Orca Network News - October, 2003

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
October 1, 2003 through October 31, 2003.



Canada pledges money to return Luna to pod
October 31, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Canada will match the money pledged by the U.S. government to reunite the wayward orca Luna with his whale family -- but the move will be delayed until spring, Canadian officials said yesterday.
Fisheries and Oceans Minister Robert Thibault said his government will contribute $135,000 Canadian to the effort, the equivalent of about $103,000 U.S. Earlier this week, the American government announced that it would spend $100,000.
Although some orca-advocacy groups had been pressing for quick action, Canadian officials said Luna, also known as L-98, will have a better chance of reuniting with the pod in the spring, a season when his pod sometimes swims near the mouth of Nootka Sound.
Canada delays move of Luna the whale until spring October 31, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer

U.S. Senate rejects bipartisan plan to cap greenhouse gas
October 31, 2003 (Environmental News Network) The Senate on Thursday rejected Congress's first attempt to impose mandatory caps on emissions of heat-trapping gases by power plants, automobiles, and industry in a victory for the Bush administration. The bill, which failed on a vote of 43 to 55, sought to limit so-called greenhouse gas emissions at 2000 levels by 2010 through a cap-and-trade system.
Sens. John McCain, a Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat, introduced legislation which would limit carbon dioxide emitted by coal-fired electric plants, factories, and vehicles. Many scientists say such gases prevent heat from escaping the Earth's atmosphere: the "greenhouse" effect.
Despite the rejection, wringing a vote on the bill was a victory of sorts for its sponsors, given the strong Republican opposition. It was Congress' first vote on a global warming measure.
"We've got to start somewhere," McCain said. "We will be back."

Thibault Announces Contribution to Luna Relocation Project
VANCOUVER The Honourable Robert G. Thibault, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today announced that his department will contribute $135,000 (Cdn) for the Luna relocation project. This amount will match the $100,000 (US) recently announced by the United States.
The Minister also confirmed that after consulting with a variety of experts, he was advised that the chances of L98 (Luna) successfully reuniting with his pod will be greater in the spring. Extensive preparations are necessary in this type of operation to maximize the chances of success. A relocation is best done in the spring when weather and the proximity of the pod are optimal.
As a result, no attempt will be made to remove the whale from the Nootka Sound area, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, throughout the winter.
I recognize the tremendous Canadian and international interest in the well-being of this animal,said Minister Thibault. My preference is to give Luna the opportunity to reunite with his pod. It will be a complex process, and leaving the whale in Nootka Sound over the winter gives us time to work with other interested partners to come up with the right solution with the best chance of success.
DFO will collaborate with the National Marine Fisheries Service in the United States and other partners to explore ways to successfully reunite L98 with his pod. All planning efforts will be undertaken in consultation with independent scientific advice and will take into account the well-being of the animal, the likelihood of a successful relocation and the safety of the public. A plan to monitor and protect the whale and the public during the winter months will also be implemented.
Given that the opportunities for L98 to connect with his pod diminish rapidly as winter approaches, our best chance for a successful reintroduction will be to wait until the spring when L98s pod return to Canadian waters,explained Dr. John Ford, head marine mammal scientist with DFOs Pacific Region. Our goal is to undertake the relocation in a manner that will maximize the likelihood of a successful reintroduction. Rushing relocation at this time presents a very uncertain outcome.
If reintroduction fails, the Minister said other alternatives, such as captivity, will need to be explored.
L98 is a solitary killer whale that has been frequenting the waters of Nootka Sound at the mouth of Gold River since the spring of 2001. The four-year-old whale is a member of the Southern Resident L-pod.
Marilyn Joyce and Dr. John Ford will be available to meet with media at 401 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, at 2:30 p.m. on October 30th, 2003 in the lobby of the building.

Saving a salmon sanctuary
October 29, 2003 (Tacoma News Tribune) The stream that divides the tiny town of South Prairie was until recently best known as a swimming hole for neighborhood children.
But South Prairie Creek, a little-known backwater that runs 22 miles from forest near Mount Rainier to the Carbon River outside Orting, has won new benefactors among conservationists, regulatory officials and advocates for wild salmon.
They treasure the creek as one of the last undisturbed salmon sanctuaries in Pierce County.
"It is the most important stream for salmon production in the whole Puyallup River watershed," said Chip Nevins, a conservation director with the Seattle-based Cascade Land Conservancy.
The group's top priority is acquiring a dairy farm and converting the land into salmon-friendly habitat. It already has $425,000 in state funding, and the county may chip in as well.
South Prairie Creek produces nearly half of all the wild steelhead in the Puyallup River system, according to an "action plan" developed by the land conservancy. The creek also has the only significant run of pink salmon and enjoys healthy returns of chinook, coho and chum salmon, as well as sea-run cutthroat trout.

