Orca Network News - May, 2008
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
May 1, 2008 through May 31, 2008.
May 31, 2008 (Seattle Times)
His love of animals and passion for doing the right thing were part of his "moral compass," said Mr. Claussen's brother, Jim.
From helping with the rescue of Keiko the killer whale to rescuing dolphins washed ashore during Hurricane Katrina to helping with the relocation of Springer, a Canadian killer whale rescued from Puget Sound, Mr. Claussen was known for living his passion.
Mr. Claussen was killed May 17 in a small-plane crash in New Jersey while conducting an aerial survey on the effects of wind turbines on marine mammals and birds.
Now, words left on a Web site in his memory fill pages.
Oil Spill-Response Trailers Prove Their Value
May 29, 2008 (Kitsap Sun)
A sheen of oil that covered the boat-moorage area of Keyport Thursday could have been much worse were it not for the quick deployment of pre-staged containment boom by the Poulsbo Fire Department, officials said.
It appears that no more than 25 gallons of diesel oil were spilled from a 32-foot wooden tugboat that sank overnight, said Larry Altose of the Washington Department of Ecology. Even that much oil could have spread over a large area of Liberty Bay if the boom had not been deployed in time, he added.
On Thursday afternoon, a thin patch of oil, some 1,000 feet across, was identified offshore of Keyport. That oil is expected to dissipate on its own, Altose said. Most of the remaining oil was contained within a boom across the marina area.
Over the past two years, Ecology has staged trailers filled with boom and cleanup equipment at various locations throughout the state and trained local officials in their use. One such trailer was brought from the Port of Poulsbo soon after the oil spill was reported by a resident Thursday morning.
Humpback whale delights Tacoma spectators
May 29, 2008 (KING5 TV with video)
TACOMA, Wash. – A rare humpback whale sighting off Tacoma has people wondering if the whale is lost and in trouble.
The whale has been spotted in the waters between Point Defiance and Vashon Island.
Experts say the whale is doing just fine and doing what a whale is supposed to do – eat.
For two weeks, the humpback whale has been delighting ferry commuters and people watching from shore.
John Rupp, the aquatic animal curator at the Point Defiance Zoo, says the whale shows no sign that it is in any trouble. He says it's very likely that it found a feeding source and it therefore hanging around and feeding.
Humpback ventures down Sound
May 29, 2008 (Olympian)
A humpback whale that has spent the past two weeks lingering near Point Defiance and south Vashon Island appears to be a young adult in no visible sign of distress, Cascadia Research researcher Erin Falcone said Wednesday.
Falcone, who spent part of Tuesday in Dalco Passage photographing the whale, said it appears to be in good skin and body condition. The marine mammal research organization was unable to identify the whale because it didn't show its fluke, or tail, which contains markings unique to each individual animal.
Cascadia, an Olympia-based nonprofit organization, has thousands of humpback fluke photos on file from a just-completed three-year study of the North Pacific whale population. The multinational study involving about 400 researchers revealed a humpback whale population of 18,000 to 20,000 individuals, compared with 1,500 in the North Pacific when whale hunting was banned in 1966.
As the population recovers, humpback whale sightings in Puget Sound have increased to about one a year, Cascadia founder John Calambokidis said. Occasionally, a humpback ventures into South Sound, including a juvenile humpback spotted north of Johnson Point in July 2006 and another young humpback seen in Budd Inlet and Dana Passage in September 2004.
It was first sighted near Port Madison on Bainbridge Island on April 12, then settled into Dalco Passage between Tacoma and Vashon Island on May 12, said Howard Garrett of the Orca Network.
This time of year, 300 to 500 humpback whales congregate to feed off the northern Washington coast west of Cape Flattery, he said.
Conservation group wants seals protected
May 29, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Fresh off a successful campaign to list polar bears as a threatened species, a conservation group Wednesday petitioned to provide Endangered Species Act protections to the bears' main prey because of global warming.
The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to list ringed seals and two other species - spotted and bearded seals - as threatened or endangered.
All three seals live in the Bering, Chukchi or Beaufort seas off Alaska's coast and depend on sea ice that is receding rapidly, according to the petition.
"Ice is essential for them to give birth and rear their pups," said Shaye Wolf, a biologist and the lead author of the petition. "They won't be able to reproduce without ice."
The seals also rely on ice for molting.
Sheela McLean, NMFS spokeswoman in Alaska, said the agency had not received the petition Wednesday afternoon but is already reviewing seals. The Center for Biological Diversity in December petitioned the agency to list ribbon seals, and McLean said biologists were preparing status reviews for all four species. Each uses sea ice in different ways, she said.
Cantwell, Inslee focus on acidic oceans at Seattle hearing
May 28, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Move over, global warming. There's a new environmental anxiety on the block: acidic oceans.
Days after scientists announced finding unusually acidic ocean water in shallow areas off the West Coast, Sen. Maria Cantwell and a fellow Washington Democrat, Rep. Jay Inslee, on Tuesday sought to put the issue on the political center stage.
Sitting before a school of coho salmon in a giant tank at the Seattle Aquarium, Cantwell hosted a hearing about climate change, ocean acidification and its effects on Puget Sound and the ocean.
"From an acidification standpoint, the ocean is on fire," declared Inslee, whom Cantwell invited to the forum.
Inslee has long pushed for regulations tackling climate change. Tuesday, he latched onto acidification as a problem that even global-warming skeptics can't deny, thanks to its relatively simple, undisputed science: Parts of the ocean have grown more acidic, as excess carbon dioxide generated by fossil fuels reacts with saltwater, creating carbonic acid.
Kitsap Salmon Projects Struggle With Delays, Costs
May 27, 2008 (Kitsap Sun)
Carpenter Creek estuary near Kingston is considered an important salmon nursery - a place where young fish can eat, grow and prepare for the long journey to the Pacific Ocean.
But efforts to restore the estuary have been plagued by years of financial and administrative struggles, as officials try to pull together the money and permits needed to replace a concrete culvert under South Kingston Road.
Each time the project seemed ready for construction, a new problem would come up, said Joleen Palmer of Stillwaters Environmental Education Center. She has been involved in the restoration effort for eight years.
Now, after officials have secured 50 percent in state funding, Palmer is concerned that the matching federal dollars may evaporate.
As a result of these and other money complications, the state's Salmon Recovery Funding Board has changed its approach to projects requiring a major design effort. Now, separate grants may be offered for design work, with construction grants to follow once precise cost estimates become available.
Salmon resurgence in Butte County
May 27, 2008 (San Franscisco Chronicle)
Suddenly, with a splash, a big glittering fish leaped out of the water, then another and another. The spring-run chinook were jumping this past week in the remote, forested gorge outside Chico.
"This is the last best run of wild salmon in California," said Allen Harthorn, 56, the executive director of Friends of Butte Creek, who has been fighting for more than a decade to save the historic - and once sacred - spring run of chinook in this untamed tributary of the Sacramento River.
The fast-flowing creek now holds the largest population of wild spring-run chinook, or king salmon, in the Sacramento River system.
"It's the only place that gives me hope," Harthorn said from an observation deck he built on a cliff-side five years ago.
The number of spawning fish returning from the ocean to Butte Creek increased 10 percent from 2006 to 2007, Harthorn said. By the look of things, he said, even more fish are returning this year.
