubber to determine if they are exposed to pollutants.
Commercial Whaling Ban Holds-For Now
June 24, 2005 (National Geographic) Japan's efforts to relax whaling restrictions were voted down this week at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Yet the possible return of commercial whaling across the world's oceans still worries conservationists.
At the IWC gathering in Ulsan, Korea, which ended today, Japan failed in its bid to lift a ban on commercial whaling. But IWC members agreed to meet again to reconsider the issue with a view to ending the 19-year moratorium.
Lawmaker targets fish-data agency
June 24, 2005 (Seattle Times) Angered by a federal court order that spills water over federal dams to save endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has inserted language into a Senate energy bill that would kill an agency that tallies the survival of fish as they swim through the heavily dammed Columbia and Snake rivers.
The federal government has spent far more money trying to prevent the extinction of Northwest salmon than it has on any other endangered species. Craig's move would eliminate the Fish Passage Center, which for more than two decades has been collecting and analyzing data that document how effective that multibillion-dollar federal effort has been.
The manager of the Fish Passage Center, Michele DeHart, said her staff collects "data that is accurate and, yes, it does show that the federal hydro system kills fish."
"Maybe this is one of those deals where when you don't like the message, you kill the messenger," DeHart said.
"We all have to rely on some mutually agreeable data in order to figure out what is happening to the fish and, to date, that has come from the Fish Passage Center," said Charles Hudson, a spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Irrigators to meet goal helping salmon migrate
June 23, 2005 (Idaho Statesman) A wet spring helps farmers open their gates
The water is used to speed flows through the Snake River to flush juvenile salmon to the Pacific. The 427,000 goal -enough water to keep Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls running at full bore for two and half days - is the level irrigators said they would try to meet in all but the worst drought years in the Nez Perce Water Rights Agreement. That agreement was approved in March.
"Unusual spring weather was a big help, but this is still a significant achievement, considering the drought," said Bill McDonald, regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that operates the southern Idaho dams.
But Stuart said the water only helps the fall chinook migrate and provides no benefits for threatened spring-summer chinook and endangered sockeye. As long as four dams in the lower Snake River in Washington stand, there will be pressure to obtain even more Idaho water for salmon, he said.
"If Idaho water users and the state of Idaho want to take Idaho water off the table permanently they have to deal with the four lower Snake dams in an effective fashion," Stuart said.
State identifies most-polluted bodies of water
June 23, 2005 (Bellingham Herald) Silver Creek contains fecal coliform, Lake Whatcom contains mercury and the fish in Lake Padden contain PCBs.
They are among the 61 Whatcom County lakes, rivers, creeks and bays on the list of most polluted water bodies in Washington, according to a state Department of Ecology report released earlier this month.
Statewide, about 4,000 miles of streams, portions of 733 lakes and 148 saltwater areas were tested, and only for certain conditions. That represents only a small percentage of the total water bodies in the state. Of those tested, about 14 percent made the polluted waters list, according to Ecology.
Polluted areas on the list have increased by about 725 since 1998, but that's not because the number of polluted waterways in the state has increased; the state just has a lot more data.
The list "acts as a pointing finger," said Ken Koch, an Ecology watershed assessment coordinator. "It says, 'We found something here, here and here.' The next step is ... an area study."
A complete list of state waterways tested and deemed polluted is available online from the state Department of Ecology, click on programs, water quality, Wastewater Assessments and TMDLs and Washington State's Water Quality Assessment for 2004.
Salmon Policy: Fish or cut dams
June 23, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial) We question the value of further appeals. The federal position, even during the Clinton administration, has been clearly inadequate. More court hearings are unlikely to lead to any other conclusion.
The real answer would seem to lie in developing fish-protection plans that meet legal standards rather than political mandates for protecting dams over the environment, Northwest cultural life and fish-dependent communities' economic futures. To be sure, the administration has reasons to want to appeal, including concerns about an estimated $67 million in hydropower revenue lost when water is sent around electricity-generating turbines to protect salmon. With the issue tied up in court, it's hard not to use all options for appeal.
For the Puget Sound region, draft salmon protection plans developed by community groups are moving forward, eventually toward a review by federal officials. If progress can continue in a cooperative spirit, the Puget Sound region and federal officials can hope to pull off the difficult trick of accommodating local growth while helping fish recover. The challenge will be eased if cooperation avoids any need for continual court reviews.
2 studies document PCB harm
June 22, 2005 (The Berkshire Eagle) Seven years after work began and almost five years after a cleanup settlement was finalized in federal court, the U.S. Environmental Protection agency has finished two massive studies that document the harm PCBs are doing to people and the environment along the Housatonic River.
The human health assessment concluded that PCBs in the Housatonic are a threat to people, and that those who eat fish, ducks and geese face an unacceptable risk of cancer. Someone eating an 8-ounce filet from a Housatonic fish once a week for 60 years would face a 1-in-33 chance of contracting cancer, the EPA concluded.
The ecological study found that bottom-dwelling organisms, frogs and fish-eating mammals like mink and otter face serious harm from the PCB pollution found in some stretches of the river. All are at high risk for survival and reproduction. Less threatened but still considered "somewhat at risk" are some fish-eating birds, shrews, foxes and endangered species such as bald eagles.