Signs of radical change in Arctic ecosystem
October 29, 2003 (Seattle Times) Shrubs are appearing where before there were none; gray whales are venturing farther north; clams and their predators, diving sea ducks, are less plentiful. The ice is melting.
These disparate phenomena are signs of a radical change in the Arctic ecosystem. Moreover, changes in the Arctic mean changes everywhere else. That consensus is part of a broad discussion among 400 Arctic scientists meeting in Seattle this week as part of a new multimillion-dollar effort to study the far-reaching changes occurring in the far north.
The Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH), sponsored by the National Science Foundation and based at the University of Washington, has brought together climatologists, biologists, oceanographers and social anthropologists to examine how warmer temperatures are altering life on the tundra and how the changes may affect the rest of the Earth.
Their findings, presented at a symposium yesterday, continued to add to a growing, and somewhat ominous scientific consensus.

All-at-once rainfall likely took big toll on salmon runs
October 28, 2003 (Seattle Times) Last week's flooding and record rainfall in Western Washington probably made a significant dent in this year's salmon runs, biologists and fish experts say.
The exact impact won't be known until spring, when the state counts the hatched fish, or even years later, when the fish return to spawn. But flooding usually churns up the nests that salmon leave on the river bottom, destroying fragile eggs or leaving them open to predators.
In previous floods, such as in 1995, the survival rate for salmon eggs was cut by 80 to 90 percent, state officials say. They won't make any estimates this year until the hatchlings can be counted in the spring.
But salmon are resilient, and there's no guarantee the small number of eggs would hurt the fish as much as one would expect, Kramer said. A smaller number of hatchlings, for instance, means less competition, so a higher percentage of the remaining fish could make it to the ocean.

U.S. finds money for Luna reunion
October 27, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Money to reunite Luna the orca with his long-lost Washington state pod is now assured, ending months of uncertainty about the plan, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell announced yesterday.
The only remaining hurdle is for federal fisheries officials to work out a plan with Canada, which now has jurisdiction over the wayward killer whale and already supports sending him back to his pod.
The $100,000 for the plan will come from a $1.5 million appropriation for orca research and recovery that Cantwell added to the Commerce Department's funding bill. The House and Senate already passed different versions of the bill and are expected to pass a compromise soon, she said.
The fisheries service, part of the Commerce Department, previously said spending that new money on Luna would violate conditions of the appropriation, which was intended to support research, not bring a healthy orphan back from Canada.
But that concern vanished when the Navy agreed to tag and track Luna so that, once he is reunited with the 83 remaining members of the pods frequenting Puget Sound, scientists can get crucial information about the dwindling population's movements. Cantwell announced the Navy's agreement yesterday.
Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans already is working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on assessing the health of the "ecoregion" on which the orca pod depends. That region encompasses Puget Sound and Canada's Georgia Basin, said state Fish and Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings. The declining orca population is a key indicator that the whole region is at risk from pollution and other environmental threats, he said.
"They're at the top of the food chain. If things fall apart underneath them, they've got nowhere to go."
U.S. offers $100,000 to relocate orca
October 27, 2003 (Seattle Times)

Big Boost For Plans To Move Luna
October 26, 2003 (KOMO-TV News) The U.S. government Sunday pledged at least $100,000 to help return killer whale Luna to American waters. The 4-year-old orca has been bothering boats in Canada for over two years.
Senator Maria Cantwell announced the decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service at a downtown news conference.
The money would be part of a larger sum requested by Cantwell for conservation of the so-called southern resident orca population, now down to 83 animals, 84 including Luna.
Cantwell says the appropriation is in conference committee and approval is expected in the next few weeks.
NMFS regional director Bob Lohn says the U.S. hopes to work with Canada to bring Luna back home. He says the matter is now in the hands of Canada's top fisheries official, Robert Thibault.
Calls to the Vancouver, British Columbia, office of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans were not immediately returned.
The money pledged Sunday would not cover all expenses of the move. Lohn says funds from Canada and private donors, including whale-advocacy groups, would still be needed, along with in-kind contributions.
Luna has been in Canada's Nootka Sound for over two years.
Canada has been trying to encourage a private effort, using private funds, to move Luna into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which divides the two countries where they meet on the west coast. The hope is that he would resume life as a wild whale and perhaps rejoin L-pod, his family, as they chase salmon near the San Juan Islands.
This week, DFO said two applicants had offered viable plans, but neither had the money to carry them out.
Lohn says there are two ways to approach the move. Experts can either act quickly to try to place Luna near his American relatives this winter, or wait until spring to try the move, and using the months between to try to train Luna to stay away from boats.
L-pod has been seen in area waters as late as February but has left as early as October. The orcas usually return by April. No one knows where they spend the winters, though they have been seen off the Canadian and California coast.
The problem is not so much that Luna is on his own. Lohn says there are previous incidents, dating back 100 years, of juvenile orcas living on their own for months at a time.
But Luna's attempts to cozy up to boats and seaplanes pose threats to both sides. Safety concerns prompted Canada's decision to try to move Luna.
Jeff Koenings, state director of Fish and Wildlife, says the state will contribute expertise and manpower to the effort. He also noted that Washington is considering listing the orcas as an endangered species.
NMFS last year rejected the local orcas for listing on the federal Endangered Species List, instead listing them as a "depleted species" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The funds pledged for Luna's move were sought by Cantwell for research and conservation of the orcas as a result of that listing. The House version of the allocation would provide $750,000 - the same as last year. The Senate version would double the amount to $1.5 million.
Cantwell also announced that the Navy has agreed to take responsibility for electronic tagging of Luna and for tracking him after his release.

