Orca Network News - October, 2005

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
October 1, 2005 through October 31, 2005.

Is salmon money flowing the right way?
October 30, 2005 (Seattle Times) For thousands of years, Puget Sound salmon have repeated a ritual of sex and death that stirred the human imagination and naturally produced teeming populations of the iconic species. Today on the Cedar River it's a human-engineered process of concrete, stainless steel and manipulation that costs the public $11 million a year.
Now some experts are suggesting that some of that money could be better spent elsewhere to save the region's chinook. They describe an approach much like that of a battlefield medic: Focus on the ones with the best chance of survival.
So instead of pouring most salmon-recovery money into trying to save chinook on the Cedar and other rivers severely scarred by development, they argue, the emphasis should be on bigger, healthier rivers, such as the Skagit, that are more vital to the fish's survival.
Currently, spending on the Cedar represents as much as a sixth of the roughly $60 million spent every year on all Puget Sound chinook, while the Skagit receives roughly $3.5 million a year.

A rapid warm-up for the Northwest
October 27, 2005 (Christian Science Monitor) Glaciers and snowpacks in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains are shrinking. So is Arctic sea ice in Alaska, where the permafrost in some areas is turning mushy. Record- setting temperatures in Anchorage this summer reached a balmy 79 degrees F. Water levels in Puget Sound are rising. Annual patters of stream flow are changing in ways that could adversely impact irrigation, domestic water supplies, fish runs, and hydropower production, while increasing the risk of forest fires and tree-killing insects.
In Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia, this week, agency officials, scientists, tribal leaders, and others are participating in major conferences addressing climate change.
"Even the most conservative scenarios show the climate of the Pacific Northwest warming significantly more than was experienced during the 20th century," the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group reported last week. The Puget Sound region warmed at a rate "substantially greater" than that of Earth's average surface air temperature, the scientists found.
Brad Ack, director of the Puget Sound Action Team, a partnership of federal, state, and tribal agencies that commissioned the report, likens what's happening to a "slow-motion natural disaster."
"This is often talked about as something that's going to happen," says Mr. Ack. "But what this shows is that this is already happening. We're well into climate change."

Orcas headed this way
October 24, 2005 (The Olympian) After spending the summer in the waters around the San Juan Islands, the Puget Sound resident orca whales are starting to venture south, traveling past Whidbey Island and chasing salmon into lower Puget Sound, according to the Center for Whale Research.
As of Oct. 18, there hadn't been any sightings this fall in South Sound of members of the J, K or L pods, which total approximately 90 whales.
But some of the resident killer whales have been seen in recent days as far south as Vashon Island according to reports posted with the Orca Network.
Historically, only J pod remained in Puget Sound in the fall and winter months, noted Orca Network's Susan Berta. However, in the last several years, all three pods have been spotted off Whidbey Island and in lower Puget Sound into January and February.
In early January 2001, the Puget Sound resident whales were spotted near Anderson Island, apparently chasing a late winter chum salmon run headed for its Nisqually River spawning grounds.
Anyone spotting the orca whales is asked to report to the region's whale sighting network. Here in Olympia, contact Cascadia Research at 360-943-7325. Whale sightings can also be called in to Orca Network's toll-free number, 1-866-ORCANET or e-mailed to info@ orcanetwork.org.
Information useful for whale researchers tracking winter travel include: location, time, direction of travel, approximate number of whales and presence of large adult males, which have large, six-foot high dorsal fins. Also include any behavior observed, such as spy-hopping, breeching or feeding.
For the latest on whale sightings in Puget Sound, visit www. orcanetwork.org.

Foes of sonar range cite fear for whales
October 23, 2005 (Seattle Times) The Navy is moving ahead with plans to build a 500-square-mile sonar training range off the coast of North Carolina, officials said last week, a project that has sparked fierce opposition from environmentalists who say some of the world's most endangered whales and sea turtles pass through the area.
Planning for the $99 million range has been under way for almost 10 years, but environmental challenges and concern that the sound waves from sonar may harm protected marine mammals have held up the process. The Navy published its draft environmental-impact statement Friday and will begin a series of public hearings on the proposal next month.
The proposed site, about 50 miles off North Carolina, was selected to provide the Atlantic fleet with training in the use of sonar in coastal areas, where the Navy believes the greatest submarine threats exist. The global spread of quiet and relatively low-cost diesel submarines has alarmed the Navy and convinced officials that its sailors need more training in detecting hostile subs in canyons and ocean beds closer to shore.
But marine-mammal researchers and environmentalists have grown increasingly alarmed over the Navy's plans and the potentially damaging effects of active sonar - which sends out very loud blasts of underwater sound.
Whales and other marine mammals have very sensitive hearing, and a growing body of research has shown that sonar can disorient and sometimes kill them. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmentalist group, sued the Navy last week over its use of midfrequency sonar, the type that would be deployed at the new sonar range. The group said the sonar threatened endangered animals, in violation of several federal environmental laws.