It is a minor miracle that there are any salmon at all wriggling their way up Butte Creek, given that only 14 fish returned to spawn in 1987.
The dismal return outraged environmentalists and prompted a desperate effort to save the fish. About $30 million was spent by the state on a variety of projects over the years, including the removal of six small dams, the building of fish ladders and the insertion of numerous screens to keep salmon out of water diversion pipes.
"The restoration there I think has clearly had a measurable response," said Rob Titus, a senior Department of Fish and Game environmental scientist. "Butte Creek is a good example in the respect that the removal of diversion dams, migration barriers, hydroelectric dams can make a difference. It's a thing you'd really like to see on the really big systems."
The construction of Shasta Dam on the Sacramento, Friant Dam on the San Joaquin, Folsom Dam on the American and Oroville Dam on the Feather River over the past century cut off huge sections of river, wiping out much of the spring run.
The problems elsewhere make the successes on Butte Creek all the more remarkable. Harthorn said there are still water temperature issues caused by the hydro-electric dam upstream at DeSabla, but overall conditions have dramatically improved. It helps, he said, that all of Butte's fish spawn naturally instead of in hatcheries.
Tiger of the sea
May 25, 2008 (Eureka Times Standard)
The Times-Standard got a tip last week that people had seen an orca beach itself and grab a seal, mimicking a hunt more typically seen in Patagonia or the Crozet Islands in the Indian Ocean. It was an amazing tale, and one I found had quite a few witnesses to back it up.
Not surprisingly, I suppose, when the experts all said "may be the first ever" in the United States, people came out of the woodwork to offer up similar sightings. Not all stories were quite as dramatic. One guy called to say orcas hit seals and sea lions on the beach along the Klamath River "all the time." A surfer wrote in to say that in 2000, he'd seen a killer whale chase a sea lion into shallow water -- just moments after they'd hauled their surfboards from the waves.
Another man wrote in remembering a story from May of 1985. He was at a bar watching the Celtics play the Lakers in the championship, and talking about a news report about a killer whale sighting. Apparently a group of school kids on a field trip to a beach just south of the Russian River watched with gaping mouths as a killer whale blasted onto the beach to snag a sea lion, tearing it to shreds in front of the class.
The orca is the tiger of the sea. The animal is beautiful, intelligent, vicious and incredibly strong. They form tight family bonds. They have specific tastes in prey. They learn and are innovative.
It's this last trait that holds hope that some of us might get to see such an incredible phenomenon again. It's not just a freak deal. The Trinidad orca's kids were watching, learning, almost certainly. It may be a year, or 10 years, or 20, but someday one of those kids may heave itself on shore and perform its brutal deed, and someone may get to see it.
County, mining firm argue over disposal of polluted Maury Island soil
May 25, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Imagine a pile of contaminated dirt three stories high that stretches from Pike Place Market nearly to Pioneer Square.
That's the size of a heap of polluted soil the mining company Glacier Northwest wants to build near drinking-water wells on Maury Island, the waste product of the company's proposal to massively expand a sand and gravel mine.
But would the big pile of dirt encapsulated in plastic liners be a "landfill," which local laws would prohibit there? Or is it a "containment facility," as Glacier calls it? If it's a landfill, Glacier could face the much more expensive alternative of barging that soil off the island for disposal in a special landfill for toxic waste.
"It makes my blood boil," said Amy Carey, president of Preserve Our Islands, a group of environmentalists and residents spearheading opposition.
"Our concerns regarding Glacier's proposal to landfill this enormous amount of highly contaminated soil is not based on assumptions or guesswork," Carey said. "We have Glacier's own studies showing the arsenic in the soils is mobile and presents a significant risk to both public and environmental health."
Preserve Our Islands and allied environmental groups want county officials to reject Glacier's plans, citing a 2004 county ordinance that prohibits landfills atop areas where water drawn from the ground is the only drinking-water source available.
A workable fix to save salmon
May 25, 2008 (Seattle Times editorial)
Things are so bad for the Pacific Coast salmon fishery, the United States and Canada are cooperating.
Cuts in harvest and improvements in habitat are part of a proposed revision to the Pacific Salmon Treaty, which should quickly be approved by both governments. The new treaty would reduce the catch off southeast Alaska by 15 percent and Canada would cut its take off the West Coast by 30 percent. The changes would send an estimated one million more chinook to Puget Sound and the Columbia River. Chinook are the target, but the 10-year agreement also covers coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon.
On one level, the agreement is a marvel of process. The Pacific Salmon Commission produced this recommendation, a first. Previous treaty negotiations collapsed and had to be resolved by Ottawa and Washington, D.C. This time, a crisis helped focus all the parties: two countries, one province, one territory, four states and dozens of First Nation and tribal groups. Credit goes to the chair as well, Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In with a shout in search for orcas
May 24, 2008 (Scotsman)
A TEAM from two Scottish universities will embark on a research trip to Shetland this weekend to study the social life of killer whales.
Dr Andy Foote from Aberdeen University and Dr Volker Deecke from St Andrews University will base themselves on the island of Yell for ten weeks in a bid to track the orcas.
Note: See Temporal and Contextual Patterns of Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Call Type Production and other papers authored by Andy Foote on the Orca Network Acoustic Science page.
Iceland Resumes Commercial Whale Hunt
May 24, 2008 (Environmental News Service)
Icelandic whalers have killed their first minke whale since the government's decision to allow them to resume whaling was made Monday.
On Tuesday, the whalers set sail and, according to the Minke Whalers Association, the first whale was killed Tuesday in the seas off Faxafloa, an area popular with whale-watching tourists.
The minke whale, a male measuring 7.4 meters (24 feet), was sent to be processed and the resulting meat products soon will be available for sale.
But on Monday, Fisheries Minister Einar Gudfinnsson said the government has approved a quota of 40 minke whales for the 2008 hunt.
The decision drew immediate criticism from conservationists.
"We strongly urge the Icelandic government to rethink this decision," said Robbie Marsland, director of the British chapter of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
"Subsidies to Iceland's scientific whaling program ran at twice the market value of one dead whale, and it seems that Iceland's continued whaling makes no economic sense whatsoever."
Iceland is the second country after Norway to authorize commercial whaling. Japan officially hunts whales for scientific purposes, although the whale meat is sold for human consumption.
Washington scientists in search of orca poop
May 23, 2008 (KING5 TV video)
Resident orcas are returning to Puget Sound and some scientists are hot on their trail.
They're looking for whale feces, which provide clues to their health.
"We are looking for killer whale poop," said Katherine Ayers, University of Washington grad student.
To do that, she perches on the bow of the research vessel, net in hand. Each poop scoop she gathers provides clues into the animals' favorite foods and their hormone levels.
Hormones provide critical information.
"We're looking at stress levels, we're looking at nutrition, we're also looking at reproductive condition like pregnancy," she said.
Reproduction is the key to the survival of the endangered resident orcas. When J pod returned this spring, researchers were sad to see its newest member was missing.
"We had that new one last fall, October, but that one didn't survive the winter, so we're still at 25 in J pod," said Ken Balcomb, executive director for the Center for Whale Research.
Researchers are concerned that low returns of salmon, the orcas' primary food, may lead to shorter stays by the resident pods.
