Orca Network News - November, 2002
News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
November 1, 2002 through November 30, 2002.
Scientists ask public to help track orcas' winter homes
November 30, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) During spring, summer and part of fall, orcas are tracked closely as they prowl Puget Sound and local straits. But where do they go in winter?
Maybe you can help solve this mystery.
Scientists are asking the public to call in when they spot the orcas, and send photos of individually recognizable killer whales.
Sightings can be reported at 360-378-5835 or 888-840-0309. More information is available online.
(Note: All sighting reports sent to the Orca Network Sightings Network are promptly sent to these agencies.)
Three babies lift orcas' total up to 82
November 29, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The little dorsal fins of three baby orcas are slicing through Puget Sound waters. The babies, born sometime this fall, are welcome additions to a population of killer whales that has seen too many deaths in recent years.
The number of whales in the three pods that frequent these waters dipped below 80 last year, but now is up to 82.
But the celebration has to wait.
What's important for long-term recovery is that the whales make it to sexual maturity, which happens during their teens, and then are able to successfully create babies of their own, scientists say.
Right now, "they're just extra little mouths to feed," said Ken Balcomb, a whale expert with the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor. "We keep our fingers crossed until they reach maturity."
Injunction urged to protect fish
November 28, 2002 (Seattle Times) Environmentalists and commercial fishermen yesterday asked a judge to order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take immediate steps to protect salmon from pesticides.
A request for an injunction was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle seeking a ban on homeowners using certain pesticides likely to hurt fish, as well as no-spray corridors along streams for farms.
Fisheries Service scientists at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle have found that levels of pesticide between 1 part per billion and 1 part per 10 billion, commonly found in salmon streams around the West, can harm the nervous systems of salmon - particularly their sense of smell. Small amounts of pesticides can also affect reproduction.
In a study published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, scientists found that juvenile chinook salmon exposed to the pesticide diazinon lost their ability to smell a chemical given off when a predator breaks the skin of another salmon.
The makers of diazinon agreed in 2000 to phase out the pesticide by 2004.
Environmental, Fishing Groups Seek Court Action to Stop Pesticide Pollution November 27, 2002 (Earthjustice)
Thankful for a vision that includes Northwest salmon
November 28, 2002 (Seattle Times) Opinion By Irene Martin
We have glorified salmon in the Northwest, and rightly so, because of their beauty, their sacramental value as food, their iconic value as a symbol of a way of life, and for many other reasons.
At the same time, as their numbers have dwindled, they have become remote from us. As the Northwest has developed, we have failed to save places for salmon.
We have tried other means to save them, such as cutting back harvest, not recognizing that the returning fish no longer have the habitat that will allow them to spawn and sustain their progeny.
We all need a breather from suffocating growth
November 28, 2002 (Seattle Times) Opinion By Joni Balter
Washingtonians recently voted overwhelmingly against the one transportation proposal our leaders held up as the solution for this mess. With all the traffic, you would have thought it would have won with flying colors. It didn't even pass in King County.
You also would have thought voters statewide would have turned down a renegade initiative that will reduce local transportation spending in four counties.
Numerous explanations already have been aired - sour economy, lack of trust in government, tension between urban and rural Washington.
I think there is another reason. Frustration about increasing sprawl and growth is catching up with us. The growth that has occurred here in recent decades has a cumulative, corrosive quality to it.
Growth and its ill effects are giving us a migraine.
Looking back two decades, it is amazing to consider the number of newcomers, home-grown and from other places, we have already absorbed - a 45 percent population increase statewide since 1980.
King County moves to save beaches
November 27, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Important pockets of undeveloped shoreline around Puget Sound will be saved in a multiagency initiative announced yesterday by King County Council members.
A half-dozen stretches of beach and shady riverbank, from Federal Way to Shoreline, will be preserved next year to protect spawning grounds and habitat for juvenile salmon and other fish, county officials said.
The Puget Sound Shorelands Initiative marks a new focus on the nearshore marine environment after years of attention on streams and lakes.
"The Sound is in trouble," said Larry Phillips, chairman of the council's budget committee.
Lost fishing gear another threat to Sound
November 26, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Opinion by Tom Cowan and Bob Oke - The numbers are astonishing. Puget Sound has become the final resting place for literally hundreds of tons of lost or abandoned fishing nets and lines, crab and shrimp traps and other fishing equipment, known as derelict fishing gear.
