Orca Network News - March, 2002
News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
March 1, 2002 through March 31, 2002.
P-I Focus: Securing the land beneath us
March 31, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Opinion by Mike Drombeck
I believe water is the issue of the century and will be the issue of the millennium. Reports tell us that two-thirds of the world's population will be dealing with water shortages within the next 25 years.
The cleanest water in the country flows off our forests. Collectively, our public lands are by far the largest and perhaps most important water provider in the United States. The 192 million acres of national forests alone provide drinking water to more than 60 million Americans living in some 3,400 communities in 33 states. Our activities on the land must take long-term watershed function into account. The main performance measures for land managers ought to be water quality and watershed function.
I mention education last because it serves as perhaps the most important means in achieving sustainable long-term land health. We need to help all citizens and landowners understand and appreciate the full spectrum of what the land does for us as a component of our own national security and for the good of the world.
Orca grows fond of Vashon ferry
March 28, 2002 (Seattle Times) Washington State Ferries officials are growing worried that the orphaned orca off Vashon Island is getting dangerously close to one of their boats.
"We don't want to be one icon hurting another," said Pat Patterson, director of corporate communications for the ferry system.
Brian Gorman, a NMFS spokesman, said the service isn't too worried about the orca getting into an accident and said officials should interfere as little as possible as long as it is in good health.
Orphaned orca swims with the ferries March 28, 2002 (KING5 TV) (no longer online)
Ferries Concerned Orphaned Orca Swimming Too Close For Comfort March 28, 2002 (KOMO4 TV)
Orphan Orca Approaches State Ferry March 28, 2002 (KIRO7 TV)
Some salmon stocks may lose federal protection
March 28, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Federal fishery authorities are preparing to set forth conditions under which stocks of imperiled salmon would be considered healthy enough to lose the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
But they won't try to answer a key -- and controversial -- question about the role of hatchery-bred fish in that equation.
National Marine Fisheries Service Regional Administrator Bob Lohn said the agency is drawing up a report detailing steps to be taken to remove from the list of threatened and endangered species some of the 26 salmon populations now receiving protection under the law.
Fisheries service crafting steps to delist salmonMarch 28, 2002 (Seattle Times)
Ol' gray whales are better than used to be
March 27, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) Offshore, the millennia-old parade of Eschrichtius robustus is passing by once again. More than 25,000 hungry gray whales are making their slow three-month journey from Mexico's Baja Peninsula to their feeding grounds off Alaska.
This year's migration has whale watchers in a joyful mood because the animals are looking plumper and have more calves than in the past few years.
John Calambokidis, senior research biologist with the private nonprofit Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, said the gray whales are looking "a lot better" this year. April, May and June are the primary months for fatalities off Oregon and Washington, said Calambokidis, who has been studying gray whales off the Northwest coast for two decades.
Little orca is looking well; tests due soon
March 26, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Activity and absence of 'funk' encourage scientists watching young whale's health.
10 days of careful observation by orca scientists suggested that the 1 1/2-year-old orca is doing OK, especially considering that orcas are highly social animals and this one hasn't had contact with any of her own kind for months.
The orca arrived in central Puget Sound after she became separated from her extended family, or pod, after her mother died. It's possible she simply couldn't keep up with the pod, but it's also possible that the pod rejected her, scientists have said.
She wandered way off course. Her pod normally hangs around northern Vancouver Island in the summer and almost never comes into Puget Sound.
"The fact that she's doing something is quite encouraging," Balcomb said.
Scientists decide to leave solitary orca in place March 26, 2002 (KING5-TV)
Scientists' Recommendation on Orca: Just Keep Watching March 26, 2002 (KIRO7-TV)
Scientists Decide To Take Hands-Off Approach With Stranded Orca March 25, 2002 (KOMO4-TV)
Future on the line for orphaned orca
March 25, 2002 (KING5 TV) Scientists are wrapping up their study of an orphaned killer whale in Puget Sound, and they're expected to make their recommendations on what to do about the orca Monday. The team of observers is reporting to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Observers say the orca, which was first spotted in January, has been improving. In the past 10 days, they've seen the whale catching fish, and signs of a lung infection are gone. The whale still has a skin infection.
A spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle, Brian Gorman, says she "seems to be holding her own."
The agency feared she was close to starving to death last month. It considering capturing her to save her life.
After watching her carefully for a week, that's no longer imminent.
Gorman says "what happens next is up to the whale."
Asarco loses appeal on cleanup of arsenic
March 22, 2002 (Seattle Times) The Washington Supreme Court has tossed out Asarco's appeal of a state mandate to clean up poisonous arsenic spewed from an Everett smelter that closed in 1912. But the case could wind up back in court almost immediately.
