Orca Network News - March, 2003
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
May 1, 2004 through May 31, 2004.
May 28, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The Bush administration sees a larger role for hatcheries in replenishing Pacific salmon, but counting hatchery fish along with wild ones will not immediately take any runs off the endangered species list.
A review, begun after a 2001 federal court ruling gave hatchery fish the same protection as wild fish, found that all 26 runs protected by the Endangered Species Act should stay on the list. That includes the Oregon coastal coho, whose threatened species status was rescinded by the ruling.
NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency in charge of restoring salmon, said another run - lower Columbia River coho - should be added to the list. The listing proposals will be reviewed over the next year before NOAA makes a final determination.
The review and details of a new federal policy on salmon hatcheries, also a result of the 2001 ruling, were to be formally announced Friday in Seattle.
Though 27 of the 51 distinct populations of salmon and steelhead on the West Coast still merit protection, the vast majority are improving as a result of improved ocean conditions and habitat restoration, said Bob Lohn, NOAA Fisheries northwest regional director.
"The overall goal is the restoration of naturally spawning salmon runs," said commerce Undersecretary Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. "We are turning the corner on this. If you look at the indications, people should not lose hope on it."
Plan would use hatchery salmon to boost wild stocks
May 28, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Stung by criticism from federal judges, property-rights advocates and environmentalists, the Bush administration today plans to propose allowing salmon produced in hatcheries to boost struggling wild populations -- some to the point they could lose federal protections.
The decision is bound to set off another round of lawsuits over one of the prickliest and most complicated factors in struggles over how to restore the iconic salmon of the Pacific Northwest.
But it may satisfy Native American tribes, who say hatcheries could help wild salmon rebound if the rivers where both kinds of fish live are protected. The policy foresees allowing Native Americans and others to keep catching hatchery-produced fish so long as they're not needed to help wild stocks rebound.
The approach federal officials are unveiling is one that independent scientists tapped by the administration for advice have recommended against -- but which federal officials say they had to adopt under previous court rulings.
The policy, however, does not remove any of the 26 West Coast salmon species from protection under the Endangered Species Act, as some environmentalists predicted it would. The administration actually is proposing to increase the number of protected stocks to 27.
"This is an evolutionary approach that we think makes it possible for us to save wild salmon runs," said Conrad Lautenberger, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "The goal is recovery of naturally spawning salmon runs."
Seeking sounds of salmon
May 27, 2004 (Tacoma News Tribune) Tribal and state salmon experts are hoping 140 tagged yearling coho can provide clues to why South Sound salmon stocks are slumping.
The key to finding those answers is an acoustic transmitter inside each fish and a network of sensors in key locations on the floor of South Puget Sound.
This latest research, led by the Squaxin Island Tribe, is an attempt to discover where coho salmon move when they are released from the tribe's rearing pens in Peale Passage off Squaxin Island.
"We're trying to assess what our South Sound net pen fish are doing. What is happening to our fish, it is in the South Sound, the ocean or the north sound. We're trying to figure out if it's a South Puget Sound effect or something else," said Scott Steltzner, fisheries biologist for the Squaxin tribe. If we find that most of the fish survive and leave (the area), we know it's something else."
Like so many stocks, the Squaxin coho returns have dwindled in recent years. Each year the tribe hopes to release 1.8 million coho. Last year, the return rate was between 3 percent and 4 percent, and tribal anglers caught 45,000 adult coho.
Hatcheries Try to Get Natural
May 24, 2004 (Vancouver Columbian) One by one, every spring chinook salmon bound for the upper Yakima River must pass through a Winter Olympics-style luge.
Situated inside a building on the receiving end of a fish ladder near Yakima, the chute leads from a mechanized holding pen down into a network of still more chutes. On the upper end, biologist Mark Johnston checks each fish for a telltale adipose fin and calls out the result.
"Wild. Wild. Hatchery. Wild..."