U.S. pledges $100,000 for relocation of stray whale
October 26, 2003 (King 5 News) The U.S. government on Sunday pledged at least $100,000 to help return killer whale Luna to American waters. The 4-year-old orca has been bothering boats in Canada for over two years.
Senator Maria Cantwell announced the decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service at a downtown news conference.
The hope is that the money will be matched by Canadian agencies and other donors.
"So hopefully they will look at that as a very willing partner by the United States to help solve a problem that both our countries care about," said Cantwell.
The money would be part of a larger sum requested by Cantwell for conservation of the so-called southern resident orca population, now down to 83 animals - 84 including Luna.
Cantwell, a Democrat and Washington's junior senator, said the appropriation is in conference committee and approval is expected in the next few weeks.
NMFS regional director Bob Lohn said the U.S. hopes to work with Canada to bring Luna back home. He said the matter is now in the hands of Canada's top fisheries official, Robert Thibault.
The money pledged Sunday would not cover all expenses of the move. Lohn said funds from Canada and private donors, including whale-advocacy groups, would still be needed, along with in-kind contributions.
Luna has been in Canada's Nootka Sound, a narrow inlet on the west side of Vancouver Island, for over two years.
Canada has been trying to encourage a private effort using private funds to move Luna into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which divides the two countries where they meet on the west coast. The hope is that he would resume life as a wild whale and perhaps rejoin L-pod, his family, as they chase salmon near the San Juan Islands.
This week, DFO said two applicants had offered viable plans, but neither had the money to carry them out.
Lohn said there are two ways to approach the move - acting quickly to try to place Luna near his American relatives this winter, or waiting till spring to try the move, and using the months between to try to train Luna to stay away from boats.
L-pod has been seen in area waters as late as February but has left as early as October. The orcas usually return by April. No one knows where they spend the winters, though they have been seen off the Canadian and California coast.
The problem is not so much that Luna is on his own. Lohn says there are previous incidents - dating back 100 years - of juvenile orcas living on their own for months at a time.
But Luna's attempts to cozy up to boats and seaplanes pose threats to both sides. Safety concerns prompted Canada's decision to try to move Luna.
Jeff Koenings, state director of Fish and Wildlife, says the state will contribute expertise and manpower to the effort. He also noted that Washington is considering listing the orcas as an endangered species.
NMFS last year rejected the local orcas for listing on the federal Endangered Species List, instead listing them as a "depleted species" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The funds pledged for Luna's move were sought by Cantwell for research and conservation of the orcas as a result of that listing. The House version of the allocation would provide $750,000, the same as last year. The Senate version would double the amount to $1.5 million.
Cantwell also announced that the Navy has agreed to take responsibility for electronic tagging of Luna and for tracking him after his release.

Saving Salmon
October 26, 2003 (KOMO-TV) This particular Marysville ditch is habitat to endangered coho salmon.
Now there's a problem. The salmon fry could be in jeopardy if they stay here.
"It was basically a ditch and it didn't provide the spawning habitat that they need so desperately," said ecologist Tom Hardy.
So the Adopt a Stream Foundation sprung into action. With the help of about 100 volunteers, the group decided to move the small salmon to a new home.
An electrical current shocks the fish just long enough for capture.Others are lured in by traps. Once the fish are captured they are moved down stream.
Their old home will be closed off and filled in. A new channel has already been excavated and planted.
When the salmon return to spawn in two years the new channel will be waiting, and Saturday's hard work will pay off.