Often the fishing gear simply continues to do what it was designed for -- capturing and killing fish and shellfish. In its derelict state, however, the killing is needless and frequently includes marine birds and mammals.
The gear, deep in the Sound, reefs and tidelands, is also a significant public safety problem. The gear can entangle and even kill divers. It can damage propellers and rudders of recreational, commercial and military vessels; in some instances nets and lines have entangled and overturned small boats.
Salmon farms under scrutiny: They harbor lice, threaten native species, B.C. group says
November 26, 2002 (Seattle Times) British Columbia salmon farms off northeastern Vancouver Island should be temporarily shut down next spring to protect wild pink salmon, according to recommendations submitted yesterday to the province's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.
The Pacific Fisheries Resources Conservation Council, a government-funded group, says drastic action is justified after "unprecedented declines" in pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago, a fish-farm industry stronghold off northeastern Vancouver Island.
Only 147,000 pink salmon this year returned to spawn there, compared with 3.6 million two years ago in an area that has the densest concentration of salmon farms on the British Columbia coast.
The council, in a report released yesterday, says the decline may be caused by sea lice passed from the infested farms to vulnerable young salmon. And the council calls for temporary shutdown of the farms this winter to cleanse the area of lice prior to the migration of young salmon smolt from freshwater to saltwater.
Work starts on repairing Tibbetts Creek mine damage
November 22, 2002 (Seattle Times) Fog clung to the trees yesterday along the grassy embankments that slope down to the salmon-bearing waters of Tibbetts Creek. Nothing there hints that this spot along Highway 900 in Issaquah was the dumping ground for one of the hundreds of mining operations that made this the largest coal-producing region in the Pacific Rim in the late 1800s.
The plan is to restore the site to a natural forest, Doug Schindler, field projects manager for the nonprofit Mountains to Sound Greenway, said yesterday. Behind him, youth volunteers in mud-covered overalls knelt in the grass, planting some of the 2,200 indigenous trees and shrubs that will line the creek's west bank.
Our Troubled Sound
November 22, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Part 5 of Five-Part Series
Many working to restore Sound
A drugged chinook salmon lies complacently in Jim Brennan's hand, the scientist's fingers pink from the cold salt water. He sticks a syringe into the puckered mouth of the young fish, squirts water in, and out spurts breakfast.
Most of the meal has wings.
"It's almost all terrestrial insects," Brennan declares, kneeling on the beach at West Seattle's Lincoln Park.
The wings mean the bugs came from the land, not the sea. They likely fell in from nearby trees or were gobbled as they moved among shoreline plants. If the vegetation disappeared, so, too, could the bugs that feed the salmon and other fish.
Scientists are concerned about a growing number of chemicals that are being washed or dumped into the Sound, much of it via urban and suburban stormwater. Efforts to repair beaches and restore wetlands could be undermined by heavy doses of polluted water.
Emerging threats include families of organic chemicals used in flame retardants, firefighting foams, insecticides, refrigerants and lubricants. Others are found in detergents, shampoos, paints, pesticides and plastic products.
Most of these chemicals hang around a long time in the environment, accumulating to ever-higher levels up the food chain. The poisons are retained by each successive predator, ending with the top predator of the Sound: the orcas (emphasis added).
Our Troubled Sound
November 21, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Part 4 of Five-Part Series
In busy shipping lanes, threat of big oil spill looms
The Gaz Diamond mishap was the latest indication that Washington's oil-spill response system is inadequate. And while Puget Sound has been battered for decades by toxic chemicals, overfishing and pollution, a major oil spill would be akin to a roundhouse punch for the ecosystem.
A review of oil-spill prevention and response programs by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer found that:
Talk tackles troubled group of orcas in Sound
The Sound is statistically overdue for a major spill, according to a U.S. Coast Guard study, and the risk is increasing along with ship traffic.
- Less than one-fifth of a worst-case spill here could be cleaned up in the crucial first four days, with diminishing returns after that.
- A spill the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound, Alaska, or the current spill off the coast of Spain would likely be more devastating to the marine environment here because the Sound's deep valleys limit flushing by ocean waters.
- Washington is one of a few states to run oil companies and others through oil-spill drills, but many are planned ahead of time. A major cleanup contractor badly fouled up two surprise drills last year.