Depending on Johnston's call (adipose fins are clipped on hatchery-raised fish), an operator at the bottom of the chute triggers a hydraulic flap diverting each fish to the most appropriate path. One leads to a smaller holding pen. Another shoots them toward a truck bound for a state-of-the-art hatchery an hour away in Cle Elum. Door No. 3 drops the fish into the river above the dam, free to continue its single-minded quest to spawn in the wild.
Such begins the process of a new kind of salmon hatchery a model that federal fishery managers hope to see duplicated across the Pacific Northwest.
By carefully culling wild fish to spawn the next generation at the Cle Elum hatchery, then rearing the fish in a way that mimics the natural environment as closely as possible, Yakama Nation fishery managers hope to jump-start a population that may someday regenerate on its own in the wild.
Transient orcas' here-today, gone- tomorrow temperament makes it difficult to say whether their population is on the decline
May 23, 2004 (Bremerton Sun) They are the mysterious orcas known as "transients." Strong and fast, they hunt in small packs, slipping in and out of isolated coves, dining on seals and sea lions.
Possibly three groups of transients swam past downtown Bremerton on Tuesday evening. The 10 to 15 orcas spent all day Wednesday surveying Dyes Inlet, then escaped undetected during the night.
The stealthy nature of the transients makes them more difficult to study -- and perhaps more vulnerable to extinction.
The southern resident orcas, which swim together in groups better known as the J, K and L pods, frequent the San Juan Islands in the summer and venture into southern Puget Sound in the fall.
For the most part, those familiar pods are the ones that whale-watchers long to see. They have become an icon of the Northwest.
NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency in charge of protecting marine mammals, has declared the southern residents "depleted" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. That status forces the agency to develop a plan to protect and rebuild the population.
Because they stay in predictable groups all summer, researchers like Ken Balcomb and Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research have been able to document every birth and death since the mid-1970s.
But if you ask what's happening to the transient population, you're not likely to get an answer, because the transients are too mysterious for their own good.
"Some very well-known whales have disappeared for long periods of time," Ellifrit said.
Studies in harbor seals have shown serious hormonal problems when levels of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, reach 17 parts per million in their blubber, said Peter Ross, a Canadian scientist whose ground-breaking studies shocked the research community.
In southern residents, the average toxic load of PCBs is 145 ppm, Ross found. In transients, it's a whopping 251.
"These animals are extremely contaminated with chemicals that cause endocrine disruptions in other mammals at far lower levels," he said. According to Ross, transients don't get the attention they would get if they weren't so stealthy.
Baird, who recently joined Cascade Research Collective in Olympia, said a lack of information may be all that keeps the transients from being listed as threatened or endangered in the United States -- but there may be some legal issues as well.
But transients might have other issues to deal with -- including a growing fish-farming industry in Canada that might restrict some of the whales' traditional feeding areas.
Don't count hatchery salmon as wild, House members tell Bush
May 21, 2004 (Tacoma News-Tribune) Seventy-five House members Thursday called for the Bush administration to drop its proposal to count hatchery raised salmon as wild stocks when considering federal protections for West Coast runs.
In a letter to the Department of Commerce, the lawmakers said the administration's proposed change runs counter to the findings of numerous independent scientists who have concluded hatchery fish are genetically different from wild salmon.
The lawmakers said hatcheries can help provide recreational, commercial and tribal fishing opportunities. But they said the change could "jeopardize wild salmon stocks under the false assumption that artificial propagation and supplementation are sufficient enough to bypass any need to protect, restore and conserve salmon habitat."
In drafting its new salmon policy, the administration is considering lumping together hatchery fish with their wild counterparts in deciding whether to protect runs under the Endangered Species Act. Hundreds of millions of hatchery-bred salmon are released into West Coast rivers and streams annually.
Administration officials, in a letter last week, sought to reassure lawmakers the new policy will not be used to drop federal protections for 25 of the 26 salmon runs listed as endangered or threatened. The status of the other run, mid-Columbia steelhead, has not been determined.