Water spills for salmon go ahead
June 22, 2005 (The Oregonian) Four Columbia Basin dams will release water to propel fish seaward as an appeals panel denies a stay of a judge's order
A federal appeals court Tuesday temporarily upheld an order requiring heavy releases of river water over four dams to help threatened Columbia Basin salmon this summer.
The spills, most of which started Monday, were ordered June 10 by U.S. District Judge James Redden, who said federal operations to protect endangered salmon from dams were inadequate.
Federal agencies filed an emergency appeal last week with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the additional spill could potentially worsen survival of young salmon in a drought year with slower and hotter river conditions.
U.S. weakens plan on global warming
June 17, 2005 (Seattle Times) Bush administration officials working behind the scenes have succeeded in weakening key sections of a proposal for joint action by the eight major industrialized nations to curb global warming.
Hatchery salmon to stay protected
June 17, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Chinook salmon in the Puget Sound region dodged a bullet yesterday when federal fisheries officials said the imperiled fish will not lose protection under the Endangered Species Act.
But environmentalists said a new government policy issued yesterday -- said by the government to reinforce protection for Puget Sound chinook and 15 other kinds of West Coast salmon -- is written so that lawsuits can easily undermine it.
And that's exactly what private-property-rights advocates said they would do, making plans to challenge the new policy in federal court as early as today.
The decision revolved around how to treat the salmon produced in hatcheries. Should they be counted under the Endangered Species Act? Private-property-rights activists say yes.
Not entirely, says the policy announced by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The agency said hatchery-bred fish could be counted in some circumstances as part of the salmon stock in question. But overall, the policy will emphasize protection of wild-spawned salmon, the agency said.
"Our focus continues to be, as it always has been, on wild stocks and their ecosystems," said Brian Gorman, a Seattle-based spokesman for the fisheries service.
Crusader begins fiercest fight yet -- against cancer
June 15, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Animal activist Ben White never expected a health battle
He scaled tall buildings to hang anti-fur banners in New York, cut open Japanese dolphin-holding nets under cover of night, broke into a rundown zoo in Grenada to free monkeys and -- in his least risky and most publicized act -- led an invasion of cardboard turtles at the WTO protest in Seattle.
Ben White, intrepid animal activist, has fought too many battles to keep count.
"Early on, I made a decision not to hold back -- to go flat-out," said White, who has been arrested 12 or 20 or maybe 30 times in the line of duty. "You kind of lose track after a while."
His cheeks were gaunt, the sinewy tree-climber arms grown thin over a painful belly swollen with cancer. "I look like a Martian now," joked the wry 53-year-old who once locked himself to a floating cage to protest the capture of sea lions feasting on steelhead at the Ballard Locks.
Messages need messengers. "You learn to set up a scene -- like the turtle outfits at WTO," said the media master, who choreographed a line of turtle can-can dancers at the protest. "You imagine it as the picture on the TV, then set it up just like a producer."
White was living off the land on the island of Hawaii when an unexpected encounter changed the course of his life. His "epiphany," he called it.
Swimming about a mile out off the Kona Coast, he found himself in the middle of a school of spinner dolphins. They shot out of the water around him, coming down in curtains of rainbow bubbles. "They moved like watermelon seeds squirted between your fingers," said White. "They were huge, and I felt really little and clumsy and stupid."
One, he said, moved in toward him, turned sideways and looked at him. Or looked into him. "There was no question at all there was a person in there regarding me," said White. "My world view came crashing down around me. I was suddenly aware that the entire world is conscious."
Spill plan may dry up
June 16, 2005 (Tri-City Herald) Salmon in the Snake and Columbia rivers may not get more water spilled over the dams this summer after all.
On Wednesday, the federal government filed an appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and asked for an emergency order to stop spills planned to begin Monday.
The spills were ordered by U.S. District Judge James Redden last week to help juvenile salmon migrate to sea.
Terry Courtney Jr., a Warm Springs tribal fisherman, said what happens in a drought year with no spill is easy to see.
He blames this year's poor chinook run on the 2001 drought when fish were migrating to sea. Courtney fishes for salmon on traditional platforms and also with hook and line.
U.S. told to protect right whale right now
June 16, 2005 (San Francisco Chronicle) Judge announces deadline on critical habitat designation
A federal judge says the government has dragged its feet for too long on protecting the Pacific right whale -- the most imperiled whale species -- and must act by October to designate habitat that will help the creature survive.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco, made public Wednesday, forces the Bush administration to decide what restrictions to place on shipping, commercial fishing and oil and gas operations in the Bering Sea off Alaska, the summer home for the whales' largest known population.
Right whales, once abundant in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, were hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries before an international ban took effect in 1949. Listed as endangered in 1971, they remain menaced by collisions with tankers, entanglement in fishing nets and pollution, Alsup said. He said their Pacific population may be as few as tens of whales.
The ruling was a victory for the Bay Area's Center for Biological Diversity, which formally requested critical habitat for the whale in 2000.
"We owe it to future generations to protect this special creature, and the judge recognized that one of the most effective ways to do that is to protect the places the whales call home,'' said attorney Brent Plater, author of the petition. He said Alsup's order virtually compels the administration to grant the request.
