Orca Network News - February, 2011

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
March 1, 2011 through March 31, 2011.

Fewer dams will improve Columbia-Snake river system
March 29, 2011 (Capital Press)
The next several years will be pivotal for ensuring that the Columbia River and its tributaries work for farmers, fishermen, communities and the environment. This effort will be won or lost based on how we manage the following benefits that the Columbia and its tributaries provide.
In addition, the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty with Canada may open the door to new sources of water to benefit fish, agriculture and hydropower production on the American side of the border.
Native fish: Protecting and restoring the Columbia's imperiled native salmon, steelhead, lamprey and bull trout will require big changes in dam management, agricultural and domestic water use and land management, to name just a few key factors.
Improving fish survival past the mainstem Columbia and Snake river dams is the most important near-term step we should take to restore healthy, sustainable fish runs. The most straightforward way to accomplish this is to maintain court-ordered spill over the Columbia River dams and restore a free-flowing lower Snake River by removing the four lower Snake River dams.

New dolphin exhibit triggers debate about captivity
March 28, 2011 (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
But academic experts such as Dr. Lori Marino of Emory University, a senior lecturer in neuroscience and behavioral biology who has studied the effects of dolphin captivity for more than 20 years, isn’t convinced of any educational benefit from such productions.
“There really isn’t a shred of evidence that going to these shows results in any education,” Marino said. “When I look at what the aquarium is doing and the context they’ve put all of this into, I guess they’re not even pretending to be educational at this point. No matter how they dress it up — they can have fountains and choreography — it’s still exploitation of the dolphins. They’re still being made to do these stupid pet tricks.”
Contended Marino, “Dolphins are extraordinarily sensitive acoustically. When they are in captivity, they really don’t have the acoustic range that they have in the wild. I can’t imagine it’s something that is pleasant to them.”

Rare orca spotting near Squamish
March 27, 2011 (Peninsula Daily News)
Boaters on Howe Sound were surprised to see killer whales swimming in the waters off Watts Point just south of Squamish on Wednesday (March 23) evening.
“It looked like it might have been a female and a juvenile,” said Shaw-MacLaren. “Neither of them had the big dorsal fins the males have.”
Caitlin Birdsall, a whale researcher who works at the Vancouver Aquarium, said reports of killer whale sightings occasionally reported at the south end of Howe Sound.
She said two orca sightings were reported by phone to the B.C. Cetacean Sightings network Wednesday evening and both came from the south end of Howe Sound. Both reports indicated the whales were traveling up Howe Sound, Birdsall said.
“We often get more reports sort of around Bowen Island and the mouth of Howe Sound,” she said.
One of the reports Wednesday evening, according to Birdsall, indicated three whales were seen and the other witness reported seeing at least five killer whales.
Birdsall said there are two types of orcas in B.C. waters: resident whales and transient orcas. The resident whales feed on salmon and the transient whales feed on mammals. Birdsall speculated that the whales spotted near Squamish may have been transient and she said photos of the orcas would confirm the species as whale researchers have catalogued all the resident killer whales in B.C.

Friday Harbor center identifies orcas that visited Port Angeles Harbor
March 27, 2011 (Peninsula Daily News)
Two orcas who made a rare appearance in Port Angeles Harbor last week are transients known to the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor.
T73B, the larger male, and T73C, his smaller companion, probably were seeking a harbor seal meal when they were spotted off the Port Angeles waterfront Tuesday and Thursday, said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist with the Center for Whale Research.
“The young male is T73B, and I photographed him on Feb. 23, 2003, in Hood Canal when he was still a youngster,” Balcomb said in an email Friday.

B.C. salmon play hidden role in coastal forest ecology, researchers find
March 24, 2011 (Vancouver Sun)
Salmon may live in the water, but a new study shows they help shape the forest.
A study of 50 watersheds in the Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia's central coast says bears, fish-catching wolves and other predators haul huge amounts of salmon into the forest that provide a potent "nutrient subsidy" that drives plant growth in the surrounding forest.
Nitrogen released by the fish favours some plants — such as the aptly named salmonberry — while pushing out other species, researchers from Simon Fraser University published in the journal Science's Friday edition.
"Salmon are important to us not just because of their value in fisheries and for food, but they also can be having quite significant impacts on our surroundings," says biologist John Reynolds, co-author of the four-year study.

Orca remains on Kruzof to benefit students, science
March 21, 2011 (KCAW)
SITKA, ALASKA (2011-03-20) Sitka students will likely be among those benefitting from the remains of a killer whale found dead on the shore of Kruzof Island, about 10 miles east of Sitka. A team of scientists and volunteers performed a necropsy on the young male orca and recovered its skeleton on Friday.
The whale was located near Inner Point, about a mile and a half walk from where the necropsy team was dropped off.
Dr. Stephen Raverty is a veterinary pathologist and head of pathology for the Provincial Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He’s kneeling next to the carcass. His hair is sweaty and his waterproof overalls and gloves are covered in blood. He’s working quickly, racing against a rising tide. Eventually, the carcass is tied off with some green rope to prevent it from being carried away by the waves, which crash against the rocks, soaking some of the necropsy team.
“This animal does have a low-grade infection in its abdominal cavity. It has fibrinous peritonitis," Raverty says. "In people, it would be just a severe stomach pain or an abdominal pain. Essentially it would be an infection of the lining of the organs within the abdominal cavity.