Fisheries to try reuniting Luna with pod
May 21, 2004 (Victoria Times-Colonist) A last-ditch attempt to lead Luna the killer whale out of Nootka Sound is likely to be made today.
Members of L Pod, Luna's family, have been spotted off Tofino, but late Thursday there were no new sightings and everything will depend on locating the whales.
A spotter plane will be on the lookout first thing this morning. If members of L Pod are in the area, fisheries officers, accompanied by a staff member from Vancouver Aquarium, will attempt to lead Luna to Tofino.
"If the whales are there, we are going for it," said Department of Fisheries and Oceans Gold River supervisor Ed Thorburn.
The four-year-old orca has developed an affection for the DFO Zodiac boat, and fisheries officers Thorburn and Greg Rusel have spent the last two days in experimental runs, seeing how far they can lead Luna, as a preparation for the trip to Tofino.
On Thursday Luna followed the boat for four hours to the mouth of Nootka Sound.
"We have been trying all sorts of things to keep him interested. We have toys," Thorburn said.
River 'upgraded' to shelter salmon fry
May 20, 2004 (Seattle Times) Environmentalists moved about a ton of loose timber into a side channel of the Sultan River yesterday, hoping to create deep pockets of cool water where chinook and coho salmon fry can feed and escape predators.
With the help of the state Department of Natural Resources' helicopter fire crew, about 25 pieces of wood - some weighing as much as 2,500 pounds and measuring 12 feet long - were airlifted out of a staging area and into place along a channel of Winter's Creek, which feeds the Sultan River.
The half-mile stream channel was still an exceptional place for fry to congregate before the project, said members of the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, which headed yesterday's project. But the increased water flows expected from the placement of the logs will be comparable to upgrading from a local motel to a four-star resort, they said.
The wood, which will be anchored into the stream bed today, should last about 30 years, said Tom Hardy, an Adopt-A-Stream field coordinator. That's enough time for about a thousand seedlings planted along the channel earlier this year to mature. Another thousand seedlings will be planted this fall.
"We're speeding up the process for the salmon," Hardy said. "Since most of the conifers - which provide the best debris in a stream - were removed, this will provide shade and cover in the meantime."
Orcas make splash in Dyes Inlet
May 20, 2004 (Seattle Times) The crowds of shoreline whale watchers grew yesterday , and Kitsap County commissioners quickly passed an ordinance to protect the orcas, limiting boats and personal watercraft speeds to 7 mph and prohibiting wakes until June 28.
Dave Ellifrit, a whale researcher at the Center for Whale Research, which is based at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, said the visiting whales were most likely seal-eating "transients" - unlike the fish-eating members of a resident pod that showed up nearly seven years ago.
"It can't be J Pod," Ellifrit told The Sun newspaper of Bremerton.
Whale experts believe the two other pods that reside in Washington's waters, K and L, are out in the ocean, where they normally spend winters before returning here around the beginning of June. The group that hung out in Dyes Inlet in 1997 came from L Pod.
"I still haven't seen any pictures to say for sure who they are," Ellifrit told The Associated Press yesterday.
Judge won't lift ban on pesticide use near streams
May 19, 2004 (Seattle Times) A federal judge yesterday refused to drop his order that bars farmers and foresters from spraying certain pesticides near thousands of miles of salmon streams.
Claiming economic hardship, CropLife America, a pesticide-manufacturers trade organization, and others asked U.S. District Judge John Coughenour in Seattle to drop his January order while the case is heard by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
That order has the effect of requiring farmers to refrain from spraying certain pesticides near salmon streams. Moreover, garden stores must notify consumers of the dangers to fish of certain pesticides used in home gardening until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifies they are safe for salmon.
But environmental groups are concerned that the point-of-sale notifications warning urban users not to use the pesticides near the streams are not being posted. In one survey, only two out of 20 stores checked in the Seattle area had posted the notifications, according to Patti Goldman, an Earthjustice lawyer representing environmental groups.