Study: N. Pacific humpback whale population rises
May 23, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Once hunted to the brink of extinction, humpback whales have made a dramatic comeback in the North Pacific Ocean over the past four decades, a new study says.
The study released Thursday by SPLASH, an international organization of more than 400 whale watchers, estimates there were between 18,000 and 20,000 of the majestic mammals in the North Pacific in 2004-2006.
Their population had dwindled to less than 1,500 before hunting of humpbacks was banned worldwide in 1966.
The study, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is the most comprehensive analysis ever of any large whale population, said David Mattila, science coordinator for the sanctuary.
At least half of the humpback whales migrate between Alaska and Hawaii, and that population is the healthiest, Mattila said.
But isolated populations that migrate from Japan and the Philippines to Russia are taking a longer to recover after whaling operations ceased, he said.
U.S.-Canadian treaty could bring chinook home to spawn
May 23, 2008 (Seattle Times)
More Washington chinook would be coming home to spawn under proposed changes to a U.S.-Canadian salmon treaty announced Thursday.
The move, if approved by the two governments, could give a boost to the flagging fortunes of chinook runs in Puget Sound and the Columbia River, now protected under the Endangered Species Act.
But it will come at a price to the fishing industries in Canada and Alaska, which will have to forgo catching as many as 100,000 of the prized fish every year so they can reach their home rivers.
Despite those cuts, described as painful by Alaskan and Canadian representatives, there appears to be broad governmental support for changes to a treaty that, in the past, has triggered bitter cross-border feuds.
"My hat goes off to our Canadian colleagues who saw this, as we did, as an opportunity to take a concerted effort forward on conservation," said Gov. Christine Gregoire.
The changes, hammered out over a year and a half by U.S. and Canadian representatives on the Pacific Salmon Commission, would mean a 15 percent cut in chinook caught in southeast Alaska compared to what's allowed today, and a 30 percent cut off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Dale Kelley, of the Alaska Trollers Association, said the cuts in Alaskan fishing were just a bargaining chip, traded so the Canadians would agree to less fishing off Vancouver Island.
But the real source of the salmon's plight, she said, lies with habitat destruction in places such as Puget Sound.
"The people that do not want to gin up political will to deal with that problem just got a free pass," she said.
Acidified seawater showing up along coast ahead of schedule
May 23, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Climate models predicted it wouldn't happen until the end of the century.
So a team led by Seattle researchers was stunned to discover that vast swaths of acidified seawater already are showing up along the Pacific Coast as greenhouse-gas emissions upset the oceans' chemical balance.
In surveys from Vancouver Island to the tip of Baja California, reported Thursday in the online journal Science Express, the scientists found the first evidence that large amounts of corrosive water are reaching the continental shelf - the shallow sea margin where most marine creatures live.
Off Northern California, the acidified water was only four miles from shore.
"What we found ... was truly astonishing," said oceanographer Richard Feely, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. "This means ocean acidification may be seriously impacting marine life on the continental shelf right now."
And there's worse to come, the scientists warn.
A network of currents shuffles ocean water around the globe. The acidified water upwelling along the coast today was last exposed to the atmosphere about 50 years ago, when carbon-dioxide levels were much lower than they are now. That means the water that will rise from the depths over the coming decades will have absorbed more carbon dioxide and will be even more acidic.
"We've got 50 years worth of water that's already left the station and is on its way to us," Hales said. "Each one of those years is going to be a little bit more corrosive than the one before."
Killer whale rides wave onto beach north of Eureka, munches on harbor seal
May 22, 2008 (San Jose Mercury News)
A dozen or more people reported witnessing one of the world's rarest wildlife phenomena when an orca rode a wave onto Indian Beach in Trinidad and seized a seal. Researchers said it may be the first recorded occurrence of its kind in the United States, although similar behavior has been witnessed in British Columbia, Argentina and islands in the Indian Ocean.
Ruby Rollings from the Seascape Pier was alerted to the presence of the killer whales in Trinidad Bay just before lunch Tuesday, and grabbed a pair of binoculars to watch. A large adult orca was swimming in the bay with a juvenile orca and two much smaller orcas, she said.
After a while, Rollings said she say the larger whale ride a wave partway onto the beach and seize a harbor seal in its teeth.
"He bit it, then he slammed the seal against the sand," Rollings said.
Rollings said the whale left the seal on the beach, then headed back into the bay, and eventually out to sea.
Such behavior is rare among orcas. Washington-based Orca Network Director Howard Garrett was surprised to hear of the sighting and said the research community is very interested.
The technique is incredible to watch, but it has downfalls. With the enormous weight of the orca flopped onto the beach, it's possible for the animal to get stuck. Female orcas can weigh 7,000 pounds, and males up to 9,000 pounds.
"It's a risky venture," Garrett said.
It's something few people will ever see in their lives. Beach hunting has been documented in Argentina's Patagonia and the Crozet Islands in the Indian Ocean, Garrett said.
There are three types of orcas in the eastern North Pacific. One type eats just about any marine mammal it can get hold of, from seals to whales. Another focuses on fish, especially chinook salmon. Another group stays generally 25 to 30 miles offshore, in the rich continental shelf area, where tuna and sharks are key parts of their diet. The types don't interbreed, even though they sometimes mix.
More polar-bear help sought
May 21, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Conservation groups said Tuesday they are challenging Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne's attempt to limit collateral economic damage from listing polar bears as a threatened species.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council will seek court intervention to address what they say is the No. 1 threat to polar bears: greenhouse-gas emissions that cause global warming and melt Arctic sea ice.
Kempthorne, echoing President Bush, said last week the Endangered Species Act was the wrong tool to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
Kempthorne that he would propose "common-sense modifications" to make sure the polar-bear listing would not set backdoor climate policy outside the normal system of political accountability.
Biggest challenge for Puget Sound? 3 experts weigh in
May 19, 2008 (Seattle Times)
David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, the new state agency tasked with protecting and restoring Puget Sound; Peter Orser, president of Quadrant Homes, the largest homebuilder in the region; and Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People for Puget Sound, joined the discussion.
Stephen Claussen, Keiko's trainer, dies in N.J. plane crash
May 21, 2008 (Oregonian)
Stephen Matthew Claussen, who trained, fed and cared for Keiko during the movie-star orca's years in Oregon and Iceland, died Saturday in a plane crash.
Claussen, 41, of Seattle and two other passengers were aboard a small Cessna when it crashed about 12:30 or 1 p.m. in dense woods in Ocean County, N.J. The plane's owner and pilot, 60-year-old John Ambroult of Eastham, Mass., also died in the crash. Passengers, Jacalyn Toth Brown, 28, of Pemberton, N.J., and Juan Carlos Salinas, 43, of Mexico City, were seriously injured and being treated Tuesday in an Atlantic City hospital.
The youngest of five children, Claussen was born Oct. 3, 1966. A chef, he operated a Seattle restaurant for about five years and volunteered with Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium before his passion for animals overtook his cooking career. He joined the effort to give Keiko, the killer whale star of the movie "Free Willy," a shot at a better life in 1996.
In a 2003 interview with The Oregonian, he recalled a night dive in Keiko's aquarium pool. The Newport night was so clear, Claussen remembered, that from underwater he could see a sky sparkling with stars. The 21-foot-long, 10,000-pound whale joined him near the pool floor and for 90 minutes, he gave Keiko a stem-to-stern rubdown.