New Luna Development To Be Announced Sunday
October 25, 2003 (KOMO-TV) On Saturday, activists were heartened by Sen. Maria Cantwell's promise of a "new Luna development" to be announced here Sunday.
Speculation centered on the possibility that U.S. funds will be made available for the relocation effort.
The rationale? Luna is a member of a U.S. orca community - L-pod, part of the struggling southern resident population that spends summer and fall chasing salmon near the San Juan Islands.
"Tomorrow we should find out how the senator has been able to address this challenge," said Fred Felleman of Orca Conservancy.
Federal funds for orca conservation and rescue would likely originate with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or its subsidiary, the National Marine Fisheries Service.
She declined to get specific about what Cantwell will announce, but said NMFS Regional Director Bob Lohn will attend, along with officials from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
She did disclose that the Navy has agreed to "help tag and track Luna" if he's relocated in U.S. waters.
It was not clear if the Navy would undertake the work directly or delegate it to others, but "they would take responsibility for that" and provide a high-tech tracking tag, she said.
The Navy would also provide information it gathered on Luna to various research groups, she said.

Luna may spend winter alone
October 24, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A lack of cash could sink this year's plan to reunite a killer whale living off the British Columbia coast with his pod in American waters.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and both groups that propose to move 4-year- old Luna have concluded spring could be a better time to make the move.
"We're looking at a new approach where Luna can be left in Nootka Sound over the winter with monitoring to give the groups time to raise funds," fisheries department spokeswoman Lara Sloan told Canadian Press yesterday.
The department likes the proposals of two groups -- the Vancouver Aquarium and a Seattle-based organization -- to undertake the move. But although both have the expertise for the job, neither has the money.
Much of the money for the undertaking likely will have to come from public donations.
In Washington, D.C., Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., wrote to NMFS authorities this week, urging that a portion of her $1.5 million proposed funding for research and conservation efforts on Luna's U.S. pod be used to move Luna. The money hasn't been approved by Congress.
Luna moving plans face delay October 24, 2003 (CBC)

Miami Seaquarium has no record of safety inspections
October 22, 2003 (Miami Herald) The department's admission came in response to a report released Tuesday by a safety expert hired by the Dolphin Freedom Foundation, a group opposed to the capture and display of marine mammals, to check how safe the Seaquarium is for human visitors.
The report by safety consultant and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill adjunct professor Jon Wallace comes on the heels of recent inspections by the fire and building departments that found dozens of safety violations at Seaquarium -- deficiencies that park operators are now working to fix.
In particular, Wallace questioned how the 1972 stadium housing Lolita the Killer Whale [Note: Lolita is a member of L pod of the Southern Resident orca community] -- which the fire department recently cited for having insufficient emergency exits -- could have been allowed to operate that way for so long. The national standard for emergency exits, which Miami-Dade County has adopted, has been in place for decades, he said.
The fire inspectors also concluded that the two existing exit ramps at Lolita's stadium do not provide sufficient emergency egress. Seaquarium's operators said they are temporarily limiting admissions to the stadium until they can build a third ramp. A fourth employee exit can also be used in an emergency, they said.
But Wallace questioned whether those fixes will provide enough egress if one of the main exits is blocked in an emergency. He also said the Flipper stadium's two exits may also be insufficient, citing standards requiring that buildings holding more than 1,000 people have at least four emergency exits. Fire department officials said calculations done according to the standard, which allows exceptions, showed the Flipper stadium's exits are sufficient.
Miami-Dade officials allow Seaquarium to stay open October 22, 2003 (Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Results Of Independent Seaquarium Inspection To Be Released
October 21, 2003 (WPLG-TV Miami) Today we will find out just how safe or unsafe the Miami Seaquarium is.
Dozens of safety violations were found during a surprise visit by fire inspectors last month. Then a safety engineer was hired to independently evaluate the park.
The details of his report will be released today. Fire officials say the Seaquarium is safe for visitors while repairs are being done.

Ocean debate: impact of sound
October 21, 2003 (San Jose Mercury News) A report last week seemed to answer a question plaguing researchers, environmentalists and the military: Can loud noises in the ocean, such as pings of sonar from a Navy ship, hurt whales and other marine mammals?
Investigators examining 14 beaked whales that washed up in the Canary Islands during a military exercise last fall said the animals had gas bubbles and pinpricks of bleeding in the fatty parts of their bodies. It looked, in fact, like they had the bends -- the illness human divers get when they surface too fast.
How could a whale, a creature born to dive deep, suffer such a landlubber's complaint?
Maybe the animals panicked when they heard the sonar and raced to the surface too fast, suggested the team led by Paul Jepson, coordinator of the United Kingdom's Marine Mammal Stranding Project. Or perhaps the passing sound waves had a direct effect on their tissues, causing tiny, harmless bubbles of gas to balloon dangerously large.
There are only six known cases in which multiple species of beaked whale came ashore in a mass stranding; all took place after 1963, when the current generation of sonar was introduced, and all coincided with military exercises, according to the report of a workshop convened in April 2002 to look at the issue.