Stocks of wild salmon retain legal protection
May 15, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Endangered Species Act provisions to remain in place
In a reversal of expectations, the Bush administration handed conservationists a big victory yesterday by declaring its intention to continue to protect wild salmon under the Endangered Species Act.
Development interests labeled the decision "ridiculous," saying that there are plenty of salmon produced in hatcheries, that hatchery salmon are just as good as wild salmon and that none of them needs legal protection.
Environmentalists, though, have long crusaded to protect dwindling stocks of wild salmon, citing scientists' statements that hatchery-bred fish are not as fit genetically as their wild counterparts.
Conservationists tempered their praise for the Bush administration's decision until they see details of the new policy later this month.
The backdrop to the administration's decision is an effort in the Puget Sound region to close or change the practices of hatcheries that seem to harm wild salmon, and determine how hatcheries can be used to help rebuild the wild runs.
Sometimes that can be as easy as releasing the hatchery-bred fish at a different time of year, so they don't compete more successfully with wild fish for space and food. State and tribal officials have agreed in principle to try to reshape the way hatcheries are run so that they help wild fish.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is "encouraged by improvements in hatchery management, and is seeing their increasing contribution to speeding the recovery of salmon," the Commerce Department's Lautenbacher wrote to Congress.
West Coast salmon likely to remain protected May 15, 2004 (Seattle Times)
Salmon recovery efforts must be based on science
May 12, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Op-ed by Ron Sims and Larry Phillips, King County Officials) The Pacific Northwest faces a new threat to the long-term survival of our wild salmon runs: environmental policy decisions based on federal politics, not science.
The Bush administration proposes in a draft policy to count millions of hatchery fish as part of West Coast wild salmon runs, when in fact they are very different animals. The administration is all but saying that hatchery fish production can make up for land use and industrial actions that destroy salmon habitat and harm water quality for people. The administration is wrong.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that hatchery fish are no replacement for wild ones and large hatchery runs are no excuse for dodging or delaying meaningful habitat protections for chinook, kokanee and bull trout. Hatcheries are extensions of -- not replacements for -- habitat protections that will ultimately be the foundation of sustainable and harvestable salmon populations.
We've proven we can fertilize and hatch salmon eggs in a pond but when compared to wild fish, hatchery fish are genetically inferior, more susceptible to disease and less adaptable than their wild counterparts. Their size and number threaten wild fingerlings by attracting predators and competing with them for food and habitat.
Using the federal government's own scientific review from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, nine rivers around the Puget Sound have lost wild chinook runs. About one-third of the Puget Sound basin's historical chinook runs have gone extinct and current returns may be one-tenth -- or less -- of what they were. This means, on average, where we had 5,000 chinook returning in the past we now have only 500, and where we had 1,000, we now have only 100. This is a terrible and alarming record that spans more than a century. But we can recover some of what we've lost -- if we base our recovery efforts on science.
Keep an eye out for Luna's pod: officials
May 12, 2004 (Vancouver Province) U.S. and Canadian officials working on a whale reunification plan are asking boaters to keep an eye out for Luna's pod.
The killer whale has been living alone in Nootka Sound off Vancouver Island for more than two years.
The orca's relatives are expected to return from the Pacific Ocean to inland waters around Washington's San Juan Islands within weeks.
But fisheries officials told a meeting of about 50 whale advocates in Seattle last night that nobody has seen the pod yet.
Luna has managed to feed himself in Nootka Sound but has also taken to socializing with people, cozying up to boats and nuzzling sea planes.
The U.S. and Canadian Navy, along with coast guard vessels, are also being asked to report any sightings of the so-called 'L' pod.
It's hoped the reunion can take place by June.
If you have any information or a suspected sighting, contact 1-866-ORCANET (672-2638), or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S., Canadian officials discuss Luna relocation plan
May 12, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) First, find L Pod!
The main concern among U.S. and Canadian fisheries officials and whale advocates working on a plan to reunite a young killer whale with his U.S. family is to spot his relatives as they return from the Pacific Ocean to their summer home in inland waters.