"It was magical," Claussen recalled, "because he was such a gentle creature and he genuinely seemed to enjoy the interaction with people."
"He loved that animal and he loved that project," said Jeff Foster, former head of the Keiko crew.
A memorial gathering is planned May 31 in Seattle. Details will be posted at www.stephenclaussenmemorial.com
Trainer who worked with `Free Willy' whale dies in NJ crash
May 20, 2008 (Seattle Times)
One of two men who died in a plane crash in New Nersey was the trainer who prepared Keiko the whale for release into the wild.
Forty-one-year-old Stephen Claussen of Seattle was in New Jersey to study how proposed offshore wind turbines might affect birds and water mammals. He was best known for his work with the whale star of the movie "Free Willy."
The back story on Keiko and trainer Stephen Claussen, who died in a New Jersey plane crash
May 20, 2008 (Oregonian)
Sunday,December 14, 2003
Stephen Claussen zipped on a wet suit, strapped on a scuba tank and jumped in. The Newport night was so clear, he remembers, that from underwater in Keiko's Oregon Coast Aquarium tank, Claussen could see the stars. The killer whale joined him near the pool floor, and for 90 minutes the 21-foot-long, 10,000-pound beast let Claussen scratch and rub him, stem to stern.
"It was magical," said Claussen, who worked with Keiko for six years in Oregon and Iceland, "because he was such a gentle creature and he genuinely seemed to enjoy the interactions with people."
That magical quality and ability to endear himself to humans ignited the most remarkable, quirky and controversial animal rescue in history -- an effort that ended Friday, when Keiko died in Taknes Bay, Norway. He was about 26 years old. The cause of death is unknown, but his veterinarian said that symptoms indicate Keiko may have had acute pneumonia.
Many questioned whether such a pampered pet could be rebuilt into a predator capable of surviving in the unforgiving north Atlantic Ocean. Some said it was a waste of time, and that the money would be better spent on more deserving causes. A few others made death threats against Keiko.
But orcas, a highly intelligent species with strong family ties, have fascinated humans in varied cultures through many centuries. Keiko did, too, and fans around the world rallied to his cause.
"Keiko was an excellent ambassador, not only for his species but for all the creatures in the marine environment," Claussen said. "He really brought human awareness to a new level."
Friends Say Goodbye To A Whale Whisperer
May 18, 2008 (Q13 News Seattle with video)
A seattle man well known for his love of whales is dead following a tragic plane crash in New Jersey.
41-year old Stephen Claussen was working on a federal study of coastal birds when the Cessna 337 Skymaster he was flying in went down.
Claussen was a self-educated wildlife expert best known for training Keiko the whale during the mammals fabled journey from a Mexican water park, to the waters of Iceland.
For the past several years, Claussen and partner Jeff Foster have been involved in the study and rescue of Whales and other sea mammals all over the world.
"It's just so unfair. It's not supposed to be this way, you know. He had so much to give...it was such a tragedy that his life was cut short."
Even though Claussen had no University training, he attended the "underwater school of hard knocks" by working nights as a cook in a Seattle restaurant, while volunteering during the day at both Woodland Park and Point Defiance zoos.
"He loved it. He loved being out in the field, he loved learning something out in the field every day, he loved the animals...he was a passionate and dedicated guy".
Foster and Claussen were scheduled to begin a study of Right Whales in Alaska this Summer.
Victims identified in Eagleswood plane crash
May 18, 2008 (Press of Atlantic City)
State police have identified the victims of the plane crash in Eagleswood Township that left two people dead and two others injured Saturday afternoon. Pilot and plane owner John Ambroult, 60, of Eastham, Massachusetts and passenger Stephen Claussen, 41, of Seattle were pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Juan Carlos Selinas, 43, of Mexico City, is in stable condition and Jacalyn Brown, 28, of Pemberton, Burlington County, is in critical condition at the Regional Trauma Unit of AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City as of Sunday afternoon, police said.
2 Dead, 2 Injured In Ocean County Plane Crash
May 18, 2008 (My Fox Philly)
Two men are dead and two others seriously injured when a small plane crashed in a heavily wooded area Saturday near a small airport in Ocean County.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters says it's not yet known what caused the crash, which occurred just before 4 p.m.
State police say the two men killed were pronounced dead at the scene.
The other two on board sustained serious injuries and were flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital, but further details on their conditions were not available.
Peters says someone on board the Cessna 337 Skymaster used a cell phone to contact someone in Texas who is connected to the operation of the aircraft, which had taken off from Millville.
That person then called the FAA's flight service station in Virginia to report the crash.
Victims identified in Eagleswood plane crash
May 18, 2008 (United Press International)
Two people were killed Saturday afternoon when a small plane doing a coastal survey crashed in New Jersey.
The plane, which had taken off from Millville in South Jersey, came down about 60 miles away in a densely wooded area in Eagleswood near the Jersey Shore, NBC40 reported. The plane was about 450 feet from the Eagle's Nest Airport, and the pilot may have been trying to land there.
The plane was carrying a pilot and three employees of Geo Marine Inc., a Texas company. The survivors, a man and a woman, were taken to Atlanticare Regional Medical Center.
Mark Ridge, a New Jersey State Police spokesman, said one of the passengers on the plane made a call from a cell phone after the crash to his company in Texas. He was routed to state police and was able to direct them by telling them when the noise of a searching helicopter was over the plane.
The three Geo Marine employees were doing a survey of coastal geology, bird life and currents for the federal government.
Victims identified in Eagleswood plane crash
May 18, 2008 (Philadelphia Enquirer)
Two people were killed and two critically hurt yesterday when their private plane, aloft for a nature survey, crashed into thick woods in Ocean County, N.J., authorities said. After the Cessna Skymaster crashed in Eagleswood Township about 4 p.m., a badly hurt passenger, Juan C. Salinas, 43, of Mexico City, used a cell phone to call 911 for help,
State police, who patrol the area, said the plane appeared to develop mechanical problems and tried to land at Eagles Nest Airport in Eagleswood but "didn't make it." The plane crashed about a 100 yards from the air strip.
The three others in the plane worked for Geo-Marine, Inc., based in Plano, Texas. The company specializes in surveys of whales, dolphins, birds and other natural life.
On May 1, the firm announced the opening of a New Jersey office in Millvile, saying it would work on state wind-power projects and perform "ocean and wind power ecological baseline studies and groundtruthing" for the environmental officials.
Plane crash victims identified
May 18, 2008 (6ABC Philadelphia PA - with video)
State police have identified the two victims of yesterday's deadly small plane crash at the Jersey Shore.
The dead are pilot and plane owner John Ambroult, 60, of Eastham, Massachusetts, and 41-year-old Stephen Claussen of Seattle. Two other passengers were injured when the plane crashed in a heavily wooded area near a small airport in southern
Two Victims in Plane Crash Are Identified
May 18, 2008 (New York Times)
The New Jersey State Police on Sunday identified the two men who were killed in the crash of a small plane the day before as the aircraft's owner, John Ambroult, 60, of Eastham, Mass., and Stephen Claussen, 41, of Seattle.
Two passengers, Jacalyn Brown, 28, of Pemberton, N.J., and Juan Carlos Salinas, 43, of Mexico City, were injured when the plane crashed in Eagleswood Township, about 25 miles north of Atlantic City, the authorities said.