If you thought this summer was hotter than usual, you're right
October 23, 2005 (Anchorage Daily News) Alaska simmered through one of its warmest summers ever in 2005, according to new data issued last week.
Above-average temperatures at 20 main weather stations may have furthered the case for global warming, while the state saw forest fires, seabird die-offs, strange monstrous fish and pretty good gardening.
Wildfires burned an area larger than the state of Hawaii, many triggered by some of the 100,000 lightning strikes, double the seasonal average.
Warmer sea water and a lack of food may even be driving birds to abandon nests in the Pribilof Islands, reported oceanographer Alan Springer, with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"Cliff ledges covered with beautiful eggs, but essentially no adults present at all," he wrote Wednesday in an e-mail message.
The new temperature and rain data, from the Alaska Climate Research Center, offers yet another glimpse of climate change in the North. Arctic sea ice shrank to its smallest area on record last month, while NASA reported recently that 2005 might beat 1998 as the Earth's warmest year ever.

Critics rip plan to relax chemical release rules
October 22, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) EPA wants to let companies report every other year
The Bush administration is proposing to relax requirements for factories, shipyards and other businesses to inform the public about their releases of more than 600 toxic chemicals.
Now required annually, these reports would be skipped every other year under a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And for most of the chemicals, businesses would get to release10 times as much waste before being required to submit detailed records about their practices.
Seattle environmentalists are alarmed by the proposal, and so is a Washington Department of Ecology pollution-control official. Spokeswomen for both of the state's U.S. senators called the proposal "outrageous."
Administration officials defend the idea, though, saying they can save businesses some of the money they spend to track chemicals' handling and release.
Under the proposed changes, "We will get less information, less frequently, and I think this whole thing is being motivated by industry interests. I think the EPA is forgetting who they're actually supposed to be protecting here."
"The regulatory changes being proposed by EPA are both disturbing and dangerous," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "This administration has consistently tried to roll back rules that are in place to protect the health and well-being of our communities."

Decision on sewage will be science-based
October 22, 2005 (Victoria Times Colonist) The region generates 129 million litres of sewage a day. That liquid waste is pumped through six-millimetre screens to filter out solid objects before -- depending on the geographic location of the toilet -- being shot out into the ocean in pipes 1,100 metres from Clover Point or 1,830 metres from Macaulay Point.
Environmentalists say it is doing untold damage to the ocean. Penner insists that's a claim government science has yet to prove.
Victoria is considered by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund to be one of the worst sewage polluters in Canada.
If the rest of Canada was unaware of the nasty debate swirling around Victoria's sewage, it got a down-and-dirty refresher course courtesy of Maclean's magazine last week.

Sharp decline in seabird population
October 22, 2005 (San Juan Islander) A regional colony of Glaucous-winged gulls had 4,000 fledglings last year. Although the same number of adults was present this year, only 88 birds fledged. Top bird experts in the region are gravely concerned, not only about gulls, which are often considered a nuisance species, but about the status of other marine birds in the Puget Sound region. Overall, the total number of marine birds in the region has dropped by 47 percent since the 1970s and 30 percent of our regional seabird and seaduck species are listed as threatened or endangered, or are candidates for listing. What's going on?

Judge orders warning about pesticides' danger to salmon
October 22, 2005 (Everett Herald) A federal judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to send letters to pesticide retailers, distributors and wholesalers in three states, outlining their responsibilities for notifying consumers about the dangers posed to salmon by the chemicals.
The order from U.S. District Judge John Coughenour is a follow up to his January 2004 decision banning the use of pesticides near streams in Washington, Oregon and California until the EPA determines that 38 chemicals won't harm salmon. That ruling was upheld in June by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In addition to the 20-yard no-spray buffer zones Coughenour ordered near rivers containing threatened or endangered salmon or steelhead, the plaintiffs wanted to ensure urban consumers in those areas are alerted to potential problems when they shop for garden products.
Coughenour had ordered warning labels posted alongside seven pesticides by retailers in affected urban areas. On Monday, at the plaintiffs' request, he ordered the EPA to advise retailers and suppliers by mail of the new requirements.
"This is good news for salmon," said Patti Goldman at Earthjustice, which represented the Washington Toxics Coalition and other plaintiffs in the case. "Consumers will have the information in the store to make informed choices to protect salmon from pesticides."