"Nobody's seen them," Janet Sears of NOAA Fisheries said Tuesday night after a meeting that drew some 50 whale advocates eager to learn the latest details of the Luna relocation plan.
"Our main concern right now is we need to see L Pod, find L-98's family and hook them up," she said.
Luna, or L98, appeared in Nootka Sound, an inlet off Vancouver Island's west coast, more than two years ago after separating from his U.S. pod.
He has managed to feed himself but has also taken to socializing with people, cozying up to boats and nuzzling seaplanes.
Boaters on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, the U.S. and Canadian Navy and Coast Guard vessels are being asked to report any orca sightings, Sears said.
Enlisting Navy's voice for the silent sea
May 12, 2004 (Seattle Times Op-ed by Fred Felleman) The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy's preliminary report on ocean conditions does a public service by elevating the significance and vulnerability of our nation's greatest liquid asset. The degree to which it is a "life preserver," however, will depend on the political will that is mustered to implement its recommendations.
Only governors can comment on the report. Therefore, it is important that the public urge Gov. Gary Locke, at his public forum at the Seattle Aquarium starting at 3 p.m. tomorrow, to strengthen the report's findings.
The report calls for significant increases in funding for ocean research and conservation, but seeks it from an unfortunate source - offshore oil and gas revenues. This creates a perverse incentive to unnecessarily impact the ocean in order to fund its conservation.
In addition, if directed by the White House and Congress, the Navy could contribute to our understanding and conservation of the sea instead of seeking exemptions from environmental laws.
$150,000 more needed in effort to aid orca
May 12, 2004 (Seattle Times) American and Canadian government officials say they will need another $150,000 in donations by Saturday to reintroduce Luna, a U.S.-born killer whale, back to his pod. Luna, or L98, appeared in Canada's Nootka Sound, on the west side of Vancouver Island, after separating from his pod in 2001.
Marilyn Joyce, marine-mammal coordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said she was "optimistic" that Luna could successfully be reintroduced by summer but expressed concerns last night at a public hearing at the Seattle Aquarium.
"We're at a critical junction," she said. "We may not be able to proceed here, and I would hate not to have the money lined up."
The U.S. and Canadian governments have been cooperating to reunite the 4-year-old orca by next month with his family, L-pod, which spends much of the year near the San Juan Islands.
Free Lolita! Bid to bring orca 'home' heats up
May 12, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Activists put squeeze on Florida aquarium
In a concrete tank beside the shallow and subtropical waters of Biscayne Bay, on a sun-drenched island dotted with coconut palms, lives a one-time resident of the deep and cold waters of Puget Sound.
Her name is Lolita. She's an orca, and her biological clock is ticking. "People are not her family. That ought to be obvious to everyone," says crusading orca scientist Ken Balcomb, who helped Lowry and Munro launch the campaign. "Certain people who are taking care of animals feel like they're family, but they're wild animals."
"It's been a very long shot from the beginning, but as long as she still breathes, there's still a possibility," says Howard Garrett of the Orca [Network], Balcomb's half-brother, who spearheaded much of the campaign.
In recent years, scientists have come to understand that orcas have remarkable abilities, including their own sort of culture, Garrett notes, with rituals that apparently are handed down through the generations. For instance, Puget Sound's three orca families, or pods, come together periodically in ceremony-like fashion.
Garrett tried hard to persuade the Seaquarium to let Lolita go.
Thousands of Puget Sound-area residents and tourists signed petitions. Schoolchildren scrawled crayon drawings in protest, including one on the Everett-based Mosquito Fleet whale-watching boats who wrote:
"We saw Lolita's family today. Please send her home."
Garrett even moved to south Florida for two years in the late '90s as part of the effort. Nothing worked.
Rose says the "Free Willy" example proves his point. Keiko, the orca released in Iceland after languishing in a Mexican attraction, never did take up with other orcas, instead preferring to hang out around people. Keiko died last year in Norway. Alone.