West Coast trawling restricted, but effects may be light
June 16, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Federal fishery regulators voted yesterday to impose a permanent ban on trawl fishing in nearly 300,000 square miles of Pacific waters off the West Coast, a move hailed by environmentalists as a landmark in marine conservation.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which regulates West Coast fishing, chose a plan that will ban bottom trawling in depths beyond 700 fathoms (about 4,200 feet) as well as dozens of shallower areas believed to be critical habitat for groundfish such as rockfish, lingcod and Dover sole.
The new regulations apply in federal waters that extend from three miles to 200 miles off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.
The fishery management plan is aimed at protecting coral beds, kelp forests, rocky reefs and other sensitive fish habitat from trawling -- a practice that involves dragging weighted nets on the ocean floor to scoop up bottom-dwelling species.
White House spins global warming
June 15, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer column) These past five years, we have witnessed wholesale environmental plunder. We've watched the destruction of formerly protected lands, the relaxation of air- and water-pollution standards and the erosion of a network of federal laws and rules designed to protect species in danger of extinction.
But having endured this era of "personal greed trumps nature and science," I was beginning to think no new stunt could be outrageous enough to faze us. Then came perhaps the most outrageous act of all: the White House's duplicitous editorial spin on global warming.
If I were to write a fictitious account of special-interest manipulation of public policy, I could do no better than the following: "Longtime oil-industry lobbyist rewrites scientific government treatise to downplay the dangers of global warming. Systematically revises government report so as to nullify the now-proven dangers of global warming on the eve of U.S. president's meeting with British prime minister on global pollution control treaty."
Regulators to vote on ocean trawling plan
June 15, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Federal regulators were set to vote on a plan to protect deep water corals and other sensitive fish habitat that will likely include a permanent ban on bottom trawling in large tracts of the Pacific Ocean.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which advises the federal government on West Coast fishing regulations, was expected to choose a plan Wednesday that will identify "essential fish habitat" in federal waters, which extend from three miles to 200 miles off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.
The plan will likely include measures to protect those areas, ranging from restrictions on fishing gear to setting aside areas that will be off-limits to trawling, the technique of dragging weighted nets on the ocean floor in search of rockfish, ling cod and other bottom-dwelling fish.
"What's at stake is the long-term sustainability of our fish and wildlife resources on the West Coast," said Chris Dorsett, Pacific fish conservation manager at the Ocean Conservancy. "Right now we use means that are pretty damaging to habitats on the West Coast. We'd like to move toward means that are more sensitive to underwater ecosystems."
"Fisheries management has been conducted for decades without paying attention to the habitat that produces the fish," said Rod Fujita, a marine ecologist with Environmental Defense. "It's always about protecting the fish populations themselves, but not their homes."
Salmon vs. dam debate sharpens
June 13, 2005 (Seattle Times Editorial) An old question feels as if it is taking on new urgency: Should four fish-killing dams on the Snake River be breached to provide a more-natural passage for salmon?
Dam operators and their supporters and dam critics need to be much more specific about their competing visions.
Last Friday, U.S. District Judge James Redden agreed with environmental, tribal and commercial and sport fishing interests that more water should be spilled over the four Snake dams and McNary Dam on the Columbia River.
Little by little, Redden is narrowing the question and forcing federal agencies to focus on whether the dams can be redeemed. A fast appeal of Friday's ruling is expected.
Affiliated salmon groups are starting to get a little giddy as they strain to hear a "maybe" taking shape about the prospect of gouging holes in the earthen berms of the Snake dams.
Can the approach of environmentalists, and the utility of their arguments, change with the times? Can they sound as if they care about communities as well as fish?
Basic questions about the availability and expense of alternatives to barge transportation need to be shaped for broader consumption. How is the margin of safety the dams provide during a nasty winter reliably replaced? If the river level drops, does it wipe out irrigation or is it only a matter of a longer straw?
Grande Ronde River has everything -- but salmon
June 13, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Elk on the bluff tops, deer along the river, a coyote scurrying up a slope, bighorn sheep cavorting on cliffs, bald eagles glaring down from trees, even a swimming rattlesnake -- the remote Grande Ronde River is the real-life Wild Kingdom to Northwest river runners.
What you don't see is explained dryly in a Bureau of Land Management guide to the river system.
"The Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers were once historical spawning grounds for large numbers of salmon and steelhead," it says. "In 1994, the Snake River Chinook salmon was listed as a threatened species. In 1997 and 1998, both steelhead and bull trout were also listed as threatened."
With no dams, and miles of unspoiled habitat, the Wallowa-Grande Ronde system should be home to -- swiping phraseology from George H.W. Bush -- "more darned salmon than you can shake a stick at."
Four dams on the lower Snake River, into which the Grande Ronde flows near Asotin, that's what.
Thousands of sockeye salmon once swam nearly 900 miles upstream through the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers to spawn in namesake Redfish Lake. By 1988, just one returned. A weir below the lake became an impromptu shrine, with candles and placards saying: "Spawn until you drop."
Conservationists have a solution: Breach the dams! They argue that the lower Snake River supplies only 5 percent of kilowatts produced by the federal power system.
They cite a recent American Fisheries Society scientific analysis, which found: "Benefits to Snake River stock survival and recovery would be assured with the removal of the lower four dams in that system."