Hood Canal Recovery a Top Priority
October 20, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Puget Sound Action Team develops strategies to save Puget Sound
Nursing Hood Canal back to health is one of the state's top environmental priorities, according to the Puget Sound Action Team, a group representing 10 state agencies as well as local and tribal governments.
In a joint meeting Thursday, the action team and its governing Puget Sound Council considered specific strategies for carrying out its $182 million Puget Sound Conservation and Recovery Plan, which addresses problems throughout Puget Sound.
Strategies include coordination with scientists and close involvement with numerous agencies that have received money for dealing with various pieces of the puzzle, said Brad Ack, action team chairman.
Earlier this year, the Puget Sound Action Team and Gov. Christine Gregoire called for a new level of commitment for saving Puget Sound. While $182 million is a substantial amount, Ack said, restoration efforts continue to be outstripped by emerging problems.
For information, check the Puget Sound Action Team's Web site.

Groups sue to end Navy's use of sonar
October 20, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) San Juan incident cited as evidence of harm to sea life.
The U.S. Navy is flouting federal law by conducting sonar training exercises like the 2003 incident in the San Juan Islands that spooked orcas and may have killed porpoises, environmentalists charged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups said they have been trying for years to get the Navy to talk about ways to decrease harm to marine mammals and other sea life, but the service has refused to deal with the issue head-on.
"The U.S. Navy regularly uses for routine testing and training a technique that we know for a fact causes whales to die, and their use of this technique has been done in the past and will be done in the future without complying with the United States' bedrock environmental laws," said Andrew Wetzler, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
"All we are seeking is for the Navy to prepare a mitigation plan and commit to following U.S. environmental law."
One was the incident in the San Juan Islands in May 2003, when the Everett-based USS Shoup's sonar was loud enough to be heard above the water by observers in boats more than a mile away in Haro Strait.
Observers reported that orcas stopped feeding and huddled close to shore in an unusual formation while Dall's porpoises huddled in a bay. Fifteen harbor porpoises were found dead on beaches in the days that followed.
A scientific investigation concluded that was an abnormally high number of porpoises to strand in such a short period, and said the levels of sound were high enough to disrupt the porpoises' behavior. But it was inconclusive as to whether the sonar caused the deaths.
Other incidents in which naval sonar exercises are suspected to have harmed marine creatures occurred in the Canary Islands, off Spain, in 2002 and 2004; in the Gulf of Alaska last year; and earlier this year in North Carolina.
The Navy itself has admitted that an exercise in the Bahamas in 2000 probably caused the death of beaked whales there.
The first researcher to stumble on those dead beaked whales was a Washington resident, Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, who was in the Bahamas on a research project.
A Navy veteran, Balcomb said he understands the need for the Navy to practice using sonar, but limits should be placed on the practice. He knows of a few deaths of whales and orcas on the Washington coast, near the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, that he believes may be related to sonar.
Group Sues Navy to Limit Sonar It Says Harms Marine Life October 20, 2005 (Washington Post)

NAVY SUED OVER HARM TO WHALES FROM MID-FREQUENCY SONAR
October 19, 2005 (National Resources Defense Council press release) Simple precautions could protect majestic creatures
Ear-splitting sonar used throughout the world's oceans during routine testing and training by the United States Navy harms marine mammals in violation of bedrock environmental laws, according to a lawsuit filed here today in federal court. Whales, dolphins and other marine animals could be spared excruciating injury and death with common sense precautions, but the Navy refuses to implement them, according to the lawsuit, brought by a coalition of conservation and animal welfare organizations led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The case follows a successful lawsuit by NRDC and other groups, settled two years ago, that blocked the global deployment of the Navy's new low-frequency active sonar system (LFA), and restricted its use for testing and training to a limited area of the north-western Pacific Ocean. Today's lawsuit, however, targets training with mid-frequency sonar, the principal system used aboard U.S. naval vessels to locate submarines and underwater objects.
Evidence of sonar harm to whales 'overwhelming'
Mass stranding and mortality events associated with mid-frequency sonar exercises have occurred, among other places, in North Carolina (2005); Haro Strait off the coast of Washington State (2003); the Canary Islands (2004, 2002, 1989, 1986, 1985); Madeira (2000); the U.S. Virgin Islands (1999, 1998); and in Greece (1996). One of the best documented incidents occurred in the Bahamas in 2000 when 16 whales of three species stranded along 150 miles of shoreline as ships blasted the area with sonar. The U.S. Navy later acknowledged in an official report that its use of sonar was the likely cause of the stranding.

