Orca Network News - June, 2011

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
June 1, 2011 through June 30, 2011.

Whale calf buoys hopes for pod
June 20, 2011 (Victoria Times Colonist)
The first new calf of the season for the endangered southern resident killer whales is racing around with other members of L Pod, said Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Washington.
"We've been having trouble getting a decent picture of it. It's such a fast-moving little bugger all we get is spray," Balcomb said.
Mom is believed to be L55, also known as Nugget, which should bode well for its survival as 34-year-old Nugget already has three surviving calves, he said.
However, until all the resident whales start appearing regularly in local waters — something expected within the next month — it will not be known whether any animals have died over the winter.
Balcomb believes the calf, which has tentatively been given the number L118, was born about February, but the pod did not appear locally until recently.

SeaWorld sees another year of declining attendance
June 17, 2011 (San Diego Union Tribune)
For the third year in a row, attendance at the marine parks slipped, while other parks, notably Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood, saw significant gains, according to a new report released this week by AECOM and the nonprofit Themed Entertainment Association.
In San Diego, SeaWorld’s attendance fell by more than 9 percent, while other Southern California theme parks all saw gains, the report revealed. Universal Studios Orlando reaped huge rewards from last year’s opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, while Universal Hollywood benefited from the debut of King Kong 360 3-D.
“Both residents and tourists are coming back to the parks,” said John Robinett, senior vice president, economics, with AECOM. “The 2010 TEA/AECOM Theme Index reveals an average attendance increase of 1.8 percent in North American parks, with many sectors at or close to pre-recession levels. The trend was generally positive.”
Not so at SeaWorld, which has tried to regain its footing following a prolonged economic downturn and restructuring of the ownership after the sale in 2009 of the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment group to the mega private equity firm, The Blackstone Group. The death last year of one of the orca trainers at the Orlando SeaWorld was one more blow to the parks.

Killer whale tracked making incredible journey from Arctic to Azores
June 5, 2011 (Vancouver Sun)
But Matthews and his colleagues hit the jackpot. Not only did they manage to fit two Arctic killer whales with trackers, but one of them headed off on a remarkable 5,400-kilometre journey.
In just a month, the whale swam from northern Baffin Island, down past Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland, and headed for the Azores in the mid-Atlantic.
Matthews and his group said the "remarkable" swim suggests killer whales have a large range in the Atlantic. Orcas on the Pacific coast are also known to make long journeys, with reports of them swimming from Alaska to California.
It could be that orcas that spend summer in Canada's north and along the east coast congregate in the mid-Atlantic between the Azores and Bermuda in the winter, said Matthews, noting that whalers reported seeing concentrations of orcas in the southern waters in the 1800s.
Hunters, scientists and other northern travellers are spotting more orcas in the Arctic waters, especially in Hudson Bay. Narwhals, belugas and bowhead whales, which are known to take refuge under the ice, seem to be favoured prey. Matthews said the orcas may also be eating fish, but added more work is needed to understand the changing wildlife dynamic in Canada's north.

SeaWorld looks beyond its parks for growth
June 4, 2011 (Orlando Sentinel)
Freed from the constraints of owners more interested in brewing beer than building theme parks, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is accelerating plans to expand into new businesses, including movies, television and hotels.
After flirting with the idea for years, the Orlando-based theme-park operator will release a feature film this month through SeaWorld Pictures, the company's new film division. The sea-turtle documentary, expected to reach as many as 400 theaters this summer, is the first of what executives hope will be a long line of SeaWorld-produced nature films that capitalize on the company's reputation for marine-life expertise and buttress it against criticism from anti-captivity activists.

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