VICTIMS IDENTIFIED IN SATURDAY'S PLANE CRASH
May 18, 2008 (WMGM Atlantic City NJ)
EAGLESWOOD TWP., OCEAN CO. -- State police have identified the victims from Saturday's plane crash in southern Ocean County.
The dead are 60-year-old pilot and plane owner John Ambroult of Eastham, Massachusetts, and 41-year-old Stephen Claussen of Seattle.
Two other passengers were injured when the plane crashed in a heavily wooded area near a small airport in Eagleswood Township.
The injured were identified as 28-year-old Jacalyn Brown of Pemberton and 43-year-old Juan Carlos Salinas of Mexico City.
The plane was flying as part of a federal study of coastal birds and wind currents along the Jersey Shore.
Mass. Man Killed In N.J. Plane Crash
May 18, 2008 (WBZ TV Boston MA)
A Massachusetts man died in a plane crash near the New Jersey Shore on Saturday.
John Ambroult, 60, of Eastham was killed when the plane he was flying crashed in a heavily wooded area near a small airport in southern Ocean County around 4 p.m.
Stephen Claussen, 41, of Seattle was also killed in the crash. Two other passengers on board the plane were injured.
Public wasn't notified of toxic waste spill
May 17, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
What authorities are calling a "catastrophic failure" of a 50,000-gallon wooden tank unleashed one of the biggest waste spills in recent memory in Seattle -- the biggest this decade, a state Department of Ecology official said. Some of the waste found its way through underground pipes to Elliott Bay a half-mile away.
The accident happened March 25, but only now is being revealed. Although at least five government agencies responded, none bothered at the time to notify the public.
Whales inspire better blade designs
May 16, 2008 (Christian Science Monitor)
He discovered that these bumps, called tubercles, are this creature's secret weapon, allowing a whale the size of a school bus to make tight turns and capture prey with astonishing agility.
Fish, a biology professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, is now using this technology perfected by nature to produce fans with serrated blades that use 20 percent less electricity than traditional models. This finding contradicts conventional designs that strive for the smoothest possible edges.
The technology can be used in a huge range of machines such as turbines, compressors, pumps, and fans that use blades or rotors – most anything that cuts through air, water, steam or oil, says Fish.
"This can be applied to any lifting surface, like airplane wings or windmill blades or sailboat masts," he says.
Fish teamed up with a Canadian businessman to form WhalePower, a Toronto-based company that markets the technology. Envira-North Systems, Canada's largest supplier of industrial ceiling fans, with 75 percent of the market, recently licensed the design for a new line of fans that measure up to 24 feet in diameter.
"There was a 20 percent drop in energy use, a significant drop in noise decibels, and overall distribution of air was more even," says Envira-North CEO Monica Bowden. The increased efficiency also means the new fans will have five blades instead of 10, making them cheaper to manufacture.
Marine Exploration Weekend brings scientists and kids together
May 15, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
If your children love whales, fish and all things water-related, then Pacific Science Center's first Marine Exploration Weekend is for them.
The "weekend" actually started Thursday and runs through Sunday. PacSci has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other local research organizations to bring lots of local scientists to talk to visitors about various kinds of marine life, Puget Sound conservation and careers in marine science.
Visitors can count the growth rings in a tiny ear bone to determine a fish's age, learn how marine debris harms marine mammals, see and touch tide pool creatures, learn how to restore coastal habitats, and understand how trees affect erosion and why they are so important to a healthy salmon habitat.
Jennifer Hempelmann, a biological technician for NOAA, performs genetic analysis on the resident orcas in J, K and L pods to determine their family trees. One of the less glamorous aspects of her job involves -- get this -- collecting whale poop.
Government: Overheating may have killed sea lions
May 15, 2008 (Seattle Times)
The deaths of federally protected sea lions found in traps at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River may be due to overheating.
Government wildlife specialists made that conclusion after their review of the necropsies conducted on the six protected sea lions.
Tribal trial ties whalers to federal sentence terms
May 15, 2008 (Peninsula Daily News)
Five men who killed a gray whale on Sept. 8 received deferred prosecution Wednesday from the Makah Tribal Court.
All five must abide for a year by conditions that will be set June 30 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, where they either have pleaded guilty or have been found guilty of federal misdemeanors.
If they do so, tribal charges that include animal cruelty and discharging a firearm will be dropped, said Wayne Johnson, one of the five defendants.
The attempt to try the men by jury collapsed when only 13 of 200 potential jurors had not been dismissed for bias or kinship with one of the defendants - and attorneys had yet to exercise any challenges, Johnson said.
"This ruling should cause the National Marine Fisheries Service to reassess the tribe's credibility to co-manage the killings of whales.
Public meeting May 27
That process moved forward Friday when the National Marine Fisheries Service, enforcement agency for the marine mammal act, released a draft environmental impact statement on the tribe's request.
The statement outlines six alternatives - ranging from no whaling to unrestricted hunting - but gives preference to none of them.
Chief Tribal Judge Stanley Myers, who initially had resisted any outcome short of a trial, granted the deferral and charged each man $20 in court costs.
Makah judge fails to empanel jury to prosecute whalers
May 15, 2008 (Seattle Times)
They promised tough prosecution, but in the end the Makah Nation couldn't put together a jury to try five whalers who were charged with illegally killing a gray whale off Neah Bay last fall.
Tribal Judge Stanley Myers on Wednesday instead granted the men one-year deferred prosecution and promised to dismiss the charges if they committed no offenses during that time. The whalers also were each ordered to pay a $20 fine.
The deferral came after the judge summoned more than 200 people from the remote village of Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula to serve as potential jurors. But the judge gave up on empaneling a jury because just about everyone was either related or said they had strong feelings about the case, according to one of the whalers, Wayne Johnson.
It was a far cry from last fall, just after the five men shot and harpooned a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The animal slowly bled to death and died some nine hours later.
Polar bear added to endangered species list
May 14, 2008 (Los Angeles Times)
The Bush administration today designated the polar bear as threatened with extinction, making the big arctic bear, whose fate clings to shrinking sea ice, the first creature added to the endangered species list primarily because of global warming.
The designation invokes federal protections under the Endangered Species Act, the nation's most powerful environmental law that requires designation of critical habitat to be protected as well as forming a strategy to assist the bear population's recovery.
The decision came only after a U.S. District Court in Oakland forced the Bush administration's hand by imposing a May 15 deadline for the decision that was supposed to have been completed by Jan. 9.
It was the first time in more than two years that the Interior Department extended protections to another species under the Endangered Species Act -- the longest hiatus of new listings by the department since President Richard Nixon signed the law in 1973.
In September, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey released a comprehensive nine-volume analysis of the science and reached a dire forecast: Two-thirds of the bear's habitat would disappear by 2050.
Polar bears are experts at hunting ringed seals and other prey on sea ice. But they are so unsuccessful on land, they spend their summers fasting, losing more than 2 pounds a day.
This forced fast is an average of three weeks longer than it was 30 years ago, according to studies in Canada's western Hudson Bay. This gives the bears less time to hunt and build up fat reserves they need to make it until they can resume hunting with reformation of the ice in the fall.
Duwamish Superfund site might get private help
May 14, 2008 (Seattle Times)
A Seattle environmental company is proposing to jump-start restoration of the gritty Duwamish River Superfund site by spending private money to make it more salmon-friendly.