Governor joins critics of salmon ruling
June 11, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Gov. Christine Gregoire joined utility executives, a conservative Eastern Washington politician and federal agencies in attacking a judge's order yesterday to help salmon pass safely through Snake and Columbia river dams this summer.
Critics said the move -- urged by environmentalists and fishermen, and expected to cost between $57 million and $81 million -- risked upsetting the state's economic recovery.
The Bonneville Power Administration, which markets electricity produced at federally operated dams on the rivers, predicted a late-2005 cost increase of 4 percent to 5 percent.
But that's wholesale. Most Seattle residential customers should see an increase of less than $1 per month, Seattle City Light said. The exact amount will be worked out later.
Washington, like Oregon, had argued that the federal agencies' salmon-rescue plans for Snake and Columbia salmon stocks are so weak that they are illegal. But Redden's solution is wrong, Gregoire's office said.
"We question whether there is the environmental fish benefit. ... The science isn't really clear," said Tom Fitzsimmons, Gregoire's chief of staff. "The significance of the economic loss is what (Gregoire) is trying to highlight."
Spill water over dams, judge orders June 10, 2005 (Seattle Times)
Judge Orders Gov't to Help Imperiled Fish June 10, 2005 (Yahoo News)
Removing dams downstream protect salmon in the wilderness
June 10, 2005 (Idaho Statesman op-ed) When federal dam builders completed the dams downstream of Lewiston in the mid-1970s, the fish runs of central Idaho declined so quickly that all wild salmon seasons were closed by 1978. Federal salmon savers tried to rescue the runs and spent millions, but Idaho's wild salmon fishing seasons have remained closed for 27 consecutive years.
How can society correct this problem of wilderness areas in the Snake River Basin that no longer have healthy anadromous fish runs? We need to remove downstream reservoirs and restore downstream river. Our congressmen need to authorize dam removal beginning with Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor - four federal dams in southeastern Washington on the lower Snake River. Idaho has much to gain by this action. A recent economic study estimates $544 million annually in economic activity in Idaho if the salmon and steelhead runs return to the levels of the 1950s and '60s.
New Legislation Aims to Bail Out Oceans
June 10, 2005 (Environmental Network News) Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced legislation in Congress yesterday aimed at restoring the oceans. The bill comes in response to landmark reports issued within the last two years by the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, both illuminating the alarming collapse of the seas.
The National Oceans Protection Act lays out a plan for improving the health, productivity and sustainability of ocean resources and ecosystems. The bill establishes a coordinated, accountable ocean management system designed to protect, maintain and restore the health of the oceans. Among other provisions, the bill also strengthens the role of science in fisheries management, provides increased federal support for coastal habitat restoration and tightens controls on key sources of coastal and ocean pollution.
The following is a statement by John Adams, NRDC's president, who served on the Pew Oceans Commission: "Scientists have shown that an endangered ocean threatens our food supply, our health, economy and the legacy we leave our children. Now is the time for a sea change in U.S. ocean policy.
"Unfortunately, our current oceans policy is driven by a 'frontier mentality,' a general view that the seas are inexhaustible resources, so vast that human activity can barely make a dent. But the opposite is true, and after decades of human abuse the oceans are now in a state of silent collapse.
Neighborhood tries to honor Mother Nature's runoff rules
June 10, 2005 (Seattle Times) The 120-acre site, slated to eventually hold 1,600 apartments and houses, is among the most ambitious attempts in the region to reshape what happens to raindrops after they hit the ground in cities and suburbs.
Using everything from concrete that soaks up water like a sponge to ditchlike gardens that channel water off streets, High Point's creators are using innovative engineering tricks to imitate nature.
The experiment there, and similar ones scattered around the Puget Sound and the country, could change how neighborhoods look and how development affects surrounding ecosystems. If the experiments are successful, future subdivisions could have narrow, winding streets without curbs, cascading artificial streams instead of storm drains, and intensive landscaping rather than massive water-detention ponds.
"As far as the freshwater habitat, streams and wetlands around the Puget Sound, stormwater is a major issue and a very challenging one," said Curtis Hinman of the Washington State University extension office in Pierce County. Hinman has written a manual for new, low-impact stormwater systems.
Streets are tilted to one side instead of sloping from the center toward each shoulder. The design directs rainwater through cuts in the curbs, where it flows to landscaped and grassy depressions, like shallow ditches. Designed with rich, porous soil and a bed of gravel underneath, these swales absorb much of the water.
On the homes, gutters feed water into tiny concrete troughs that lead to landscaped areas designed to absorb water. Other gutters lead to buried, perforated pipes that gradually leak the water into the ground. Porous sidewalks, like glued-together gravel, also soak up water.
To aid salmon, judge may order dams to spill more
June 10, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) With Snake and Columbia river salmon runs dipping mysteriously low -- low enough to reignite talk of breaching electricity-producing dams -- a federal judge today plans to begin personally overseeing the rivers' hydropower system.
So few salmon have materialized this spring -- 160,000 fish are no-shows, about two-thirds of the total expected -- that fishing for the spring chinook run was severely curtailed. Puzzled fishery managers are searching for the cause.
That's the sobering backdrop to a key court hearing today before U.S. District Judge James Redden, who is expected to order federal agencies to start operating the dams in a more fish-friendly way. In the past, the judge has simply bounced the agencies' salmon-recovery plans back for more work and let them keep running the hydropower system as before.