- A federal report earlier this year said that an oil spill represents the biggest short-term threat of extinction for the Sound's orcas (emphasis ours).
November 20, 2002 (Anchorage Daily News) The lone killer whale would cruise up to seals hauled out on ice near the Chenega Glacier in western Prince William Sound.
"Then he'd swim out of the bay, acting like he's leaving," said biologist Craig Matkin, the region's leading killer whale researcher.
In a series of remarkable observations made last summer by scientists and tour boat operators, the big male hunter would return without breaking the surface.
"When he comes back, holy cow, is he ever quiet," Matkin said. "He stays down a long time. It's incredibly stealthy."
The whale is among the nine or 10 remaining members in a Prince William Sound killer whale group called AT1. Matkin will give a presentation about the biology and problems facing the AT1 whales at 7 p.m. today at the Campbell Creek Science Center, 6881 Abbott Loop Road.
The AT1 group has lost more than half its 22 original members during the past 13 years, beginning with exposure to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
Like other marine mammal-eating killer whales, known as transients, the AT1 members have been found contaminated with high levels of industrial pollutants. The number of harbor seals, their favorite prey, has crashed.
Across Pacific Northwest, Downward Trend for Dams
November 20, 2002 (Washington Post) With many of the nation's dams no longer making economic or environmental sense, old dams are being dismantled, in a slow-moving but remarkable reversal of fortune for rivers and fish.
The latest announcement came from the Pacific Northwest when Portland General Electric inked a $16 million deal last week to remove Marmot Dam on the Sandy River and another smaller structure on the Little Sandy in Oregon about 50 miles east of Portland.
The deconstructions in Oregon are unusual because they are fully functioning hydroelectric dams still producing power -- a move that once upon a time would have been almost unimaginable.
In the next few years, three more large dams may come down in the Pacific Northwest: the Elwha Dam on the Washington peninsula, the Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River in Oregon and the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Washington.
3 baby orcas confirmed
November 20, 2002 (Bremerton Sun) Three new baby orcas have been confirmed this year in Puget Sound - and it's hard to say who's happier, the whales or the humans who keep tabs on them.
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research studied videos and still photos of the newborns Tuesday with help from his associate Dave Ellifrit. They gave the two latest orca infants their official designations: L-102 for the calf born to L-47, and K-35 for the calf born to K-16.
Those two baby whales are in addition to L-101, born to L-67 several weeks ago. L-67 also is the mother of L-98, a 3-year-old orca left alone in an isolated bay off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
"It is nice to have a couple of new L's, because that is where we were seeing our losses," Balcomb said.
Our Troubled Sound
November 20, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Part 3 of Five-Part Series
When it rains, it pours pollutants into the waters
Droplets turn to drizzle, and then to downpour -- washing over pavement, rinsing out lawns, running off rooftops into gutters and ditches, carrying the residue of daily life into streams, rivers and, ultimately, Puget Sound.
So much water sometimes gushes through storm drains that it mixes with raw sewage and spews millions of gallons into waterways.
Controlling what is washed away by the rain is a monumental task facing governments, businesses and the nearly 4 million residents of the Puget Sound region. With a million more people expected by 2020, this looms as the costliest and most complex problem faced by those who want to protect the Sound.
Experts puzzled by rash of dead whales on ships' bows
November 19, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Over a period of about eight weeks, three ships pulled into Northwest ports with a fin whale draped over the bulbous bow, a fuel-conserving device projecting into the ship's path just below the waterline.
The first dead fin whale -- the fin whale is the world's second-largest creature -- arrived at the Port of Seattle on the bow of the container ship Tokyo Express on Aug. 9. The second came into Portland on the auto-transport vessel Ruby Ray on Sept. 2. The third reached a Cherry Point refinery on the bow of an oil tanker Oct. 2.
It's happened before, but not in such quick succession.
"To have three come in so close together is something we've not seen before," said Brent Norberg, marine-mammal coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service here.
Our Troubled Sound
November 19, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Part 2 of Five-Part Series
Unbalanced ecosystem imperils rich web of life
Some 92,000 acres of mud and sand at the bottom of the Sound are contaminated. It is the unwelcome legacy of human activity -- from paper mills releasing dioxin and smelters coughing deadly metals to the military dumping of PCBs.
Miles of shoreline are mangled by the expansion of constructed bulkheads that starve beaches, causing sandy fish "nurseries" to disappear. Generations of fishermen -- with the blessings of state government -- have gutted native fish stocks, bringing some species to the brink of local extinction.