Climate Change: Sound science
October 19, 2005 (Seattle Post-Inetlligencer Editorial) Global warming is happening. And its threats are more widespread than we tend to think.
As the report for the state's Puget Sound Action Team warns, we should expect surprises. And we must be prepared to respond where we live. Water levels in the Sound will rise. Temperature changes may threaten fish. If people don't plan carefully, small changes can cascade into catastrophes.
Even without warming, Puget Sound would face plenty of environmental challenges. Miles suggests, "The ecosystems of Puget Sound are now caught in a world of multiple stresses where the pressures of human population growth and economic development will mix with the consequences of a warmer world."
In struggling to protect salmon along the Columbia River, federal officials emphasize the limits of scientific knowledge and the need to change tactics as we learn more. The Puget Sound report puts us on notice that we will have to patiently spend decades in the same mode of watching, responding and reassessing. Protecting the Sound, its species and its unique role in local culture will be a long-term battle. But it's very much worth waging, by whatever tactics prove most effective.

Sunken tug spills fuel in Hood Canal
October 18, 2005 (Seattle Post-Inetlligencer) The pungent smell of diesel fuel and ribbons of pink-stained beach marked the spread of a spill near the Hood Canal Bridge Monday. Tribal officials said the fuel hit two miles of shoreline that support a multimillion-dollar annual harvest of clams and oysters.
The fuel escaped when an 82- year-old tugboat sank overnight under mysterious circumstances that prompted its caretaker to suspect the vessel was purposely sent to the bottom of Port Gamble Bay.
The 92-foot, 56-ton Agate sank near the old Port Gamble lumber mill. So did another tug, the 65-foot Legacy, which had been moored next to it. Both had been out of service for some time.
"We have two miles of beachfront here on the reservation, and we harvest clams and oysters on those beaches, and these are all very productive beaches," tribal Chairman Ron Charles said. "It's really concerning to us."
The tribe operates a salmon hatchery in the area, and the fish are being caught at this time of year, he said. Tribal members harvest clams, oysters and geoducks for food as well as income.

Climate change means big changes in Puget Sound
October 18, 2005 (Seattle Times) Rising global temperatures are taking their toll on Puget Sound, as less mountain snow funnels less freshwater into estuaries, rising oceans transform salt marshes, and changes to the food web alter life for everything from lingcod to orcas, a new study says.
The report released yesterday, the first serious attempt by University of Washington scientists and the state to gauge the impact of global warming on Puget Sound, suggests that climate change will continue to echo across the ecosystem, upsetting links between plants and animals and complicating efforts to manage the threat of a growing human population.
"It's not like we're going to wake up tomorrow and everything will be dead," said Jan Newton, a UW oceanographer who contributed to the 35-page report by the Puget Sound Action Team, a state agency that monitors the Sound's health.
"But we also know that when organisms experience catastrophe, it's most often because they're assaulted by more than one problem at a time. The sooner we recognize that things are under pressure because of climate change, we can look at the stressors we can do something about."
The state has issued biannual reports in recent years on the health of Puget Sound. Until yesterday, however, no one had created a cohesive picture from all the latest climate science.
"It's frightening and baffling," said Brad Ack, executive director of the Puget Sound Action Team. "I was surprised by how much we've already experienced - some of the most significant change in North America. What's less certain is how it will all play out."
Sound Warning: Scientists say the region is already feeling climate change October 18, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Activists Demand Whale Referendum
October 17, 2005 (CKNW) As the Vancouver Aquarium welcomes its new dolphin, an anti-captivity lobby group is launching a campaign to give Vancouver voters a say in whether whale or dolphin exhibits should continue.
The group "No Whales In Captivity" is stepping up its campaign against what it calls the "cruel act" of keeping whales and dolphins in small pools in Stanley Park. Doug Imbeau with the organization says they're calling for a referendum on the issue.
"We are asking the Vancouver Park Board for a referendum, and we have been asking the Vancouver Park Board for a referendum for five elections now; twelve years, to let the people of Vancouver have a say in whether or not we want to continue this."
The Coalition will hold a meeting Monday night at the Dunbar Community Centre, to try to gather support.