Debate grows over fish farms
October 21, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Expanding Washington's salmon-farming industry into raising tasty black cod and perhaps other fish could provide an economic boon for hard-hit Neah Bay and Port Angeles -- with no environmental downside, backers of the idea argued yesterday.
But opponents cited problems that have cropped up in Washington's relatively small salmon-growing industry and British Columbia's much-larger one, including the transfer of pests from caged fish to wild ones and an economic blow to fishermen.
The exchange at a University of Washington forum came as state officials are beginning to enforce new regulations designed to ensure that Washington's eight fish farms don't spread diseases or allow the release into the wild of non-native Atlantic salmon.

Navy has good news for marine life
October 17, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial) The Navy's agreement to limit use of a new type of sonar is good news for marine mammals.
Environmental groups and the Navy have agreed to limit the peacetime use of the new low-frequency sonar to an ocean area that includes waters off Japan, China and the Philippines. The agreement had been ordered by a federal judge in a lawsuit over the extent of sonar use, which the Navy says is needed to track ultra-quiet subs from China, Iran and North Korea.
Unfortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to exempt the Pentagon from the Marine Mammal Protection Act's safeguards. The push is premature if not completely wrongheaded.
Scientists and the Navy have barely begun to understand the effects of sonar on sea-dwelling mammals. The Navy has acknowledged that sonar use likely led to a Bahamas stranding incident in 2000 that killed beaked whales. Last week, scientists suggested that sonar also caused the deaths of whales in the Canary Islands last year. And scientists are investigating whether sonar use May 5 may have led to the deaths of harbor porpoises that washed up in the San Juan Islands.
Those incidents provide clear warnings about the House effort. The agreement on low-frequency sonar allows its use during times of heightened threat or war. Emerging knowledge argues for much greater concern about sonar, not a panicky override of longstanding law.

Marine species are at risk as sea meadows destroyed
October 15, 2003 (Environmental News Service) Seagrass, a vital but largely overlooked component of the world's oceans, is being destroyed by ignorance and inaction, threatening millions of people and many species of marine animals, according to a new report published Wednesday.
The vast sub-aquatic meadows that grow on shallow shelves around the continents are in their own way as important to coastal waters as trees are to the above ground environment, says the report from the United Nations Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Center. They purify the water, protect the soil, and provide breeding and feeding grounds for many species, it added in a World Atlas of Seagrasses.
"The grasses are the basis for many marine food chains, are good refuges for young fish, stabilize the sandy soils in which they grow and filter the water," said Ed Green, co-editor of the atlas, the first comprehensive study of the world's seagrasses.
"They are very fragile indeed," Green said. "They are sensitive to eutrophication - nutrient pollution from the land from farming, industry, and housing - which causes algae to bloom and effectively suffocates the seagrass beds. They are also destroyed by land reclamation projects such as coastal housing developments and new airports."
The atlas estimates that the global area covered by seagrasses is just 68,350 square miles - two-thirds the area of the United Kingdom - and that it has shrunk 15 percent in the past 10 years.

Environmentalists, Navy strike deal on controversial sonar system
October 13, 2003 (Seattle Times) The Navy has agreed to limit peacetime use of a new sonar system that was designed to detect enemy submarines but may also harm marine mammals and fish, environmentalists say.
In a settlement last week of a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Navy agreed to use the new sonar only in specified areas along the eastern seaboard of Asia, according to documents provided by the environmental group.
The Navy also agreed to seasonal restrictions designed to protect whale migrations and to avoid using the new sonar near the coast.
None of the restrictions applies during time of war.
The agreement, which is subject to approval by a federal magistrate, would greatly restrict the Navy's original plan to test the sonar system in most of the world's oceans.

Deal protects riverside land
October 11, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) People worried about suburban sprawl along the scenic Skykomish River can rest a little easier after a local conservation group announced yesterday that a large piece of land along the river -- almost 8,000 acres -- will be permanently protected from development.
Under the deal, the land's owner, Hancock Timber Resource Group, sold the land to private individuals. They then sold a conservation easement -- a bundle of property rights that forbids development -- to the state Department of Natural Resources for $2.4 million.
The Cascade Land Conservancy, a local, non-profit land trust, brokered the deal. The Forest Legacy Program paid for it. The program, part of the U.S. Forest Service, helps states protect forests.