And the greatest threat is growing: The region's human population, with its motor vehicles, pesticides and sewage.
Our Troubled Sound
November 18, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Part 1 of Five-Part Series
Area's defining waterway is a cesspool of pollution
State and federal protectors of the environment assure us that the wholesale dumping of toxic chemicals -- from Commencement Bay to Sinclair Inlet, from Hood Canal to the Strait of Juan de Fuca -- ended a generation ago. They tell us they have cracked down on overfishing, overbuilding and overflows from sewage treatment plants.
The truth is, we're still treating the Sound like a sewer.
Tribe turns tide for Nisqually salmon
November 16, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) For years, the dikes stood like battlements between land and sea. But yesterday, the Nisqually Tribe gathered with song and blessings to give this former cow pasture back to the salmon.
The silver tide lapped ever closer as tribal children blessed the ground with a grass dance, which begins with thanks to the land for the gift of its use, and ends with a promise to leave it as the dancer found it.
It was a promise that took nearly 100 years to keep.
Removing the dikes is crucial to restoration of the Nisqually Delta estuary, which is key to the survival of juvenile chinook salmon.
The brackish water where the Nisqually River meets the sea is where juvenile salmon undergo the complex change from a freshwater smolt to an oceangoing fish.
River habitat near Mount Rainier to be protected
November 16, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) About 800 acres of critical river habitat next to Mount Rainier National Park are about to be protected from development.
The U.S. House voted yesterday to allow the park to buy the land in the Carbon River valley.
The Senate is also expected to approve the measure before it adjourns for the year, said Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash.
She introduced the measure earlier this year. The land acquisition is in the park's general management plan.
The purchase will protect habitat, add campsites and eliminate the need to repair flood-damaged roads.
Oil Spills Leave Lasting Mark
November 15, 2002 (Scientific American) The immediate effects of an oil spill are all too apparent: dead wildlife, oil-covered marshlands and contaminated water chief among them. Now the results of a study published online by the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggest that contaminating oil can persist in the marine environment--perhaps indefinitely--even if surface sediments appear healthy.
"The long-term biological effects of oil contamination at this site is unknown since animals burrowing into these sediments can be exposed to high levels of some of these compounds," Reddy says. "It is clear from this study that oil spills can have a long-term impact on a coastal environment."
Rains start fish stampede: Waves of salmon are moving up coastal streams
November 15, 2002 (Register-Guard) When the fall rains start coming down, the fish of fall start going up.
Upstream, that is. Upstream as fast as their little fins will ferry them against the rain-swollen current, toward their home spawning gravels.
With a heavy rainstorm like the drought-buster that soaked the West Coast last week, coastal waterways suddenly get crowded with anadromous fish of all kinds and sizes. Huge chinook salmon. Medium-sized coho salmon. Small jack salmon. Big winter steelhead and little "half-pounder" steelhead. Even sea-run cutthroat trout. All on the move upstream.
Groups seek protection for orcas
November 14, 2002 (Anchorage Daily News) PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND: Listing would draw attention to pollution.
Fearing that industrial contaminants from across the sea have combined with other factors to drive a small, unique family of Prince William Sound killer whales toward extinction, conservation groups are asking government to list the animals as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Over the past 13 years, the AT1 group appears to have lost 13 of 22 members in a decline never documented before among killer whales in the North Pacific.
A depleted listing would require the National Marine Fisheries Service to figure out if something could be done to help the animals -- and would draw dramatic local attention to the worldwide problem poised by the spread of industrial pollutants and pesticides banned in the United States but still produced in Asia.
The agency has up to 90 days to rule on whether the petition has merit, said Michael Payne, manager of protected resources for NMFS in Alaska.
One critical step will be to decide whether the AT1 animals qualify as a separate stock from other marine-mammal-eating whales in the Eastern North Pacific, an issue scientists have been discussing for years, said Paul Wade, head of the cetacean assessment and ecology program at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
Seals could help unlock secrets of language
November 13, 2002 (USA Today) Learning to recognize the sound of the dinner bell is a good thing if you happen to be the main course. New research in today's issue of the journal Nature has found that harbor seals in the wild know the difference between the vocal calls of killer whales that eat them and killer whales that ignore them and eat only fish.