The firm, Bluefield Holdings, has struck a deal with Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels to lease and restore salmon habitat at seven city-owned parcels on the Duwamish.
The company would then potentially sell "restoration credits" to polluters that are on the hook under Superfund laws to transform the city's industrial waterway.
Bluefield Holdings is a private "eco-development" company founded in 2005 with headquarters in Seattle and an office in New Jersey. It is funded by pension funds seeking "green" projects, said company spokeswoman Barbara Smith.
She would not disclose the amount of the company's potential investment, but said the project was "fully funded."
The Duwamish River, once free-flowing and full of salmon, had degraded over the 20th century into an industrial sewer.
Good restoration would likely include tearing out concrete bulkheads and huge rocky embankments to restore naturally sloping banks.
Paying landowners to protect Puget Sound
May 14, 2008 (Seattle Times)
As scientists, politicians and the public look for ways to save Puget Sound and yet house millions more people in Western Washington, many are pointing to the strategy, known as "transfer of development rights," or simply TDR, as one of the more promising.
TDRs, they say, offer a way to use capitalism to help the environment - without layering on more rules and regulations. If successful, they could help shelter important land while channeling growth into less ecologically valuable places. And that's something decades of good intentions and land-use laws haven't completely accomplished.
Yet for all its promise, the results have yet to be realized. To the south, Pierce County is one of the furthest ahead, with a new plan proponents say is the best yet.
On paper, the arrangement looks like the clichéd "win-win" that politicians crave.
Farmers get paid extra to keep farming. Developers buy credits to build more houses where they otherwise couldn't - in this case on 300 acres away from the river on Arlington's eastern edge. Valuable land is saved from pavement. And government doesn't spend tax money to buy up land or impose environmental restrictions.
But two years after the program started, no developer has bought a single credit.
Farmers want to make as much as they can selling their credits. Developers want to pay as little as possible. And so far, there hasn't been enough pressure to force them to agree on a price.
Even though environmentalists often feud with farmers over turning farmland into salmon habitat, there's a growing appreciation that hay fields are better for the Sound than housing tracts.
"Once it goes, it goes. You're not going to get it back."
They Shoot Orcas, Don't They?
May 13, 2008 (Tyee)
[Editor's note: The book Operation Orca (Harbour Publishing) recounts the efforts to save Springer in Puget Sound and Luna near Gold River from a lost whale's slow death. In the first of four excerpts that focus on B.C.'s history of orca captures, Francis and Hewlett recall a time not so long ago when the Vancouver Aquarium harpooned an orca that became known as Moby Doll, and simply didn't know what to do next.]
Beaches suffer as walls go up
May 13, 2008 (Seattle Times - Part 3 of 3)
Every year the wall around Puget Sound keeps growing.
On beach after beach, barriers of concrete and boulders are erected to keep the Sound from washing away valuable real estate.
Stretched end to end, the barriers would already reach more than800 miles - enough to line both sides of Interstate 90 from Seattle to Spokane, with plenty to spare. In the past two years alone, that wall has grown at least another five miles.
The wall goes up in bits and pieces from one end of the Sound to the other, from million-dollar waterfront homes on Bainbridge Island to vacation getaways in the San Juan Islands.
The wall keeps growing even though scientists say it hurts the Sound by degrading some of the richest near-shore habitat, including spawning grounds of little fish critical to bigger predators like salmon. It grows even as millions of tax dollars are spent to tear down other walls.
The walls starve beaches of sand coming down from hillsides that would replenish sand washed away by waves. That results in shrunken, eroded beaches with less room for important shoreline life, such as sand lance and surf smelt, little fish that lay their eggs in the sand.
Those fish are important food for bigger fish, such as salmon, which in turn feed orcas and other animals.
When shoreline trees and bushes are mowed down for lawns and waterfront views, that takes away a source of insects that fall in the water and feed young salmon and of shade that cools fish eggs. Far fewer surf-smelt eggs survive on unshaded beaches, studies have found.
Shipper fined for Elliott Bay oil spill
May 13, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
A Singapore-based shipping company whose ship spilled oil into Elliott Bay last year paid a $27,500 fine to the Washington Department of Ecology, the agency reported Monday.
OSM Ship Management's payment resulted from the spill of an estimated 93 gallons of oil as the fuel was being taken on by the bulk carrier Songa Hua on Feb. 28, 2007. The accident occurred off Pier 91, just south of Magnolia.
Salmon crisis threatens ecology and culture
May 12, 2008 (Vancouver Sun)
Chances are you probably haven't heard about it yet, but we're in another salmon crisis, one that's devastating the coast from California all the way up to Vancouver -- and beyond.
For the first time in 150 years, California and Oregon shut down the $300-million chinook salmon fishery. Washington state has all but followed suit. U.S. fishermen are now seeking disaster relief.
Off our own shores, things aren't much better. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has told 94 native bands that they will have to ration their catch of Fraser River sockeye this year, another first.
The commercial sockeye fishery won't likely happen this year on the Fraser, either.
Watching all of this with much trepidation is Alex Rose, a local writer who once worked in DFO as a communications strategist. He's just finished writing Who Killed the Grand Banks? (his answer is greedy East Coast fishermen, DFO mismanagement, botched science and the industrialized fishing fleet).
After two years of researching, talking to the world's fisheries experts, he believes the Pacific salmon fishery may very well go the way of the Grand Banks cod.
U.S. coastal waters see pesticide drop
May 12, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Some good news from the government scientists who study pollution in U.S. coastal waters: A newly released 20-year study shows overall levels of pesticides and industrial chemicals are generally decreasing.
The Mussel Watch program of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration examined levels of 140 chemicals from 1986 to 2005 in coastal areas and estuaries of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the East and West coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.
Puget Sound is part of Mussel Watch, the longest continuous contaminant monitoring program in U.S. coastal waters.
Gunnar Lauenstein, an oceanographer who's the lead scientist of the program, said the levels are continuing to decrease, many years after environmental laws were enacted in the 1970s.
Some toxic banned chemicals, the pesticide DDT and industrial chemicals called PCBs, are on the decline.
Saving wetlands: a broken promise
May 12, 2008 (Seattle Times - Part 2 of 3)
The state's commitment to our fragile wetlands dates back two decades.
On Dec. 12, 1989, Gov. Booth Gardner announced that half the state's wetlands were gone, and 2,000 acres more were vanishing each year. So he issued an order: For each marshy piece of ground paved, another would be created to replace it.
Not only would the state stop losing wetlands, Gardner vowed, but wetlands in Washington would actually increase.
Twenty years later, the promise has proved hollow. Destruction of wetlands, vital to the health of Puget Sound, is still routine, and attempts to replicate them are too often a failure.
We are kidding ourselves; the emperor has no clothes," said Thomas Hruby, a senior ecologist at the Ecology Department. "Everybody says it, and it's been going on for at least 20 years. We are deluding ourselves, hoping there is a silver bullet out there that will allow us to have our growth and not have the impacts.
"It's a state of denial."
The building industry carries considerable clout in Olympia, and efforts to boost wetland protection in the 1990s resulted in industry and property-rights activists pushing for ballot measures and budget cuts to squeeze the Ecology Department.
"We've not shown yet, historically, that we can deal with the death-by-a-thousand-cuts problem," he said.