The dams help keep the lights on across the Northwest -- but also kill some young salmon as they pass through on their way to the ocean. Partly because of the low salmon counts and partly because environmentalists and fishermen are making headway in court, the idea of knocking out four dams on the Snake River is again getting a push.
Group Sounds Alarm Over Trapped Dolphins
June 9, 2005 (Yahoo News) From Southeast Asia to the Black Sea, fishing nets have become deathtraps for thousands of whales, dolphins and porpoises - species whose survival will be threatened unless fishing methods change, the World Wildlife Fund said Thursday.
The U.S.-based environmental group released a marine scientists' report that listed species threatened by accidental catch, and recommended low-cost steps to reduce their entanglement in fishing gear.
The report identified dolphins in the Philippines, India and Thailand as urgent priorities.
Researchers estimate that fishing gear kills about 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises a year in the world's oceans.
Threatened populations include Irrawaddy dolphins in Malampyaya Sound off the Philippines' Palawan island, about 220 miles south of Manila. The WWF report said only 77 remain.
Dolphins also face the threat of traders who sell them to aquariums, especially in Asia, the report said.
Other threatened populations include Spinner and Fraser's dolphins in the Philippines' Sulu Sea. The WWF report said up to 3,000 Spinner dolphins may be caught each year in gillnets, which stretch from the sea floor to the surface and are hard for dolphins to see or detect with their sonar
Judge may increase dam spillage
June 9, 2005 (Seattle Times) A federal judge indicated yesterday that he is leaning toward greatly increasing the amount of water spilled over four dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers to help threatened and endangered salmon migrating to the ocean.
U.S. District Judge James Redden issued his preliminary finding in a statement filed just two days before a scheduled hearing to determine how dam operations should be changed in the wake of his rejection of the Bush administration approach.
Environmentalists, Indian tribes and fishing groups argue that if the spill is not increased, salmon could face extinction.
Government officials counter that the extra spill is unnecessary and will cost electricity customers up to $100 million in a drought year. When the water is spilled, it does not pass through the dam's turbines - helping young fish survive but missing a chance to generate electricity.
Coalition Urges UN Curbs on Harmful Ocean Sounds
June 9, 2005 (Environmental Network News) An environmental coalition urged the United Nations Wednesday to take steps to protect whales, dolphins and other marine life from the powerful sound waves used in oil and gas exploration and by the world's navies to navigate and detect submarines.
Marine scientists believe there is a link between the use of high-intensity sound and recent mass strandings of whales and dolphins in waters off Greece, Hawaii, New Zealand and elsewhere around the world since 1985, said the Ocean Noise Coalition.
In each of these cases, the strandings took place near high intensity sonar or near the use of high-powered industrial "air guns" used in oil and gas exploration, the coalition grouping over 120 different organizations told a news conference at U.N. headquarters.
Intense sound can also seriously injure or kill fish and drive down the catch rates of commercial fishing operations, according to scientific studies cited by the coalition, which includes the Swiss-based World Conservation Union, Chile's Centro de Conservacion Cetacea and the U.S.-based Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council.
The European Parliament and the International Whaling Commission are among groups recognizing intense ocean noise as a threat to marine life and backing international controls, they said.
Some governments including the United States, however, have argued that sonar use cannot be regulated internationally as it is a matter of national security.
Bush seeks expansion of offshore fish farms
June 7, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Plan stirs debate about balancing demand, environmental impact
Calling fish farming a potential boon for consumers and the economy, the Bush administration yesterday proposed to massively expand the practice to waters as far as 200 miles offshore.
Supporters in Washington, including a state senator who advocates for fish farmers, urged Congress to bless the idea. They said a likely result -- if fish-culturing methods can be perfected -- would be a cheap source of ocean-grown delights, such as black cod, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Critics answered that the aquaculture build-up is a get-rich-quick scheme destined to leave taxpayers subsidizing an industry that would pollute the ocean, serve up substandard fish and, ultimately, center its economic activity in Third World nations.
The two sides have skirmished for years about the advisability of huge salmon-growing pens in Chile, Norway, British Columbia and other regions, while Washington's state-controlled waters have seen only modest aquaculture growth.
The proposed federal legislation would pave the way for more welcoming regulations in federal- and state-controlled waters, advocates here say.
"We can create new jobs. This is going to generate more money for coastal communities and the economy of the United States," said Susan Buchanan of the National Marine Fisheries Service, which wants to promote and regulate aquaculture from 3 to 200 miles offshore. Waters closer to shore are regulated by states.
Seal boards boat for safety
June 7, 2005 (Kitsap Sun) Rob Mead, a commercial geoduck diver, noticed a lone seal among a group of killer whales Friday afternoon as he drove his boat north toward the Hood Canal bridge. He cut the engine and drifted toward the seal.
"The whales were just under the surface of the water," Mead said. "It was like they were toying with him, taking turns touching him, pushing him and rolling him over."
The harbor seal, seemingly paralyzed but uninjured, looked up at the boat crew with "bigger-than-normal seal eyes" as he tried to hide alongside the boat, Mead said. The crew lowered a swim ladder used by divers to exit the water.
"As soon as it got to a right angle, the seal jumped on," he said. "We decided to let him hang out."