But the most intriguing finding is that harbor seals learn the difference between the whales' calls by experience - a rather sophisticated form of learning many people regard as uniquely human, says Volker Deecke, at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Spawning salmon help bring science lesson to life
November 11, 2002 (The Olympian) It's nearly impossible not to be amazed by the salmon spawning in a shallow creek, and the children visiting this pristine trail off of U.S. Highway 101 were no exception.
Sixteen students from Olympia Community School, ranging from kindergarten to third grade, stood inches away from the water and held up a camouflage net to disguise themselves so they didn't disturb the fish in their reproductive ritual.
They were told to whisper, move slowly and pay attention. And they followed directions to the letter.
Whale of a biology lesson at FH Labs
November 10, 2002 (San Juan Islander) It was smelly, messy and very educational. Dozens of people watched researchers perform a necropsy on a 48-foot fin whale late last night (November 6, 2002) at FH UW Labs. The sub-adult male whale may have been struck by a ship. Performing a necropsy would determine the cause of death and provide a wealth of information. "We're gathering baseline data," said Dr. Joe Gaydos, a veterinarian with UC Davis and MEHP.
Final reports indicated the whale died from a ship-strike. There was massive hemorrhaging, symmetrical fractures and a displaced spine indicative of blunt trauma.
Dr. Rich Osborne of the Whale Museum led the group effort to quickly necropsy the whale. Nick Nash and Kari Koski had managed to tow the whale to the beach by the lab. It took the pair six hours to move the whale 13 miles. Nash said they ended up using two 100 foot lines to tow the whale like a tug towing a barge. "It was 20 feet longer than my boat," he said.
Saving the Sound: Tall order for Army Corps
November 10, 2002 (Seattle Times) [Note: this is a vitally important story and a sign of more to come, if there is popular support.] The federal agency best known for taming Mother Nature has embarked on the most ambitious effort ever to rehabilitate the web of tideflats, marshes, bluffs and deltas that serves as nursery and buffet table for life in Puget Sound.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating the 2,354 miles of Puget Sound's troubled nearshore habitat. The goal: restore one of the world's richest fresh- and saltwater environments, parts of which scientists fear are teetering on collapse.
To understand why it needs help, consider our impact: Roughly 70 percent of wetlands and estuaries are gone, drained or filled for cities, farms and ports. Millions of gallons of human waste drain into the Sound yearly. Contaminated runoff laces the beaches.
One-third of the Sound is corralled by seawalls and barriers that starve beaches of new sand and gravel that keep life cycling through. Nearly two more miles of seawalls and barriers are added yearly.
The overall effect on the Sound is difficult to gauge, but this much is clear: Nine of 10 threatened or endangered species, from chinook salmon to bald eagles, inhabit the nearshore. Shoreline pollution has climbed up the food chain, slowly contaminating mussels, harbor seals, even killer whales (emphasis added).
"I'm confident that if we really document the compelling fundamental reasons there's such widespread and rapid deterioration in the ecosystem, the money will follow," said Bernie Hargrave, the Corps' Sound project manager. "This is a national resource."
The Corps is up front about its political calculus: "We respond to what the American public asks of us through their elected representatives," reads the Corps Web site. "In earlier days, the citizenry wanted cheap electricity. Today they want environmental stewardship."
Environmentalists brace for changes led by GOP
November 8, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) With Republicans controlling the House and Senate as well as holding the White House, environmental groups are bracing for an onslaught of business-friendly policies they fear will threaten hard-won environmental protections.
Environmental lobbyists said Republicans and the Bush administration might try to restrict money for salmon protection and the acquisition of sensitive public lands.
Environmental lobbyists said it will be even more difficult than in 1995 when Republicans controlled Congress because they no longer have a Democrat in the White House.
"It'll be like playing hockey without a goalie for the next two years," said Bill Arthur, head of the Sierra Club's Northwest office.
Keiko's life in the wild
November 7, 2002 (Toronto Globe and Mail) Keiko, the killer whale of Free Willy movie fame, set off Thursday for his new winter home in a remote Norwegian bay that his trainers hope will attract more wildlife and fewer people.
His keepers had kept the move, about a 90-minute swim, secret until the last minute, hoping to avoid the publicity that has surrounded the orca since he swam to a Norwegian fjord from his release off the coast of Iceland after nearly 23 years in captivity.