Asarco, a 118-year-old New Jersey company now owned by Mexican mining giant Grupo Mexico, could bring a similar case after the department orders it to clean up the site.
That order could come soon, especially for the upland two-thirds of the nearly 686-acre contaminated area near the Snohomish River, where about 600 families live.
Report confirms electrical debris caused PCB contamination of Columbia River
March 22, 2002 (Environmental News Service) Unsafe levels of the toxin PCB recently discovered in freshwater clams and crawfish were caused by electrical debris dumped in the Columbia River, a new report confirmed. The report was released this week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"The levels in sediment and (animal) tissue are at levels of concern," McClincy said. "It's really more of a question of what's the scale of the problem right now." McClincy said the state will work with the corps for the next year to devise a plan to deal with the contamination.
Big baby: Helpless in Seattle (no longer online)
March 20, 2002 (Globe and Mail) Poor little A-73. She's only 2 and she's lost, perhaps cast out by her relatives. Her mother has died, and she's a long way from home. Every day, she hangs around a ferry dock near Seattle, looking for companionship.
The capture/rehab idea didn't go down well with conservationists, who thought it was just a cheap way to get the whale off the front pages and onto the back burner.
But now the NMFS has decided that A-73 doesn't look so bad after all. Dr. Ford reminds us that the guiding focus "has to be what's best for the whale," and says a plan will firm up as A-73's health is better known. You can see for yourself how she's doing at The Center for Whale Research, which has the first underwater shots (taken March 7) of the celebrity baby.
Scientists spot signs of El Nino
March 20, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) The global weather system known as El Nino, which can reduce Northwest snowpacks and warm the ocean off Washington, Oregon and California, appears to be forming again.
But the region could dodge some of the weather disruptions that previous El Ninos have caused, scientists say. The reason: The ocean off the West Coast appears to be in the cool phase of a long regional climate cycle that reverses about every 20 years. That could keep the warm waters of an El Nino from spreading north.
Bundles of joy are spotted with migrating gray whales
March 18, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) "Oh my God, there's another calf!" exclaimed Alisa Schulman-Janiger of the American Cetacean Society, which for almost 20 years has counted gray whales as they commute up and down the California coast. "It's so exciting to see a rebound. We're sure due for one."
On the bluffs south of Los Angeles, spotting whales before they slalom through oil rigs miles off the coast, researchers with telescopes have counted more than three times as many calves in 2002 as they did last year. In the calm lagoons in Mexico, naturalists on motorboats have documented roughly twice as many calves as they did in each of the past three years, when the population began tapering off substantially.
B.C. forests, fish habitat damaged by climate changes, report says
March 15, 2002 (Vancouver Sun) Other indicators include the warming of the Fraser River, which threatens temperature-sensitive fish like sockeye salmon, and the fact that average sea levels are four to 12 centimetres higher now along most of the coast than they were in 1909.
The report, prepared by B.C.'s water, land and air protection ministry and released Thursday, says that in the past century, average temperatures in B.C. have climbed by 0.6 degrees [Centigrade] on the coast and 1.7 degrees in northern B.C.
"What this report tells us is that there are greenhouse-gas-related changes in our climate in B.C.," said B.C. Water, Land and Air Protection Minister Joyce Murray at a Vancouver news conference.
Orca orphan will stay free
March 14, 2002 (Seattle P-I) The orphaned baby orca that showed up off Vashon Island last month and stole Seattle's heart will not be cooped up in an aquarium or sea park, federal fisheries officials announced yesterday.
"We're not going to do it," NMFS spokesman Brian Gorman said.
Officials want to see how well the orca is doing physically and determine whether it's up to being captured for transport back to Canada. If so, it could go by Hovercraft, plane or boat. Or a floating "net pen" could be set up and towed behind a tugboat to gently nudge the orca home.
John Ford, head of the marine mammal research at the Canadian government's Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, said the idea of borrowing the Canadian Coast Guard's Hovercraft came up during a "seemingly endless" series of telephone conference calls among orca experts.
"We're so far from determining that kind of thing," Ford said.
Study team planned for orphan orca
March 14, 2002 (Seattle Times)
Dramatic New Rescue Plans for Whale March 14, 2002 (KOMO-TV)
Field observers gearing up for weeklong look at orphaned orca March 14, 2002 (KING5-TV) (no longer online)
Field Observers Taking Weeklong Look at Orphaned Orca March 14, 2002 (KIRO-TV)
Environmental agencies facing budget reductions
March 13, 2002 (Seattle P-I) It appeared likely that the governor's Salmon Recovery Office would be gutted and other environmental agencies would have budgets slashed by millions of dollars. But details about many of the budget reductions had not yet been released.