Tracing the whale's trail
October 16, 2005 (York Daily Record) A paleontologist testified in the Dover school board trial about how fossils connect species.
The ancestor of the whale and its first cousin the hippopotamus walked the Earth for 40 million years, munching on plants, before dying out in the ice ages.
Known as the anthracotheres, it became extinct 50 to 60 million years ago, but not before its evolutionary tree diverged - the whale forging into the oceans, the hippopotamus to the African swamps.
Kevin Padian, a University of California-Berkeley paleontologist, told the story of the whale's journey, along with the travels of its closest living relative, in U.S. Middle District Court Friday to illustrate how the fossil record connects us to our past.
In the First Amendment lawsuit over Dover Area High School's intelligent design policy, Padian was the plaintiffs' final science expert to testify. The defense will begin to present its side Monday.
Padian's testimony was essentially a response to intelligent-design proponents' claims that paleontology does not account for missing links and the fossil record belies evolutionary theory.
"The problem is that there are no clear transitional fossils linking land mammals to whales," the pro-intelligent-design textbook "Of Pandas and People" states.
"How many intermediates do you need to suggest relationships?" Padian wondered.
He pointed to numerous transitional fossils as he traced the lineage of the whale to its early ancestors, a group of cloven-hoofed mammals of a group named cetartiodactyla, illustrating the gradual changes of features along the way.

Orcas Begin Forays into South Sound
October 15, 2005 (Kitsap Sun) Puget Sound's killer whales are beginning their annual excursions from the San Juan Islands, where they spend their summers, into Central and South Puget Sound.
Observers sighted a group of whales near Edmonds and Bainbridge Island on Sunday and possibly a different group as far south as Seattle on Tuesday.
The orcas tend to follow the salmon migrations, according to part-time researcher Mark Sears, who lives in West Seattle and keeps tabs on the whales in Central and South Puget Sound. Since the orcas can still find abundant salmon in the San Juan Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca, they may have delayed their travels south this year, he said.
In a typical year at this time, the salmon would be disappearing up north, causing the whales to move farther south in Puget Sound, where coho and chum salmon can be found well into December.
"During their initial forays, they don't come all the way in," said Sears, noting that the whales often turn around near Kingston and head back north.
Many salmon runs are about three weeks late this year, he said, and all three pods of "resident" orcas have delayed their travels south.
The 90 or so Puget Sound whales have been proposed for a "threatened" listing under the Endangered Species Act. As a result, researchers, including Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research, are attempting to track their winter travels.
Balcomb asks that the public watch for orcas from shore and make reports to Orca Network by calling (866)-ORCANET or e-mail info@orcanetwork.org. Balcomb is interested in location, time, direction of travel, approximate number of whales and the presence of males, which have dorsal fins as tall as 6 feet.
A map of recent whale sightings can be found online at www.orcanetwork.org.

Research center retools whale-watching program
October 14, 2005 (The Cape Codder) The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies has been doing whale watches with the Dolphin Fleet for 30 years but that association will end this fall in just a few weeks.
The Dolphin Fleet will still be doing whale watches, just as they have in the past, and Peter Borelli, executive director of the PCCS, wishes them all the best but he felt it was time for a new direction. For the next five years PCCS will be linking with Portuguese Princess Excursions to provide educational content to trips to Stellwagen Bank, Cape Cod Bay, Nantucket and the Great South Channel.
"We're looking for a more intellectually challenging, robust type of programming," Borrelli said. "Once upon a time, 25 to 30 years ago, most people on the face of the Earth had never seen a whale in the wild. Now it's much more common and to a certain extent we have another generation to deal with."
Borrelli wanted to move away from a tourist-based approach to one that combined education, with the needs of a commercial operation.
"We have a similar philosophy," said Jay Hurley, director of sales and marketing for Portuguese Princess Excursions. "Whale watching is totally different than it was 10 to 15 years ago."
Whales are not as common and ridership on the boats is down as well.