A Whale Of A Show
October 10, 2003 (KOMO-TV) The family of the stranded orca whale, Luna, put on quite a show just off the beach at Mukilteo Friday.
The group of L and K pod orcas delighted onlookers.
People first spotted them in Seattle. Then the whales headed north. By the time they hit Mukilteo they were very active and people just loved it.

Shallow, warm Nooksack spawned troubles for fish
October 10, 2003 (Bellingham Herald) While record numbers of pink salmon crowded into Whatcom Creek and rivers throughout Puget Sound during the past two months, a bacterial disease stopped many of the fish from reaching spawning grounds on the Nooksack River, state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said.
But the disease has meant that pinks and the already dwindling population of spring chinook, headed for the Nooksack River's north fork, came into the river "below expectations" of state fisheries biologists, Kraemer said.
The disease, called columnaris, is common in Puget Sound rivers, but may have flourished in the lower Nooksack River this year. The river was shallow with high temperatures during a severe drought that lingered into early fall, Kraemer said.
Spring chinook may have a worse situation because they also contracted a parasite, Kraemer said.
On Whatcom Creek, hatchery manager Earl Steele said he estimates the pink run there could reach 15,000. The run is at its tail end now.
The pink run two years ago - pinks return to spawn every other year - was only 3,500.
Human influence may have caused this year's spike in Whatcom Creek pinks. Two years ago, the Whatcom Creek Hatchery released 500,000 fry, compared to 220,000 two years before that.
Steele said fall chinook and coho are holding in Bellingham Bay, waiting for a good rain to engorge streams and allow them to make their way up Whatcom Creek. Those fish runs are not expected to be larger than average. Steele estimates only about 300 fall chinook will return to Whatcom Creek because the hatchery stopped producing the fish three years ago, leaving only the naturally spawned fish to return this year.

Media make whale-size exaggerations
October 10, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer op-ed by Naomi Rose) In southwestern Alaska, populations of Steller sea lions, northern fur seals and harbor seals -- collectively called pinnipeds -- as well as sea otters and seabirds have seriously declined in the past three decades, some by as much as 80 percent to 90 percent. Such a widespread pattern indicates the collapse of an entire ecosystem and researchers, conservation groups and wildlife agencies have expressed serious concerns.
It might seem obvious that these declines must be related to the regional expansion of industrialized fisheries and consequent depletion of fish stocks critical as prey for these species, as well as to climate change. Instead, a scientific hypothesis stating that orcas, also called killer whales, are to blame has gained attention despite the lack of data to support it.
The journal Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and other publications have published the work of James Estes, a sea otter biologist at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and his associates, who speculate that some Alaskan orcas are "fishing down the food chain" -- that is, eating smaller prey than they had in the past.
Transient orcas, who eat marine mammals, are the focus of this hypothesis rather than resident orcas, who eat fish.
Unfortunately, the media have latched onto this blatant speculation, establishing it as fact. Some media have typecast the orcas as villains with headlines such as "From Ocean Icons to Prime Suspects: Orcas Devastate Seal, Otter Populations" in The Washington Post. In the Post article, Alaskan orcas were said to be on a "species-threatening rampage," where they were "wiping out" sea lions and otters.
It is dangerous for media to report conjecture as fact and for scientists to actively publicize unsubstantiated hypotheses, especially when the noise made may influence politicians. Not long ago, fishermen shot orcas for taking fish off their hooks, and the recent spate of publicity perpetuates old misconceptions about this magnificent marine carnivore.
Many orca populations are beset by human pressures such as pollution and overfishing, while some orca stocks are threatened with extinction. By deflecting the focus off current human-caused hazards facing this region, examination of more likely causes of these declines may be delayed while this more sensational and politically convenient "explanation" takes center stage.
Unless or until new information proves otherwise, it is important not to let hype and headlines turn natural hunters into "killer" scapegoats.

End of sonar use sought
October 10, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Citing a new scientific report that appears to document how sonar can harm whales and other marine mammals, an advocacy group yesterday called for the U.S. Navy to suspend testing of powerful sonar in Washington's inland waters.
People for Puget Sound cited a report in the science journal Nature that suggested naval officials be more careful using sonar around orcas, whales and other marine mammals.
"The Navy could reassure all of us who are working hard to prevent the extinction of our resident orca whales if they would announce that they will immediately stop all high-intensity sonar drills and tests in the sensitive inland waters of Puget Sound and the Northwest Straits," said Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People for Puget Sound.