But Manning said he believes public opinion is finally on his side.
"This is the best environment for the environment in this state since the 1970s," he said.
Whaling would have little effect on environment, U.S. says
May 11, 2008 (Peninsula Daily News)
The Makah tribe's proposed return to legal whale hunting would have little effect on the environment - including on the targeted gray whales - according to a federal study.
The long-awaited draft environmental impact statement was released Friday by the National Marine Fisheries Service at its regional headquarters in Seattle.
The statement addressed the possible effects of Makah whaling on shellfish beds, free-swimming and bottom-dwelling organisms, other marine mammals, tourism, whale-watching, shipping, sport fishing, human health and public safety.
Its "Cumulative Effects" chapter concluded that effects on these areas would be minor.
Concerning Makah whaling's impact on whales, it noted that about seven whales are killed inadvertently by the U.S. commercial fishery each year, and one dies each year when struck by a ship - twice the number the Makah seek to take.
The painful cost of booming growth
May 11, 2008 (Seattle Times - Part 1 of 3)
The way we grow is undermining our promises to protect and restore Puget Sound, and could hobble a new rescue plan on which we may be asked to commit as much as $18 billion on top of the $9 billion we already expect to spend by 2020.
It happens one creek at a time as bulldozers and pavement disrupt the natural flow of water through the ecosystem, destroying habitat and sending billions of gallons of polluted runoff into the Sound.
"Puget Sound is a funnel. Anything that we do at the top end of the funnel comes out at the bottom end."
Today, stormwater flowing into Puget Sound is a slow-motion oil spill, amounting to millions of gallons a year.
Leaking septic tanks ruin shellfish beds. Pesticides wash off lawns into streams. Copper poisons salmon, scrambling their ability to smell predators. Toxic flame retardants used in everything from televisions to mattresses enter the Puget Sound food chain, winding up in harbor seals and orcas. Dirt smothers fish eggs.
Environmental groups are now suing the Ecology Department to get tougher rules. But on the other side, a host of cities and counties are suing to block the new permit, which they argue is unduly burdensome and costly.
Film about orphaned orca to be screened at Cannes
May 10, 2008 (Vancouver Sun)
Vancouver Island's homegrown whale tale is headed to Cannes.
Saving Luna, the film about the life and death of the young killer whale who became separated from his pod and took up residence in Nootka Sound, is one of 10 feature films picked by Telefilm Canada for screening at the Cannes Marche de Film in the south of France later this month.
The Marche de Film runs in conjunction with the famed film festival, with its glitz, glamour and Hollywood blockbusters, but is geared to marketing films for theatre screenings, said producer Suzanne Chisholm.
Parfit and Chisholm, who originally went to Nootka Sound to do a magazine story on the young whale, moved to Gold River during the Luna years, and part of the film deals with their increasing involvement with the whale and their efforts to protect him.
Pod the t-orca the town
May 10, 2008 (Northern Advocate - New Zealand)
Whale watchers played a game of cat-and-mouse as a pod of hungry orcas swam back and forth along the Whangarei coastline yesterday.
The whales were first spotted on Tuesday in the Bay of Islands and on Wednesday had moved to Mimiwhangata.
By yesterday quite a crowd had gathered on the Whangarei Harbour between Taurikura and Urquharts Bay - all clutching their cameras and hoping to get a good shot of the mammals.
As the whales glided along the coastline, the engrossed humans hopped in and out of their cars, slamming their brakes on at various points to jump out and take photographs.
The orcas had come in to feed on stingrays but the wily prey knew they were targeted for dinner and hundreds clustered close to the shoreline hoping to avoid the great orca jaws.
Tourists and locals, whale researchers and roadworkers, nature photographers and inquisitive passers-by all jostled for space as the pod of 17 orcas dipped and dived under the glassy water.
Whangarei orca expert Ingrid Visser said the pod was made up of 17 whales, including two baby calves less than two weeks old.
"I don't know what it is about orcas that makes them so mesmerising to people but once you start watching them it's addictive. They're absolutely phenomenal creatures, they could eat sharks for breakfast so maybe it's their sheer size that makes us find them so incredible," she said.
And Ms Visser couldn't resist taking a dive with her old friends. "Anzac's here, who was first spotted on Anzac Day 2005. There's Nobby who I've known since he was a little boy in 1992. There's Slean, and Miracle and her calf Magic. Miracle stranded in 1993 but was saved so it just shows how we can help."
While swimming with the whales, Ms Visser found a one-metre wide ray that had been half-eaten by an orca. "There are fewer than 200 orca living around New Zealand so to have them swimming around in the Whangarei Harbour is pretty amazing."
Public is asked to weigh in on Makah whaling
May 10, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
The federal government is asking for feedback on a proposal to allow the Makah Indian Nation to hunt Pacific gray whales off the Washington coast.
The National Marine Fisheries Service released an analysis Friday of the environmental and social effects of five different hunting scenarios, plus an option of not allowing a hunt. The agency is considering permitting the killing of up 20 whales over five years.
The different scenarios include restrictions on how many whales could be killed annually, how many could be struck but not killed, and when and where the hunting could occur.
Once included on the endangered species list, the total population of gray whales is more than 20,000, and in the 1990s totaled more than 24,000 animals.
HOW TO COMMENT ON WHALING
# Read the draft proposal for a whale hunt.
# Submit comments until June 8 by e-mail to MakahDEIS.firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line Attn: 2008 Makah DEIS; by mail to Steve Stone, NOAA Fisheries Northwest Region, 1201 N.E. Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232; or by fax to 503-230-5441, Attn: 2008 Makah DEIS.
# Attend a public meeting 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., May 28, at the Vern Burton Memorial Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles, or 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., June 2, at the Lake Union Park Armory-Great Hall, 860 Terry Ave. N., Seattle.
Bush signs Wild Sky Wilderness into law
May 9, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
For the first time in more than two decades, Washington state is getting a new wilderness area because President Bush signed legislation Thursday to protect more than 106,000 acres of forests and streams in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Wild Sky also is unique in the type of land it protects -- low-elevation old-growth forests and 25 miles of salmon-bearing streams. Roughly one-third of the area that will be protected consists of lands under 3,000 feet -- making it easy for hikers and hunters to use.
For environmentalists in Washington state, the next project may be an expansion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area east of Seattle. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., has introduced legislation that would add roughly 22,000 acres to Alpine Lakes so that it includes the Pratt River Valley on the west side of the wilderness area.
Out-of-court agreement reached in sea lion case
May 7, 2008 (AP)
The Humane Society of the United States has reached agreement with state and federal governments that blocks killing or permanent removal of sea lions in the Columbia River until early 2009.
State and federal governments would be allowed to move sea lions temporarily, brand them for identification and return them to their original habitats.
Gray whale dies on beach
May 6, 2008 (The Daily World)
A whale that beached near Copalis Spit Saturday died. Now researchers will try to find out why.
According to a clam digger who saw the whale Saturday and Sunday, the gray whale is about 26 feet long. That's not particularly large for a gray whale, Olympia resident Rowland Thompson observed. He added that the whale was alive Saturday afternoon.
The next step is to figure out what happened to the whale, and that will likely fall to Cascadia Research, a non-profit group that conducts research to manage and protect threatened marine mammals.