Defenders, despoilers of Sound ebb, flow
October 14, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Safeguards and size limits protect Puget Sound and adjoining waters. Citizens and lawmakers -- not the shippers, the oil companies, or the Coast Guard -- have insisted it be so.
As People for Puget Sound holds its annual Harbor Lights auction Saturday night on Lake Union, it's appropriate to acclaim defenders of the Sound, and compile a rogue's list of would-be despoilers.
Historical defenders: Tops is longtime (1944-80) Sen. Warren G. Magnuson, who in 1977 slipped through his famous "little amendment" that blocked an oil super port on Puget Sound.
The Bullitt Foundation has put her money into marine causes. It helped start groups such as People for Puget Sound and Save Our Wild Salmon, and funded the Georgia Strait Alliance in British Columbia.
The result: An even playing field when citizen groups face off against federal agencies, shippers and river harnessers.
David vs. Goliath: Ocean Advocates, a feisty environmental group, sued BP after the company built a new dock -- or "added a wing to the existing dock" as BP puts it -- at its big Cherry Point refinery. Ocean Advocates claimed the dock project violates limits set down by Magnuson to prevent construction of a super port.
In a recent ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a review of whether BP violated Magnuson's amendment with the dock project.
Let's sound off for the Sound. The cause is just, its goals worth the fight: Unspoiled waters, life-filled marine estuaries, romping marine mammals and streams alive with salmon. Such is our natural heritage.

Action urged on spill threat
October 14, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Fearing more oil spills like the one that tainted tribal shellfishing grounds in Puget Sound two years ago, state environmental regulators are asking the Legislature for stiffer rules and more money to add inspectors.
The state Ecology Department wants to use a tax already collected on oil brought to Washington refineries to pay for six additional staff members to keep watch when fuel is transferred onto or off of vessels in Washington waterways.
The agency also wants to crack down on what some see as a growing oil-spill threat from the burgeoning and money-saving business of fueling ships from trucks. Traditionally, that had been done mostly from barges or the equivalent of marine gas stations. Both are more expensive -- but also require more safety precautions and additional training of workers.
Ecology's critics complain that the agency has taken too long to act since the December 2003 spill at Point Wells, near Edmonds, and point out that Ecology hasn't tackled the two most controversial spill-control proposals sparked by that incident.
The first proposal would ban ship refueling if weather were too rough. The other would require encircling ships with oil-containment devices every time they are being gassed up. Both are opposed to some degree by marine refueling companies because of the time and expense involved. Ecology promises to address these questions by next July.

Killer whale gives birth to calf at SeaWorld San Antonio
October 11, 2005 (San Antonio Business Journal) A killer whale calf was born at the marine park's Shamu Stadium. The calf was 6 feet, 9 inches long and 264 pounds at birth. Her mother, a 17-year old killer whale named Kayla, gave birth after spending two hours in labor.
Marine park officials are now caring for the animal because the calf was rejected by her mother shortly after birth.
"As soon as the mother indicated her disinterest in the calf, our team immediately stepped in to begin the process of hand-rearing," says Dudley Wigdahl, vice president of zoology and general curator at SeaWorld. "We've introduced a companion animal, one of our female bottlenose dolphins, to swim with the baby, and we are beginning the process of feeding formula to the newborn."
With this new birth, SeaWorld's killer whale population has increased to eight.
"This calf has already overcome several hurdles," Wigdahl says. "Her breathing is strong, and she is calm when interacting with staff. Raising an infant killer whale is a very challenging process."
SeaWorld San Antonio is owned by St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. (NYSE: BUD).

Dike removal spawns wetland return
October 11, 2005 (Daily Astorian) Early farmers along rivers in Clatsop County spent much time and energy building dikes to protect their lands from high tides and storm surges.
But now the effort is devoted to the opposite – to breaching dikes to create and enhance wetlands, providing habitat for fish and other native plants and animals.
At a bend in the Lewis and Clark River, the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce and other organizations are removing a dike to allow water to flow in and out of a natural wetland. And on the Klaskanine River, near the spot where it meets Youngs River, conservation programs are turning a field into a wetland marsh.
The Lewis and Clark site, now owned by the city of Seaside, was never successful with crops or cattle, even with the dikes in place, said CREST watershed coordinator Todd Cullison.
The idea is to let high tides and storm surges carve channels in the site, joining the historical channels that still snake through the area, and creating a kind of equilibrium between the river and the wetland, Cullison said. The river will bring in sediments and help sustain a native plant community, and the channels will hopefully provide habitat and food for juvenile salmon bulking up before their trip to the Pacific Ocean.