Sonar tied to whale deaths
October 9, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Can whales get the bends?
Sure they can, says a scientific report due out today, and it appears that sonar is to blame. A research team said more care should be taken in using powerful Navy sonar systems around marine mammals.
After a series of incidents in which naval sonar was suspected of killing or harming whales, orcas and other marine mammals -- including one last summer in the San Juan Islands -- today's findings pinpoint for the first time at least one way sonar appears to harm the creatures.
The findings come as the Navy, under increasing pressure from environmentalists, is devising new operating rules for use of its sonar, according to a National Marine Fisheries Service official.
The study due out today in the science journal Nature concerns beaked whales that washed up dead in the Canary Islands after naval exercises there in 2002. English and Spanish researchers who examined the bodies found evidence of hemorrhaging inside the animals -- just like when human scuba divers get the bends.
"There have been a number of strandings, including the Bahamas, Madeira, the Canaries and Greece," Ketten said in a written statement. "Amongst all the strandings, the findings are not consistent. In the Bahamian case, we do not find any of the (blood-vessel blockage) that were reported in the ... Nature paper. Consequently, it would be premature to say that we have one cause that explains all the traumas that have been reported."

Military link to whale deaths
October 8, 2003 (Herald Sun - Australia) MILITARY sonar may be to blame for the catastrophic deaths of whales, prompting the deep-diving mammals to ascend so quickly that, like divers who decompress too fast, they suffer a mortal attack of the bends, a study says.
Powerful naval sonar has already been implicated in the stranding of whales and dolphins, perhaps by disorienting them, but this research is the first to yield clinical evidence as to exactly how the animals could be affected. British and Spanish marine pathologists carried out autopsies on 10 of 14 whales that were stranded in the Canary Islands last year.
The mammals beached about four hours after a Spanish-led naval taskforce nearby began using mid-frequency sonar as part of an anti-submarine exercise.
Tissue dissection showed that the whales' livers and other internal organs were filled with gas bubbles, and smaller blood vessels had been literally blown apart from inside.
"These lesions are consistent with acute trauma due to . . . rapid decompression," the authors, led by Paul Jepson of London's Zoological Society, report in today's issue of Nature. - AFP

Tacoma bay's cleanup closer to conclusion
October 8, 2003 (Seattle Times) Thirty years after Occidental Chemical stopped regularly discharging toxic solvents into a three-mile finger of this bay, poisoned sediment is being dredged and 30 pounds of pollution a day are being sucked from the ground water.
Restoration work is taking place on all of the nearly 40 sites across Tacoma's signature tideflats that were polluted by a century of steam heating, refineries, aluminum smelting, boat-building, log yards and concrete production.
For the first time since the 6,000-acre estuary was placed on the Superfund cleanup list in 1983, the end of restoration work is finally in sight. All significant cleanup work is scheduled to be completed in 2006, followed by years of environmental monitoring.
The remediation work now under way includes removal of enough sediment to fill 2-1/2 Tacoma Domes - sediment tainted by solvents, wood waste and heavy metals such as copper and mercury or, in some cases, by substances environmental regulators still haven't identified.
In some cases, the sediment will be shipped to Eastern Washington; in others, it will be cleaned up and capped on nearby ground that will be the future home of a shipping terminal.

Biologists looking at killer whale attacks
October 5, 2003 (Daily News-Miner) Biologists don't know if attacks by killer whales on gray whales are becoming more frequent because of changes in the Bering Sea ecosystem.
The evidence is consistent with attacks witnessed for decades from the Arctic to Baja California when a pod of killer whales takes on a single gray.
Killer whale specialist Craig Matkin, director of the Gulf Coast Oceanic Society, doubts that orcas kill for kicks. More likely they return to feed on the carcass again, he said.
The killer whales would follow a gray whale into Isanotski Strait, better known as False Pass, and sometimes herd it toward shore.
With the gray whale just under the surface, orcas launched themselves out of the water and crashed onto its back over and over, Laukitis said. "They were obviously trying to drown it, or keep it down, or tire it out," she said. The orcas took only the throat and tongue.
Orcas sometimes trap a gray whale near shore, where they ram the larger animal with their blunt snouts, he said.
"The big ones stay back and watch the small ones do all the work. More than likely they just eat the tongue and let the rest go. That's a funny thing about the killer whales."