"What we're really most concerned about is that there has really been disproportionate cuts to environmental programs," said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal of WashPIRG, a watchdog group.
A Whale Of A Dilemma
March 12, 2002 (KOMO-TV) Researchers tell KOMO 4 News they have agreed with National Marine Fisheries to monitor the whale together over the next two weeks. The research may include both observation and medical tests. Researchers say that only then will the decision be made either to intervene or let A73 and mother nature chart their own course. Researchers will begin this latest round of observations as early as possible.
Q13 Exclusive: See the orphaned orca video March 11, 2002 (Q13-TV)
Bush administration proposes ending endangered species protections for fish
March 12, 2002 (ENN News) The Bush administration is seeking to temporarily end habitat protections for 19 populations of salmon and steelhead in four Western states, which could open the areas to greater development.
In a proposed settlement entered in federal court Monday, the National Marine Fisheries Service said it will eliminate and then revise the protections to settle lawsuits filed by the Association of California Water Agencies, National Association of Home Builders, and 16 other groups of developers and local governments.
U.S. offers to rescind salmon rules March 12, 2002 (Seattle Times)
Scientists still seeking evidence of whale's health (no longer online)
March 11, 2002 (KING5-TV) Whale experts want more information before making a decision about whether to capture an orphaned orca in Puget Sound.
On Monday, a scientific advisory panel once again convened to talk about what's best for this orphaned baby whale.
They suspect the young female that has been in Puget Sound since mid-January is starving. On Monday, government scientists said they still don't know if the orca calf is in trouble. "I think we've got to take a step back and look at his whale in a careful scientific way to find out what kind of shape we're in," says Brian Gorman of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Birthrates declining in developing nations
March 10, 2002 (Seattle Times) For decades, experts assumed the largest developing nations, the home of hundreds of millions in big families, would push the global population to a precarious 10 billion people by the end of this century.
Now, there are signs that women in rural villages and the teeming cities of Brazil, Egypt, India and Mexico are proving those predictions wrong. This week, international demographers will meet at the United Nations to reassess the outlook and possibly lower the estimate by about a billion people this century.
Try social approach with orphaned orca
March 9, 2002 (Seattle P-I Op-ed by Howard Garrett)
Note: On March 12, KOMO-TV announced NMFS would allow whale researchers to monitor A73 for two weeks before deciding on an intervention plan.
Below is a proposal sent Tuesday to the National Marine Fisheries Service to generate support for an approach that involves empathy and companionship, rather than the suggested emergency room medical treatment plan.
Rather than relying on the medical model, look at a social model, and intervene accordingly. That would mean looking at her social problems, which is that she's a lonely orphan, a member of the most highly social species known to science.
There's no possibility that she could rejoin her pod at least until summer, but rather than do nothing until then, or take her to an aquarium to be poked and probed, perhaps certain people could be given authorization from NMFS to keep her company without fear of arrest.
Decision due soon on what to do about wayward orca
March 9, 2002 (Seattle Times) Just why an orca might be so fond of a ferry is hard to tell, as with so many things about this creature. It could be the engines' rattle and hum, which carries so well underwater that listening through an underwater microphone is like sitting in the engine room.
It could be the Jacuzzi-like prop wash. "It gives you a sensation," said Washington State Ferries spokeswoman Susan Harris. "Little bubbles and everything."
Or it could be that the orca misses its mother and the physical companionship of other orcas, which is also why it is rubbing logs, said veterinarian Jim McBain during a People for Puget Sound forum earlier this week.
"When mom's gone, they look for a replacement," he said. "They look for a tactile replacement. They miss that touch."
Plan proposes to use sea pen
March 8, 2002 (Bremerton Sun) Two whale-protection groups say a cage hauled by tugs could transport the whale back home.
Citing time constraints, Brian Gorman, spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, could not say Wednesday whether this latest sea-pen idea would be considered by his agency.
"We really don't have a lot of time left," Gorman said. "I suspect we will make a decision in days, not weeks."
Offers pour in to help orca orphan March 8, 2002 (Everett Herald)
El Nino 2002: How big a punch?
March 8, 2002 (CNN) "El Nino" has arrived.
Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, report that surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean near the South American coast warmed 4 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) in February. That is a strong sign that the Pacific is headed for an El Nino condition that could last more than a year.
Second baby whale isolated in Canadian waters
March 8, 2002 (Northwest Cable Network) Luna or L-98 has inhabited the waters of Vancouver Island's Nootka Sound since last summer. For some reason he's been separated from the rest of the L pod, a group of whales usually found in U.S. waters. He's north while his pod is south. Meanwhile, Springer or A-73, a distressed calf of about the same size and age, is swimming in the waters between West Seattle and Vashon Island.