Plans issued for dams, salmon safety
May 6, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
The Bush Administration on Monday issued its final court-ordered plans for making Columbia Basin hydroelectric dams and irrigation projects safe for endangered salmon, calling them the most robust and comprehensive effort yet.
But salmon advocates blasted them as a step backward, saying they depend too much on restoring habitat in tributaries to boost fish numbers and not enough on reducing the high numbers of young salmon killed by 14 dams on their way to the sea.
"Ultimately, this plan shows it is time for Congress and the next administration to restore the balance in this river, assure the law and science are followed, and protect the thousands of family wage jobs," said Todd True, lead attorney for salmon advocates.
Once an expected challenge is filed, it will be up to U.S. District Judge James Redden to decide whether the plans -- known as biological opinions -- meet the demands of the Endangered Species Act to put salmon on the road to recovery.
The plans do not include removing four dams on the lower Snake River, which is favored by salmon advocates.
The documents are posted at: Final Columbia-Snake Basin Biological Opinions
Sea lions' killers used boat, opened cages, authorities say
May 6, 2008 (Seattle Times)
Investigators think the killers navigated tricky waters in a restricted area, knew how to drop the doors of two metal cages, and then began firing a high-powered rifle into six trapped sea lions, which would have tried to bolt at the first gunshot.
The carcasses of the sea lions were found Sunday in floating cages moored at the base of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.
In recent years sea lions have been congregating there to dine on the spring run of endangered chinook salmon trying to get upstream to spawn. Wildlife agents last month started to trap them and remove those that had been marked as the worst offenders.
But only one of the victims was among the California sea lions that had become Bonneville regulars, said Bob Lohn, regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Two were of another sea lion species, the Steller, which prefers sturgeon over salmon. Among the others was a recent arrival at the dam and a pup.
Sea lions shot dead on Columbia River as salmon battle rages
May 4, 2008 (AP)
Six federally protected sea lions were apparently shot to death on the Columbia River as they lay in open traps put out to ensnare the animals, which eat endangered salmon. State and federal authorities are investigating.
The discovery came one day after three elephant seals were found shot to death at a breeding ground in central California.
Trapping will be suspended during the investigation, said Rick Hargrave, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who was at the scene Sunday.
The carcasses of the four California sea lions and two Steller sea lions were found Sunday around noon below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River on the border of Oregon and Washington.
The six animals appear to have been shot by somebody on the Washington side during the night, said Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Canada 'caught in middle' over salmon cull
May 3, 2008 (National Post)
On Thursday, the U.S. National Marine Fishery Service announced the closure of commercial and recreational fishing for chinook salmon off the west coast, the first such ban in 160 years.
In Vancouver next week, officials from the U.S. and Canada will discuss the lucrative chinook culls, the final and most contentious piece of reforging the Pacific Salmon Treaty, a 10-year agreement that divides up harvests between the two countries. The present treaty expires at the end of the year.
Five species of salmon live in the Pacific Ocean: chinook, sockeye, coho, pink and chum. The largest and most valuable is the chinook salmon, otherwise known as the king salmon. Sports fishermen prize it for its size: the fish can grow up to 11 kilograms.
Jeff Grout, regional resource manager of salmon for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, attributes the declines to changes in climate.
"What we've seen is a weakness of fish that went to the ocean in 2005. Our salmon like cold water and the zooplankton and other food species that are in that cold water. In 2005, we had very warm water that our juvenile salmon were going out into and it appears there wasn't a lot of food available for them to eat."
He says the government is working to preserve more vulnerable chinook from over harvesting.
"We're putting together fishing plans to ensure sufficient numbers of fish reach our spawning grounds in 2008 and to sustain the species in coming years."
Those measures include reduced harvests at some key fisheries and limits on recreational culls, particularly for the early time Fraser River chinook that spawn as early as March.
Connect the dots to save orcas, salmon
May 2, 2008 (Seattle Times op-ed by Kathy Fletcher and Howard Garrett)
Most people realize that saving Puget Sound's beloved resident orca whales depends on saving the Sound itself, removing the toxic chemicals that are killing the whales, preventing oil spills, and restoring the orcas' essential food, salmon.
But it may be news that our local orcas also depend on restoring salmon runs in the Columbia River Basin. Recent reports of the dramatic declines in West Coast salmon populations make this connection between the mighty Columbia and Snake rivers and our endangered orcas all the more crucial to examine.
Orca and salmon scientists alike have identified the Columbia River Basin, which once produced more salmon than any other river system on Earth, as an essential food source for southern resident orcas during their seasonal travels away from Puget Sound to coastal waters. In fact, the federal government's orca-recovery plan cites the decline in Columbia River Basin salmon as "perhaps the single greatest change in food availability for resident killer whales since the late 1800s."
Strangely, though, the plan does not call for the one action scientists say is central to any Columbia Basin salmon-recovery plan: removal of four costly and outdated dams on the Lower Snake River, a tributary of the Columbia.
Climate change makes removing the dams even more important, because the salmon and steelhead that will be saved are more likely to survive warmer temperatures. These fish spawn at higher elevations than any other - some at over 6,000 feet above sea level, where streams are likely to stay cooler. Removing the dams will also lower water temperatures downstream, providing help to fish in the lower river system.
Pollution threatens 17 commercial shellfish areas
May 2, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
The Washington Health Department says pollution threatens shellfish harvesting in 17 of the state's commercial shellfish growing areas.
The department's annual list concerning the state's 97 commercial shellfish growing areas showed 15 threatened areas last year. But in 2005, there were 25 areas facing threats from fecal pollution. Officials say the number has been dropping gradually. This year's list includes many of the areas threatened in previous years.
West's salmon fishery declared failure
May 2, 2008 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Federal authorities declared the West Coast ocean salmon fishery a failure Thursday, opening the way for Congress to appropriate economic disaster assistance for coastal communities in California, Oregon and Washington.
"This is a bleak year," Jim Balsiger, NOAA Fisheries Service acting assistant administrator, said in announcing the declaration in Portland.
The agency in charge of ocean fishing estimated that the value of this year's lost catch was $22 million -- 90 percent of the five-year average -- and direct income losses to sport and commercial fishing boats, processors, bait shops and other related businesses at $60 million in the three states.
Fishing cutbacks in 2006 resulting from the collapse of the Klamath River chinook caused a drop in catch value estimated at $16 million.
Congress appropriated $60 million in disaster assistance that was distributed last year.
This year's declaration stems from the sudden collapse of California's Sacramento River chinook salmon run, which has been blamed on the deadly gantlet of irrigation pumps young fish have to swim past in the Sacramento Delta plus starvation conditions once they reach the ocean.
First Nations to ration Fraser River salmon, official says
May 1, 2008 (CBC)
Sto:lo Nation fisheries adviser Ernie Crey said 2008 is the worst year he's seen in five decades for returning sockeye on the Fraser.
Leaders representing 94 First Nations bands made up of more than 70,000 people have been meeting to come up with a catch-sharing program, Crey said Wednesday. Normally, aboriginal fishermen have the right to catch as much as they need for their own communities' consumption.
Last summer, large parts of the commercial sockeye fishery were closed on the West Coast. If aboriginal communities do get a chance to fish sockeye on the Fraser this summer, they will have to agree on a plan to share the fish among all members on the Fraser, Crey said, something he said has never happened before.