Lonely Whale Off Canada to Get Family Reunion
October 2, 2003 (Reuters) A lone killer whale off Canada's Pacific coast will be relocated back to U.S. waters, where it is hoped he will join his family, Canadian officials decided on Wednesday.
The officials said they agreed to attempt to relocate the whale, officially named L98, but nicknamed Luna, because they fear he is in danger.
A scientific panel recommended intervention last month after reports emerged that L98 had been injured by collisions with float planes and by humans upset by his interfering with watercraft.
Killer whales are social animals and experts speculate that L98 is seeking the attention because he is lonely.
However, it is not known if his family pod will accept him.
The orcas off the Washington state and British Columbia coasts normally spend their lives swimming in family groups.
Scientists have been struggling over what to do with the young orca since he was discovered in July 2001 swimming alone in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Experts do not know if L98 was accidentally separated from, or forced to leave, his family pod, known as L pod. It spends summer and fall south of the Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, at least 160 miles (160 miles) away.
Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) said it will work out the details of a relocation plan with U.S. officials and private groups.
L pod normally stays in the area until late November before leaving to winter deeper in the Pacific, officials said.
Officials warned that if the pod does not accept L98 back, they will have to take more steps to protect him since Strait of Juan de Fuca has heavy marine traffic.
"If it fails, DFO may need to consider other options, including captivity or other permanent means of dealing with Luna," the department said.
Officials last year reunited a young female orca found orphaned and injured near Seattle with her family pod that spends the summer more than 400 miles to the north in Canadian waters.

'This Is Lethal Damage'
October 2, 2003 (KOMO-TV) Many people heard loud, high-pitched, screeching noises last May when the USS Shoup conducted sonar exercises in Haro Strait, in the north end of Puget Sound.
Residents in the San Juan Islands used underwater microphones to get a good listen. Divers in the water off Victoria, B.C didn't need any microphones, they could hear the sonar blasts as plain as day.
Then, more than a dozen harbor porpoises washed ashore and some of them were bleeding from the eyes.
State legislators want to know is the Navy sonar is responsible? They held a hearing Wednesday to try and get some answers.
Representative Mike Cooper says, "Puget Sound is Washington waters, it belongs to the people of Washington State and we ought to have a say in the management of that waterway."
The National Marine Fisheries examined most of the porpoise bodies in July but hasn't released any results yet.
Orca advocates say it's past time for the Navy to take responsibility and change where and how it uses sonar.
"This isn't just annoyance, this isn't just a bother that might make them avoid an area for an hour or two," said Howard Garrett. "This is lethal damage to their internal organs and their senses."

Locke details plan to cut global warming
October 2, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Gov. Gary Locke, stepping up the state's effort to combat global warming, announced plans yesterday for what he called the United States' toughest siting standards for new power plants.
The prime target is carbon dioxide, a major component of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. New power plants are the No. 1 source of the gas, and fossil-fuel plants in the United States account for 10 percent of carbon dioxide pollution worldwide, the governor said.
Locke said future projects will have to offset fully 20 percent of their expected carbon dioxide emissions. Owners can plant trees, pay for natural gas-powered transit buses or pay mitigation experts to figure it out.
The new uniform permit requirements, replacing case-by-case negotiations on each project, were developed by the Energy Site Evaluation Council, the state agency that issues permits for large power plants of 350 megawatts or more.

State expert urges Navy to stop sonar tests
October 2, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The state government's leading marine mammal expert yesterday called for the Navy to stop or severely limit tests of high-intensity sonar in Washington's inland waters because it appears to be harming orcas, minke whales and potentially thousands of other creatures.
The request came as a legislative committee, concerned about a Navy ship's use of sonar in May that spooked marine mammals miles away by the San Juan Islands, began formulating a state response.
But a Navy representative said sonar and other noise is generated by many vessels, not just those of the Navy.
The Navy has acknowledged that its sonar is the likely cause of the death of beaked whales found after naval exercises near the Bahamas in 2000. The National Marine Fisheries Service and Navy are investigating the cause of the porpoise deaths after the Shoup incident.

Cedar River's chinook get big breakthrough
October 1, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) After 100 years, unique fish ladder opens up prime spawning areas
For the first time in more than a century, chinook salmon are getting access to prime spawning areas on the Cedar River.
Since construction of Landsburg Dam, designed to divert municipal drinking water, chinook have been barred from 17 miles of the river and its tributaries southeast of Seattle.
Twenty-five generations of chinook have migrated in and out of the stunted waterway since the dam went up in 1900, shutting them out of pristine upper stretches shaded by overhanging maples and towering firs, and frequented by great blue herons.
Thanks to a unique $3.7 million fish ladder recently completed by Seattle Public Utilities, the native chinook will be able once again to spawn in their home waters.
"That's a big deal," said Rand Little, a senior fish biologist with the utility. "It's very exciting to have that opened up."

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