The whales were no doubt the six transient orcas that have been hunting seals in Hood Canal for the past 19 weeks. Normally, this group - two females, each with two offspring - would be headed to Southeast Alaska, but they have shown no signs of leaving.
"You could tell he was freaked out and looking for help," Mead noted. "The seal was all about friends; he didn't want any more enemies."
Mead, who has been geoduck diving about 20 years, said he continued to let his boat drift for about an hour before he started the motor and pulled away slowly with the seal still on board. A couple of times, the seal poked its face into the prop wash, apparently looking underwater for the orcas, which stayed behind. After about a quarter mile, the seal jumped off.
Our View: We need to decide what's a working river
June 7, 2005 (Idaho Statesman editorial) People want working Columbia and Snake rivers. They don't agree on how the rivers should work.
Fifteen years into the debate over saving Northwest salmon, we don't agree on what we value most about our rivers. Cheap shipping from Idaho wheat fields to the Pacific Rim? Inexpensive hydropower? Water for farming? Habitat for rare salmon and steelhead?
For Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, a working river returns salmon and steelhead numbers to where they were a half century ago. Quoting an economic study popular with fellow dam-breaching supporters, Hamilton said it's time to get moving, remove portions of the dams, and allow small Idaho towns to reap the benefits of a $544-million-a-year fishing season statewide.
The definition of a working river is inevitably tied to the issue of breaching - removing the earthen portions of four dams on the lower Snake River. This longstanding controversy lingered like the low clouds that rolled into the Lewiston-Clarkston valley Monday.
Salmon recovery challenges our values: How much worth do we put into saving our rare, remarkable wild salmon? A working river system tests another set of values: What's the best way to put our rivers to work? Until we figure that out, as a region, the future of our rivers is uncertain for us all.
Clash over uses of Snake, Columbia rivers
June 7, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Environmental and outfitters groups clashed yesterday with advocates for agriculture, transportation and business organizations at a congressional field hearing on future uses of the Snake and Columbia river systems.
Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter acknowledged that the imperiled salmon that use the rivers as highways to and from the Pacific Ocean "are an important part of our heritage and economy, and maintaining the salmon in the Snake River is a very high priority."
But the Idaho Republican also blamed environmental groups for causing economic hardship on agricultural and timber industries, which use ports in Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston as conduits to ship products overseas.
"Butch is running for governor, and this is the start of his campaign," Sedivy said in a telephone interview from Clarkston. "There's nothing real serious going on inside this hearing room. This is politics. Show me the bleeding."
"Hotel and restaurant parking lots that should be full of salmon fishermen are empty," Sedivy said. "The town of Salmon, Idaho, hasn't had a fishing season since 1978. Tell me who's being devastated economically."
Snake River chinook salmon, sockeye salmon and steelhead trout are listed on the endangered species list, either as endangered or threatened.
The fish begin their lives in inland rivers, tributaries and even high mountain streams. As small fish they ride the current to the Pacific Ocean, where they spend two or more years living in salt water.
An internal biological alarm clock tells them to return to their original hatching grounds -- often to the same patch of river gravel -- to lay their eggs, spawn and die.
Salmon and steelhead are crucial to the cultural identity of many Northwest Indian tribes and are an important economic engine for the Northwest. [Note: Upper Columbia salmon are also essential for the survival of Salish Sea orcas]
"Restoring the fishery would restore economies and communities throughout the Northwest, and could provide a vast source of healthy, wholesome food for the region and the rest of America."
Sound herring are denied protection
June 7, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Cherry Point stock ruled similar to others
Even though its numbers have plummeted, Puget Sound's largest herring stock doesn't deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act because it isn't sufficiently different from other groups of herring, the National Marine Fisheries Service decided yesterday.
Environmentalists quickly vowed to appeal the decision, noting that the reasoning behind it mirrors the government's justification for failing to protect the Sound's killer whales -- a decision later reversed by the courts.
The herring decision is potentially far-reaching because the small fish form a key link in the estuary's food web, which scientists say has been battered by overfishing, pollution and other problems. Killer whales and salmon are among the creatures that depend on herring.
"Herring are the manna of the Sound. This was the state's largest herring stock," said Fred Felleman of Ocean Advocates, one of seven environmental petitioners.
"This was a chance for NMFS to show they were really serious about the recovery of salmon and the killer whale," he said, "and instead they put up a bad show."
Environmentalists counter that Cherry Point herring are different genetically. For example, while most Puget Sound herring spawn in the winter and early spring, the Cherry Point stock is finishing its spawning near Bellingham now.
Cherry Point herring denied endangered-species protection June 7, 2005 (Seattle Times)
Septic systems harm Hood Canal
June 7, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) County commissioners allowed builders and landowners to develop the land without sewers. Now thousands of septic tank leaching fields sit feet away from the canal, its rich shellfish beds and its fish stocks.
Just as Minch expected, the canal's waters have low levels of dissolved oxygen, leading to greenish algae blooms, fish kills and state-ordered fishing closures.
The state's Puget Sound Action Team, a multiagency task force, blames septic systems for about 60 percent of the human contribution to the problem.
"You can use the word 'pristine' in the past tense," Minch grumbled as he gazed out over the water from his home on the fjord's south shore, where cabins have turned into multistory homes that stand cheek-to-cheek along the shore.