Tanker limit in Sound to stay in place
October 7, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Under pressure from Washington state lawmakers, the author of a controversial energy bill agreed at the eleventh hour Thursday to delete a provision that could have transformed Puget Sound into a superhighway for oil tankers.
As originally written by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the bill, to be voted on today, would have lifted restrictions that have been in place since 1977 that severely limit the number of tankers serving Washington's five refineries. The late Sen. Warren Magnuson, D-Wash., put the protections in place after concluding that the Cherry Point refinery near Ferndale could become a "super-port" for crude oil flowing south from Alaska.
Magnuson's solution was to allow only enough tanker shipments to serve the state's need. Aides to Magnuson said he believed it was more important to protect Puget Sound than to allow it to become the West Coast version of the heavily industrialized and polluted Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Whale naming ceremony carries special meaning for Samish Tribe
October 6, 2005 (Anacortes American) The Samish Tribe welcomed a new member Saturday with prayers, songs, drums and other traditions during a naming ceremony, much like that performed for babies.
However, on this occasion, the honorees were a 9-month-old orca whale, the third surviving calf of a female known as Samish n and anthropologist Dr. Wayne Suttles.
"It is a very important day to share for all of us, to welcome this youngster, this new addition to the Samish people and the surrounding community, this gift," said Bill Bailey, a Swinomish tribal member who acted as spokesman for the ceremony.
The audience gasped when Bailey said that the orca Samish and her older calves, Riptide and Hy'shqa, now swim with "Suttles."
"Suttles is the name," he said. "Suttles is here with us. Suttles is a very important part of the Samish people... a big part of who we are, what we want to accomplish, what we hold dear."
"There can't be a better way to honor Dr. Suttles," Bailey said, characterizing the scientist as a giving, honorable, sharing person.

957 species at risk in Puget Sound area
October 6, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) From the Olympic Peninsula's verdant rain forests to the depths of Puget Sound, this region is unusually rich in its variety of plants and animals. But many of those species are at risk of vanishing or are already gone, according to a sweeping report card released today by environmental groups.
Scores of imperiled creatures "are getting so little attention," said Stephanie Buffum Field, executive director of Friends of the San Juans, a conservation group that worked on the assessment with the national Center for Biological Diversity.
The report recognizes the need to save species through complete ecosystem conservation. To protect rare Western gray squirrels, for example, the focus is on saving the oak woodlands and prairies where they live -- benefiting other fragile species at the same time.
Some of the conservation measures recommended in the report are already in the works.
A "biodiversity" council, formed quietly last year, is developing a 30-year strategy aimed at helping protect the Puget Sound area's diverse ecosystems. The 23-member council, charged with issuing recommendations by 2007, includes representatives from government agencies, industry, tribes and environmental groups.
The report by the environmental groups identifies the loss of wild places where imperiled species live as the No. 1 cause of their decline. Pollution, climate change and invasions by non-native species are also blamed for shrinking populations of rare plants and animals.
"We have pre-empted the environment in which they live either by paving it over or making it a subdivision, or we've changed it in ways that make it unsuitable for them," said Gordon Orians, a University of Washington ecologist.

UK to decide on Sakhalin funding
October 4, 2005 (BBC) A $20bn oil and gas project in Russia faces a crucial funding decision amid running concerns over its effect on the endangered western Pacific gray whale.
On Friday, officials will meet to discuss whether the UK Export Credit Guarantee Department should finance Shell's project in Russia's far east.
A gray whale feeding ground lies 7km from the site of an oil platform.
Some groups say it may take very little to drive the whales - which now number about 100 animals - to extinction.
Sakhalin, a former Tsarist penal colony, has vast reserves of oil and gas.
Shell is developing two fields which, together, contain recoverable volumes of over one billion barrels of crude oil and more than 500 billion cubic metres of natural gas.
Phase one of the project has already gone into seasonal production, while phase two is still being developed.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has chided Shell - which leads the Sakhalin Energy consortium operating the project - on its decision to push ahead and install the platform for its Sakhalin phase 2 oil and gas project this summer.