Activists, though, point out an important difference with Lolita: Everyone knows that her family, the L pod, can be found at regular intervals in Washington's inland sea. She still "speaks" in the native "tongue" of Puget Sound orcas. Keiko, on the other hand, was set free hundreds of miles from where he was captured, where he was unlikely to encounter whales he could relate to.
Parks department goal is ‘Salmon-Safe' creeks
May 11, 2004 (Salem Statesman) Coming this fall, salmon should migrate naturally toward creeks running through Salem's parks.
That's because the city's parks department is on its way to being certified "Salmon-Safe."
The Salmon-Safe certification was developed recently by the Portland-based nonprofit of the same name.
Certification means that management practices are safe for streams with salmon. It also sends signal to regulators that a city or department is protecting wildlife, fish and the public.
"Salmon-Safe has worked with cities from Seattle to Ashland, and really, only Salem has been that pioneering in respect to planning for water-quality protection and habitat protection," said Dan Kent, managing director of Salmon-Safe. "When it comes to innovation, I think Salem parks is far ahead."
Shift on Salmon Reignites Fight on Species Law
May 9, 2004 (New York Times) Three years ago, Mark C. Rutzick was the timber industry's top lawyer trying to overturn fish and wildlife protections that loggers viewed as overly restrictive. Back then, he outlined to his clients a new strategy for dealing with diminishing salmon runs. By counting hatchery fish along with wild salmon, the government would help the timber industry by getting salmon off the endangered species list, Mr. Rutzick wrote.
Now, as a high-ranking political appointee in the Bush administration who is a legal adviser to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Mr. Rutzick is helping to shape government policy on endangered Pacific salmon. And in an abrupt change, the Bush administration has decided for the first time to consider counting fish raised in hatcheries when determining if some species are going extinct.
The new plan, which officials have said is expected to be formally announced at the end of the month, closely follows the position that Mr. Rutzick advocated when he represented the timber industry.
Hood Canal in peril, report says
May 7, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Total fishing ban urged for heavily polluted fjord
Picturesque Hood Canal is facing a complete fishing ban because people in the fast-growing area aren't controlling their waste.
Up to 300 tons of oxygen-stealing pollution is dumped into the 60-mile fjord every year, helping fuel massive fish kills, according to a government report released yesterday.
Waste seeping from septic systems accounts for roughly 60 percent of the pollution, with manure from farm animals, carcasses of salmon caught for caviar and tainted storm-water runoff contributing to the problem, the report found.
"In the past, we always thought that nature's capacity to absorb our waste was infinite," said Brad Ack, chairman of the Puget Sound Action Team, a government agency responsible for protecting the Sound.
"This is the inescapable outcome of our sloppiness and our carelessness. Hood Canal is clearly on a downward spiral," he said. "Other places in Puget Sound may not be far behind."
Plan aims aimed at reviving Hood Canal
May 7, 2004 (Seattle Times) Fixing oxygen-starved Hood Canal will mean large expansions of local sewer systems, fundamental changes in farming and finding a way to keep fishermen from dumping salmon carcasses into the drink, a governor's task force announced yesterday. Now the task is finding ways to do it with the money available.
Two government groups - the state Puget Sound Action Team and the local Hood Canal Coordinating Council - released a "corrective action plan" that identifies the human sources of nitrogen in Hood Canal that end up sucking life-giving oxygen out of the water.
The groups have been working on an accelerated schedule since December, when Gov. Gary Locke distributed $25,000 in emergency money to find out what's wrong with the Puget Sound waterway. The budget has since grown to about $600,000.
Nitrogen feeds algae, which overgrows, then dies and decomposes, drawing oxygen out of the water as it wastes away. Low oxygen has caused significant fish kills and triggered fishing closures on the waterway.
Yesterday's report says 60 percent of the nitrogen is coming from human sewage, which leaches into the canal from septic systems of residents along the canal.
The groups are also working closely with the Skokomish Tribe, which is a member of the teams, to find alternatives to dumping salmon. When the market for chum is low, the tribes make more money off the salmon roe, so the fish themselves are discarded.