Nitrogen fertilizes algae, causing it to grow. The algae dies off and the decomposing organic matter consumes so much oxygen that there isn't enough left for the fish.
But some good things are happening, said former Commissioner Wes Johnson. Gov. Christine Gregoire wants to spend $5 million for cleanup and has announced a nine-point action plan. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, tribes, and local citizens' groups have been working on the problem as well.
Sponging dolphins learn from mum
June 6, 2005 (BBC News) Female bottlenose dolphins are taught by their mothers to use marine sponges to look for food, according to a study.
An international team looked at wild dolphins from western Australia and used DNA analysis to investigate if the behaviour could be inherited.
They tell the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences it is most probaby transmitted socially.
Biologists observing the dolphins in eastern Shark Bay saw the animals break marine sponges off the seafloor and wear them over their snouts to probe into the seafloor for fish.
Sponging was mostly confined to females - only one out of the 13 regular spongers was male.
"It looks like the animals use the sponge as a kind of glove to probe the [sediments]. It might just give them protection against some noxious critters hiding in there," said Michael Krützen, of the University of Zürich in Switzerland, co-author of the study.
"It's really hard to make genetic arguments for recent switches in behaviour, because things don't happen that quickly in populations," commented Grant Pogson, an evolutionary biologist at University of California, Santa Cruz, US.
Dr Krützen added: "Those who work on these animals know that if there is a prime candidate for socially transmitted behaviour - culture - in the marine mammal world, it is bottlenose dolphins."
Researchers: Dolphins use sponges as tools June 6, 2005 (CNN)
Tainted salmon on market
June 6, 2005 (Vancouver Sun) Eggs blamed for the anti-fungal malachite green found in farmed B.C. fish
The provincial fisheries ministry admitted Friday it is investigating the sale of fish eggs believed to be the source of malachite green found in chinook salmon raised at a B.C. fish farm.
Malachite green -- a chloride compound used to kill fungus on fish eggs and once regarded as "the holy water of the hatcheries" -- fell out of favour in Canada in 1992 and is considered a carcinogen by Health Canada.
Although it is not a banned substance, its use is not permitted on food fish.
The provincial investigation was already underway when inspectors found contaminated salmon that had been raised by Stolt Sea Farms at a fish farm at Brougham Point on East Thurlow Island.
By that time, two 30,000-pound shipments of fresh fish had been processed and distributed to market in Canada, the U.S., China, Japan and possibly some other Asian countries.
Plan would expand offshore fish farms
June 6, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) To feed the country's growing appetite for seafood and reduce American dependence on imports, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to announce a proposal tomorrow to allow greatly expanded offshore fish farming.
The draft proposal of the National Offshore Aquaculture Act calls for development of regulations to permit farming in federal waters up to 200 miles from shore, and the addition of species to farming -- including cod, halibut and tuna -- that are farmed in other countries. Fish farming, or aquaculture, is currently confined to state waters, closer to shore.
According to the draft, which aims to quintuple fish farming by 2025, ocean resources would be divided into privatized zones with renewable 10-year leases.
"Fisheries are a collapsing industry, and even though aquaculture comes with a lot of baggage, it is absolutely the future of seafood production," said Dr. Daniel Benetti, director of aquaculture and chairman of marine affairs and policy at the University of Miami. Benetti is working with the Snapper Farm off Puerto Rico, a recipient of a NOAA grant.
But critics are worried that NOAA, a branch of the Commerce Department, has not addressed the health and environmental problems of fish farms: pollution from wastes, chemicals and drugs; the impact of escapes on wild fish, including transference of disease and parasites; the dependence on wild fish, which are used as feed for the farmed fish; and the impact on traditional fishing.
In 2003, the Pew Oceans Commission said expansion of fish farms should cease until national standards are in place for ecologically sustainable aquaculture.
Sealing their wait
June 3, 2005 (Kitsap Sun) Thanks to a healthy supply of harbor seals, transient whales in Hood Canal are confounding experts with the length of their visit.
Six seal-eating orcas visiting Hood Canal ought to be headed toward Alaska by now, experts say, but the whales can't seem to push themselves away from the all-you-can-eat buffet table.
The whales - two females, each with two offspring - have stayed in Hood Canal a surprising 18 weeks. In that time, they've consumed an estimated 700 harbor seals - perhaps half of all the seals in Hood Canal, according to recent estimates.
"I would think they'd be bored silly by now (in Hood Canal)," she said. "But there will always be surprises. That's why we study them. They are always evolving."
Transient killer whales are much different than their distant cousins, the resident killer whales that frequent Puget Sound. Transients eat marine mammals; residents eat fish. Each type vocalizes with its own "dialect." And transients generally roam more widely and stay in one place a shorter time.
"We're suggesting that the seals have changed their behavior in response to the presence of killer whales," Jeffries said. "We're suggesting that the seals are spending more time hauled out."
Based on their observations in Hood Canal, Jeffries and London say it is reasonable to believe that each of the whales is eating about a seal a day. In a roundabout way, reducing the number of seals, which are predators themselves, also saves a lot of salmon - including Hood Canal summer chum, a threatened species.
Volker Deeke, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, said the seals in Hood Canal may be "naive" about the danger of transient orcas, because the whales so rarely visit Hood Canal.