The movie-star whale, believed to be about 25, swam alongside the blue boat leading him to his new home, waving his distinctly curved dorsal fin, responding to hand signals from a trainer and snapping up fish thrown to him.
Keiko the whale moves to new home November 7, 2002 (MSNBC)
West Coast drought threatens salmon
November 5, 2002 (CBC) VICTORIA - A record-breaking drought in Western Canada could deal a serious blow to salmon stocks as spawning streams on Vancouver Island dry up.
Rivers on the island are at record low levels while many small creeks have disappeared. In Victoria, the seven-month period from April to October was the driest on record.
The low water levels make it difficult for the salmon to fight their way upstream to the spawning grounds, with fins exposed to hungry seagulls.
World War Two wrecks haunt Pacific with oil spills
November 4, 2002 (Planet Ark) A thousand World War Two warships crumbling away in watery graves from the Great Barrier Reef to palm-fringed atolls have come back to haunt the South Pacific as they begin to leak their toxic cargoes.
Loaded with oil, chemicals and ordnance, the sunken aircraft carriers, battleships, destroyers and oil tankers are succumbing to five decades of storms and seawater, regional officials say. At risk are pristine coral reefs, fish stocks that supply Japanese sushi markets and idyllic tourist destinations.
Last year, up to 24,000 gallons (91,000 litres) of fuel spilled from the USS Mississinewa into the remote Ulithi Lagoon in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia, preventing the 700 islanders living on the atoll from fishing for their food.
The leak from the military oil tanker, sunk by a one-man Japanese suicide sub in 1944 as the U.S. Third Fleet prepared for the assault on Japan, was eventually plugged by U.S. Navy divers.
But another five million gallons (19 million litres) of aviation fuel and oil remain onboard, threatening to spill every time a cyclone sweeps by or age degrades another rusty bolt.
Pacific Salmon Benefit from New Organic Eco-Label
November 4, 2002 (Environmental News Service) Organic farmers who take steps to protect and enhance habitat for Pacific salmon can earn a special eco-label for their produce. Salmon-Safe, a regional eco-label, has joined with Oregon Tilth, the West Coast organic certifier, to integrate sustainable food production and wildlife preservation in the salmon watersheds of the Pacific Northwest.
For organic crops to earn the Salmon-Safe logo, they must be produced according to rigorous conservation guidelines that protect salmon habitat. Farmers must use cover crops to minimize erosion into streams, promote natural methods to control weeds and pests, plant trees near streams to keep them cool enough for fish to thrive, and improve irrigation practices.
A rich, remote laboratory: Sanctuary nurtures sea creatures and scientists
November 4, 2002 (Seattle Times) Nutrient-rich upwellings in the summer months fuel a surge of plankton and the massive food chain it nourishes, from the larvae of crabs and barnacles to rafts of birds, fish and migrating humpback and gray whales.
In the nearshore environment, one of the most diverse on the West Coast, extensive kelp beds act as nurseries to a range of fish and invertebrates and provide foraging areas for birds and marine mammals.
The Olympic mountains block convenient access to the coast. The same processes that built the mountains created a hilly, formidable coastline with few sheltered moorages, coastal roads, people, towns, vacation homes or sources of pollution.
Last year, north of La Push, Bernthal saw a pack of transient, mammal-eating orcas descend on a herd of sea lions.
"They just worked this group. It was amazing to see how they communicate with each other, how they work almost like a pack of wolves. The sea lions finally figured out that they were in danger and it was like this stampede of sea lions going up on to these rocks. We think one got taken because there was definitely a lot of thrashing going on back and forth."
Olympic Coast's marine buffer zone to expand
November 1, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Shipping lanes to be pushed farther a-sea to protect sanctuary
On Dec. 1, a buffer zone designed to protect the sanctuary will be pushed farther to sea. And so will the shipping lanes. In preparation for the change, the Coast Guard recently moved J Buoy 11 miles to the west.
The change in the buffer zone, known as the "Area To Be Avoided," is a key piece in efforts by the people who run the sanctuary to live up to its name by protecting this stretch of pristine coast.
The sanctuary's 3,310 square miles are a place where soaring sea stacks punctuate dramatic maritime vistas; a place where endangered herds of Steller sea lions rest on tiny islands; a place where thousands of shore birds, including rhinoceros auklets, tufted puffins and endangered peregrine falcons nest.
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