Scientists say this situation of two calves so far out of place at the same time is unprecedented, but they cannot find anything that connects the two. It's just a very strange coincidence.
Help on way for orphaned orca
March 8, 2002 (Seattle Times) "Nothing's changed," Brian Gorman, a National Marine Fisheries Service spokesman, said yesterday of the orca's situation. "We're closer to making some kind of an announcement, but we're not there yet. My sense is we'll probably be sure of what we're going to do and how to intervene maybe early next week.
Agency wrestles with rescue, rehab of orphaned killer whale
March 7, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) Brian Gorman, spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, continued, "She doesn't know what to do."
The federal agency Wednesday was still trying to decide its next step in rescuing the whale it now identifies as A73, which actually is just 2 years old. And one of the options involves bringing her to the Oregon Coast Aquarium for rehabilitation and release back into the wild.
The Oregon aquarium is one of four marine centers on the West Coast to have submitted a proposal to the fisheries service detailing what it could do to care for and to return the orca to a community of killer whales that inhabits an area ranging from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to the southeast tip of Alaska.
A73 was first discovered Jan. 14. After a month passed, the fisheries service convened a scientific panel seeking advice on what to do. The panel of biologists, veterinarians and government scientists found that her condition was poor and deteriorating.
Keiko's pals make a bid to help orphaned orca March 7, 2002 (Seattle P-I)
Despite plea, EPA says mining firm must start cleanup
March 6, 2002 (Seattle Times) The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday formally ordered copper giant Asarco to begin cleaning up contaminated sediments in Commencement Bay - despite pleas from the company that it has no money to do the work.
Worry continues to mount over orca
March 5, 2002 (Seattle P-I) Some fear orphan's life is in danger, that time is running out.
A panel of scientists and a group of about 100 compassionate citizens meeting in West Seattle last night debated whether it would be best to take her in, take her home or leave her be.
Kathy Fletcher, executive director of the People for Puget Sound, said in an interview that orcas throughout the sound are in trouble because of reduced salmon runs and the effects of pollution.
Little Orca Raises Big Debate March 5, 2002 (KOMO-TV)
Unfinished business at Asarco: Superfund cleanup 'in limbo' as firm struggles
March 3, 2002 (Seattle Times) The waters of Commencement Bay lap against a seawall of new rock erected to prevent arsenic-laden slag from sloughing off into Puget Sound.
It's quiet at Asarco's former copper-smelting operation in Ruston - and that's the problem.
While Asarco is a Superfund site that officials view as a model for environmental restoration and corporate-government cooperation, cleanup has ground to a halt. And there are growing questions about how the $60 million bill for finishing the job will be paid.
Whale watchers worried about orphan orca (no longer online)
March 2, 2002 (CNN) For weeks now, an orphan killer whale has been hanging around central Puget Sound -- about 250 miles from her only known family member in Canada -- and experts are worried she might not survive.
Lone whale may be doing better than expected (no longer online)
Back to Orca News Archives
March 1, 2002 (KING5 TV) The Oregon Coast Aquarium, former home to Keiko, volunteered to house the small orca who has been in Puget Sound for months. But new video taken by KING 5 gives hope to the idea that the whale may be doing better than expected.
In an extraordinary piece of video tape captured by Sky KING Friday morning, the young orca, alone off the northeastern shore of Vashon Island for the past two months, appeared to be playing with a very large salmon, 20 pounds or more.
Blue Whales Up Close
March 1, 2002 (ABC News) What do you do if you're the largest animal on the planet, tipping the scales at around 100 tons? You worry, a lot, about where you're going to find your next meal.
New research out of Oregon State University shows that the mighty blue whale, because of its immense size, has to feed almost constantly just to stay alive. That's quite different from other whales, like the grays and the humpbacks, that can go for months without food.
March 1, 2002 (Bremerton Sun) Experts say an orphan killer whale will likely die if left alone, but nobody has a clear plan of action.
For the first time in 27 years, killer whale experts are contemplating the capture of a live orca in Puget Sound.
Orphaned orca may be caught and sent to theme park
March 1, 2002 (Seattle P-I) Federal fisheries officials are considering capturing a young, orphaned killer whale that has been swimming around Vashon Island for several weeks -- possibly for permanent residence at a theme park.
The National Marine Fisheries Service yesterday asked conservationists what should be done about the female orca, which split off from a group of other killer whales that spends much of its time around the northern end of Vancouver Island in Canada.
The orca, born in August 2000 and identified by NMFS as A-73, isn't eating properly and is showing signs of malnutrition.
Orphaned whale bound for Vancouver Aquarium? March 1, 2002 (CBC)
Help for ill, orphaned orca stirs debate March 1, 2002 (Seattle Times)