"In Alaska, they use a lot of sneaky strategies to get close to seals," he said. "They don't seem to do that in Hood Canal. The seals may eventually smarten up or they may run out of dumb seals."
Snohomish River salmon plan OK'd
June 3, 2005 (Everett Herald) The strategy for saving chinook salmon and bull trout in the Snohomish River basin is expected to cost $134 million over 10 years.
After three years of soul searching and story swapping, a diverse group of bureaucrats, farmers and environmentalists say they have reached a $134 million agreement to launch salmon recovery in the Snohomish River basin.
The 38-member Snohomish Basin Salmon Recovery Forum on Thursday unanimously adopted a plan to save chinook salmon and bull trout, two fish species listed as threatened in the Puget Sound region under the federal Endangered Species Act. The forum is made up of residents, farmers, environmentalists, tribal members and city and county officials.
The Snohomish River plan sets goals to recover specific habitats on the river's tributaries, on the main river, in the delta and along the shores of Possession Sound near the mouth of the river, said Martha Neuman, a senior planner for Snohomish County.
Now the forum members just have to figure out how to turn their hard-fought collaborative solutions into actions that will save fish, while also allowing the region to continue growing.
"We used to go out there and see salmon all over," Tulalip Tribes Chairman Stan Jones Sr. told forum members before they adopted the plan. "Now it's your job to restore the salmon."
The recovery plan will be folded into a larger salmon-saving plan being put together for the entire Puget Sound region, said Bill Ruckelshaus, the former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator who is coordinating the effort to stitch 14 river basin recovery plans into one.
"You have shown the rest of the Puget Sound how it can be done," Ruckelshaus told the forum.
Area loses ground in pollution fight at Henderson Inlet
June 2, 2005 (The Olympian) Pollution has taken another bite out of shellfish growing ground in lower Henderson Inlet north of Lacey.
officials said Wednesday that growing levels of fecal coliform indicating the presence of human sewage and animal waste in the lower inlet will force a shellfish harvest ban on 49 acres of commercial shellfish tidelands.
The closure takes effect in late June, but Jerry Yamashita, owner of the Western Oyster Co., has already stopped harvesting in the polluted tide flats, said Don Melvin of the Health Department shellfish program.
The shellfish harvest downgrade is the latest in a series of shellfish harvest bans and restrictions in the South Sound inlet since pollution problems were documented in 1984. "Despite efforts to identify and correct pollution problems in Henderson Inlet, water quality is getting worse," Melvin said.
Stormwater runoff from the Lacey and Olympia area, failing on-site septic tanks and waste from domestic and wild animals all play a role in the poor water quality, studies have shown.
The latest change in classification increases the closed area of shellfish beds to 231 acres.
Farmers, tribes ink agreement on salmon
June 2, 2005 (Skagit Valley Herald) Skagit County tribal and agricultural leaders have made a number of agreements they say will help protect salmon and farmland, and strengthen the relationship between the once-disparate groups.
With the support of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the tribal and agricultural groups announced Tuesday two agreements leaders say will help restore endangered Skagit River chinook salmon runs while supporting Skagit Valley farming.
The first agreement has been signed by leaders of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe as well as four agricultural organizations, including the Skagit Farm Bureau and the Western Washington Agricultural Association.
While not legally binding, the signees have committed to work together to resolve conflicts through an organization called the Skagit Tribal/Agricultural Alliance. It received its final signature May 6.
A separate initiative, called a memorandum of understanding, will lead to agreements involving fish protection, habitat improvements and agricultural drainage practices within the Skagit and Samish River deltas.
Suit Seeks Documents on Sonar Threat to Marine Mammals, Alleges Freedom of Information Act Violations
June 1, 2005 (National Resources Defense Council press release) The Bush administration is withholding a large quantity of evidence about severe harm caused to whales, dolphins and other marine life by high-intensity military sonar, according to a lawsuit filed today in New York federal court. Ocean mammals around the globe have been found dead or dying following the massive sonic blasts.
"The Bush administration is sitting on box-loads of data that show the devastating impact of military sonar on whales," said Michael Jasny, a senior policy consultant for NRDC. "The public has a right to know what is happening to these majestic creatures, and the Bush administration is breaking the law by stonewalling."
The Navy's mid-frequency, active sonar systems generate sound of extreme intensity to locate objects in the ocean. Marine mammals have extraordinarily sensitive hearing, and there is no scientific dispute that intense sonar blasts can disturb, injure, and even kill them, according to NRDC.
"Whales exposed to high-intensity sonar have been found bleeding from the eyes and ears, with lesions the size of golf balls in their organ tissue. Biologists are concerned that the whales we see dying on the beaches are only the tip of an iceberg and that many more are dying at sea," Jasny said.
In recent years, there have been numerous mass strandings and mortalities of whales and other marine mammals associated with sonar use, including in the Bahamas, Hawaii, Washington State, and North Carolina.
Seattle City Council targets pesticides
June 1, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The Seattle City Council approved a resolution yesterday encouraging more aggressive efforts to reduce pesticide and herbicide use by the city, especially near playgrounds and waterways.
The council also encouraged a voluntary reduction in pesticide use by private landowners and urged pesticide manufacturers to develop more environmentally friendly alternative products.
The city has been gradually reducing its pesticide use for several years with a goal of eliminating their use completely.