Two plans for reuniting overly friendly orca with pod
May 6, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Luna the lonely orca will be temporarily confined in a net pen in Pedder Bay near here if an attempt fails to reunite him with his pod at the entrance to Nootka Sound.
An attempt will be made to lead the whale out of the sound just as his pod is passing by, but even the most optimistic supporters of that approach know it is unlikely to succeed.
The killer whale pod, which spends its summers in Washington state's San Juan Islands, covers tremendous distances. Luna's pod is not usually seen in the waters off Nootka Sound, an inlet about 140 miles northwest of Victoria on Vancouver Island's west coast.
"Leading him out into the open water would be best for everyone, and especially for Luna, but the chances are pretty remote," said Ed Thorburn, a field supervisor with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
If that plan fails, the 4-year-old orca will probably be packed into a sling in a tank on a huge truck and, with police escorts and a contingent of veterinarians and scientists, be hauled to Pedder Bay.
Aquarium president John Nightingale said about $160,000 must be raised in cash and $51,000 in donated goods and services for the operation to proceed. That's on top of $95,000 from the Canadian government and $100,000 from the U.S. government.
But fund-raising is going slowly.
"If we don't have it by May 15 or 20 it will put a real crimp in things," Nightingale said. "It would stop it."
Many of state's most common birds at risk
May 6, 2004 (Seattle Times) It identified 93 of the 317 species as having "heightened conservation concern." Of those, 14 species and two subspecies were labeled as being of "immediate concern." Another 14 were called "species of high concern." And the rest were called "early warning species."
The report blames a range of factors that influence bird species, but the proliferation of humans is the common theme.
Coastal wetlands have largely disappeared in many places. A third of Washington's inland wetlands are gone, too. Most of the state's riverside habitat is lost or altered. Forests are being replaced by advancing housing developments. The vast majority of the state's sage-dappled steppe and grassy savannas have been replaced by farms or invasive plants that humans introduced.
Hotly disputed UW analysis makes a case for warming
May 6, 2004 (Seattle Times) Seattle scientists say the lower atmosphere is heating up, a discovery that, if true, would overturn one of the main arguments against global warming. But even before the results were published in today's issue of the journal Nature, critics launched into a scholarly version of trash-talking, claiming the University of Washington group is flat wrong.
"It's going to be a very healthy scientific debate," predicted Mike Wallace, a UW climate-change expert who was not involved in the research. "It will take a while to sit down and look at these arguments dispassionately."
Qiang Fu, the lead scientist on the new analysis, said he expected controversy because the topic is central to the debate over climate change and the role of development and air pollution.
"This is a very important question," he said.
Ample evidence shows that temperatures at the planet's surface have risen more than one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, causing glaciers to melt and sea ice to thin.
But until now, studies of the Earth's lower atmosphere - the part where weather occurs - have shown little or no temperature increase.
While a human-caused global warming would be expected to raise the temperature in the lower atmosphere, computer models have shown it would have the opposite effect in the upper layer called the stratosphere. And indeed, temperatures there have been dropping steeply over the past several decades.
Island First Nation Backs Off Fish Farming
May 5, 2004 (The Tyee) Scuttling its aquaculture ambitions, the Homalco Nation inks a key agreement to help protect waters around Bute Inlet.
A B.C. First Nation that was looking to begin salmon farming has dramatically reversed course by closing ranks with an environmental organization it once opposed. The two groups signed an unusual cooperation agreement to help protect a lengthy stretch of the Canadian West Coast against the fish farming industry.
Legally-drafted protocols are usually signed between non-government organizations and the federal or provincial government, but the elected chief of the Xwemalhkwu (Homalco) First Nation based in Campbell River got together with the president of the Georgia Strait Alliance Thursday to ink a written commitment that the two groups will work together for the restoration and preservation of marine waters in Bute Inlet – the traditional home base of the Homalco – and its surrounding area.