NZ fishing cuts whale numbers in Antarctica
March 18, 2011 (Stuff.co.nz)
Industrial-scale fishing by New Zealand is throwing Antarctica's delicate ecosystem off balance with disastrous consequences, an expert warns.
It is creating an explosion in penguin populations while cutting the number of killer whales.
US penguin researcher David Ainley, in California, said pushing an ecosystem so far out of kilter would have long-term impacts wrecking the world's last pristine ocean and the only natural laboratory for studying climate change.
Toothfish have now largely disappeared from McMurdo Sound. Scientists had been catching, tagging and releasing 200 to 500 adult toothfish a year for the past 40 years. Recently they have been lucky to catch one or two fish.

When Orcas Are Shareholders
March 14, 2011 (CSHRUB - Corporate Social Responsibility Hub)
This month, the Orca Whale was added to the constituencies fighting for the West Coast’s beloved but increasingly degraded Chinook Salmon population. This after 60 people spent 4 years developing a plan to protect the Chinook in Puget Sound. The compelling goal, “to lead the region toward a legacy of healthy, harvestable salmon and improved water quality for future generations,” brought together citizens and scientists; community, business, and environmental groups; and local elected officials and public agency staff. And, just two months ago, their science-based plan was ratified by 24 local governments.
Now the plan must be re-formulated.
It turns out that the Orca, an endangered species itself, requires enormous quantities of Chinook salmon to survive. Far more than previously estimated when the agreements were conceived. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has asked Washington state and Indian tribes that fish in the area to submit a two-year plan for insuring that the endangered whales have enough salmon to sustain themselves.

Ruffles, old male of the sea, believed to be dead at age 60
March 12, 2011 (Victoria Times Colonist)
Ken Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research, based in Friday Harbor, Wash., said J1 was the first of the endangered southern residents to be designated in the photoidentification study, led by Michael Bigg, that started in the mid-1970s. "He was very, very special, but you can't live forever," he said.
Ruffles has left a legacy in the form of at least seven offspring, who are spread around all three pods, Balcomb said.
The oldest remaining male is believed to be L41, who is 34.

Patriarch orca whale missing, presumed dead
March 11, 2011 (Current News)
The Salish Sea’s most recognizable whale is missing.
Patriarch J1, also known as Ruffles, was last seen on Nov. 21, 2010 off Victoria, Canada. The big male orca whale was estimated to be about 60 years old and his large, wavy dorsal fin made J-Pod easily recognizable by researchers and whale watchers.
“I call him the flagship of J-Pod,” said Howard Garrett, co-founder and director of Orca Network in Greenbank. “He was nearly twice the age of the next oldest male at 33.”

Last Surviving Orca Captured in Penn Cove, Washington, suffers in captivity
March 5, 2011 (Current News)
Susan Berta, of orcanetwork.org, shared a story on the orcanetwork facebook page today about Lolita, the last living Orca from the Penn Cove Orca Captures, having a tooth infection. Tooth infections can be fatal for captive marine mammals, and have lead to the death of captive Orcas.
Lolita, the oldest killer whale in captivity, was born around 1966. She has spent most of her life at the Seaquarium since her capture in 1970. The 7,000 pound whale has lived in the 20-foot deep tank for 40 years. This tank is considered substandard by marine mammal scientists.

Toothache Closes Killer Whale Lolita Show
March 4, 2011 (CBS Miami)
South Florida marine super star Lolita the Killer Whale is feeling a bit under the weather.
The star attraction at the Miami Seaquarium is “being treated for a tooth infection, a recurrence of a dental issue she had in 1994,” according to a statement from the popular marine theme park. “The whale stadium at Miami Seaquarium is temporarily closed. Although she is not performing shows, she is eating normally and being treated with antibiotics,” said the statement.

First gray whale of the season sighted off Whidbey
March 3, 2011 (South Whidbey Record)
The first returning gray whale of the season was reported today by a Camano Island woman, according to the Orca Network in Greenbank.
Connie Barrett reported seeing a gray whale in Saratoga Passage just after 10 a.m. Thursday.
Howard Garrett of the Orca Network also reported seeing the whale from the bluff above Hidden Beach, north of Greenbank, about an hour later.
Garrett said the whale appeared to be No. 53, and one of the 10 or so "Saratoga Grays" that feed off the coast of Whidbey Island during the spring.

Killer whales hunt in silent 'stealth mode'
March 3, 2011 (BBC)
Orcas avoid being overheard by their prey by hunting in "stealth mode", according to researchers.
The scientists wanted to know how orcas, commonly known as killer whales, communicate when hunting mammals, which can hear their distinctive calls.
The researchers thought the predators might switch to very high frequency whistles to co-ordinate the hunt.
But the orcas actually go completely silent and are somehow still able to form organised hunting groups.

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