Chief Darren Blaney said he mistrusts the B.C. government and remains anxious it might use new legislated powers it gave itself late last year, to force salmon farms into place in the Homalco's claimed territorial waters in and around the inlet, against the wishes of the First Nation. (See earlier Tyee article.)
"I'm suspicious. I don't trust them," Blaney acknowledged, adding that he hopes to sign similar protection and cooperation agreements with both the Klahoose and Sliammon First Nations, who also have territorial waters adjoining the area the Homalco are claiming.
Fish count at Commencement Bay sites shows habitat project is going swimmingly
A toxic spot on the mend
May 4, 2004 (Tacoma News Tribune) Fish biologist Sherrie Duncan kneels on the muddy edge of Tacoma's Middle Waterway, rubs the nose of a tiny king salmon against a blue wand, then listens for a signal that never comes.
"It's wild," Duncan tells environmental scientist Megan Hilgart, who takes notes. The silent metal detector tells them the fish doesn't carry a coded wire nose tag like the ones typically implanted in hatchery chinook.
Duncan measures the fingerling, then sets it free. Within seconds, its silvery body disappears in the murky waterway.
The salmon is one of many young fish Duncan and fellow researchers counted one day last week as part of a 10-year, $1 million effort to evaluate eight Commencement Bay wildlife restoration sites, said Jennifer Steger, a federal employee who coordinates the effort.
Most of the sites are surrounded by industrial development and border Superfund cleanup locations where waterway sediments were contaminated by dangerous pollutants. The sites were set aside as wildlife habitat because of the federal Superfund law, which requires compensation for pollution-related losses to fish and wildlife.
"The fish data are just proof that if you build it they will come," said John O'Loughlin, who manages two city-sponsored restoration sites, including one on Middle Waterway. "It's really kind of gratifying to see that it's turning out so well."
Boats drown out sound of whales
May 3, 2004 (Baltimore Sun) The scientists say that, like humans, the whales are trying to adjust to the noise around them.
"If you're at a cocktail party, you start talking in a louder tone if the noise level goes up. It's the same thing," said Richard W. Osborne, an expert on killer whales at the Whale Museum on Washington's San Juan Island.
Researchers examined calls made by about 80 extensively studied killer whales that arrive to feed on salmon every summer in Haro Strait, about 100 miles north of Seattle.
They compared underwater recordings of killer whale calls made in the presence and in the absence of boats between 1977 and 1981, between 1989 and 1992, and between 2001 and 2003.
Killer whales travel in families, speak in dialects that differ from one group or "pod" to the next, and vary in their diet.
The whales in the study released last week feed almost exclusively on salmon, and scientists believe they use their calls to communicate as they forage.
Other "transient" populations of killer whales feed on dolphins, porpoises and other marine life and hunt in silence, possibly to keep from tipping off their larger prey.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is suing the Navy to prevent deployment of an ultra-low frequency sonar system designed to detect enemy ships and hazards. The technology "has the potential to harm and even kill whales," said Cara Horowitz, a lawyer for the environmental group.
But scientists say that there is much to be learned about whether increased noise poses health risks for whales and other marine life.
"If you and I are outside on a windy day and we have to talk louder because of the wind, that doesn't mean it's affecting our stress levels or our reproductive system or immune system," Kerr said.
Cantwell, as leader of the pod, is circling NOAA
May 1, 2004 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Luna, the wayward orca lost off Vancouver Island for nearly three years, washed up on Capitol Hill this week.
Not in the flesh, of course, but in spirit as the annual battle to secure money for orca conservation resumed.
This time the stage was the Senate Commerce Committee, where Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat who's known as the custodian of Luna's interests and orcas in general, demanded that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration include money in next year's budget to stabilize dwindling orca populations.
"If you're saying it's a depleted status, then where's your money?" Cantwell asked Commerce Undersecretary Conrad Lautenbacher during a hearing Thursday.
"How can you do the research to try and save them and reverse the decline of the population if you're not going to spend any money on it?" she asked.