How to save Sound's orcas? Here's one plan
October 4, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) "It's about the habitat; it's about prey availability; it's about the whole ecosystem," said Joe Gaydos, regional director of the SeaDoc Society, a non-profit group focused on marine health. "It's not a slam-dunk."
Contamination from industrial chemicals can hamper marine mammals' ability to reproduce and weaken their immune systems. The amount of salmon, orcas' preferred food, has declined from historic levels. And boat traffic and noise is suspected of disturbing the orcas, possibly reducing their ability to communicate and hunt for fish.
The orcas reside much of the year in the Sound, particularly around the San Juan Islands.
In 2003, the Fisheries Service deemed the local orcas "depleted" and eligible for increased protection under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, spurring creation of the proposed conservation plan.
Late last year, the agency proposed protecting the orcas under the more stringent Endangered Species Act, after initially denying protection. A determination will be made in December.
The proposed plan arranges by priority the greatest threats to the orcas, focusing on oil-spill prevention and response, controlling pollution that comes from storm-water runoff and cleaning contamination and boosting salmon numbers.
Read the proposed conservation plan for local orcas online.
Orcas need cleaner Sound, more salmon, scientists say October 4, 2005 (Seattle Times)

Energy bill triggers oil-spill fears in Puget Sound
October 3, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) An energy bill expected to come before Congress this week could expose Puget Sound to unlimited oil tanker traffic and an increased risk of oil spills, a local lawmaker and environmental groups said Sunday.
Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and environmental, civic and business leaders met in Seattle to discuss the Gasoline for America's Security Act, a bill that would reverse a 28-year-old law that protects Puget Sound by restricting tanker traffic and the capacity of oil refineries.
"We are greatly concerned," Inslee said. "We cannot take another tanker disaster. It would take Puget Sound years and years to recover, if ever."
Inslee said he will fight the bill when it comes to the floor of the House of Representatives later this week.
The bill, passed last week by the Committee on Energy and Commerce, would reverse a 1977 law authored written by former U.S. Sen. Warren Magnuson that restricted oil refining east of Port Angeles to amounts that would be consumed only in the state of Washington.

Proposed killer whale conservation plan released for comment
October 3, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The National Marine Fisheries Service on Monday released its proposed conservation plan for the killer whales that spend summers around the San Juan Islands.
The plan addresses such concerns as availability of prey - predominantly salmon for these "southern resident" orcas - as well as pollution and disruption by boats.
But environmentalists worry about changes under consideration in Congress to species protection laws.
If those changes take effect, "no matter how good this plan is, our ability to protect the southern residents is going to be diminished," said Brent Plater of the San Francisco-based Council for Biological Diversity.
The draft conservation plan was prepared following the Fisheries Service's 2003 decision to list the orcas as "depleted" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. That law extends protection only to the species itself; it does not include habitat.

Energy bill triggers oil-spill fears in Puget Sound
October 3, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Inslee fights more tankers in Puget Sound
An energy bill expected to come before Congress this week could expose Puget Sound to unlimited oil tanker traffic and an increased risk of oil spills, a local lawmaker and environmental groups said Sunday.
Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and environmental, civic and business leaders met in Seattle to discuss the Gasoline for America's Security Act, a bill that would reverse a 28-year-old law that protects Puget Sound by restricting tanker traffic and the capacity of oil refineries.
"We are greatly concerned," Inslee said. "We cannot take another tanker disaster. It would take Puget Sound years and years to recover, if ever."
Inslee said he will fight the bill when it comes to the floor of the House of Representatives later this week.

Endangered Species Act could face big changes
October 2, 2005 (Tacoma News Tribune) The bill, approved 229-193, faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where moderate Republicans have shown little support. The White House backed the House measure, though it had concerns about the overall price tag, warning it could have a "significant" impact on the budget deficit.
The House bill would eliminate requirements that habitat considered critical to the survival of animals or plants facing extinction be set aside.
The measure also would ensure that private property owners receive fair-market compensation if their land use was restricted by an effort to revive a threatened or endangered species.
In addition, the legislation would tighten timelines for federal agencies to make decisions involving protected species and give federal officials more latitude in determining the "best available science" when developing recovery plans.
Democrats in the Washington state delegation, along with freshman Republican Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Bellevue), opposed the bill. Other Republicans from the state supported the measure.
Thirteen salmon and steelhead runs in Washington are listed as threatened or endangered.
In the Columbia Basin, federal agencies are spending more than $600 million annually to restore the protected runs, and the fight over breaching four dams on the lower Snake River still rages. In Puget Sound, a new salmon plan would cost $1.5 billion over 10 years.
With some House members quoting the Bible and others scientific studies, debate centered on the provisions in the bill that would require compensation to private landowners affected by a listing, and the change in critical habit designations.

Feds get 1 year to create plan to help salmon
October 1, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Warning that threatened and endangered salmon are running out of time, a federal judge Friday gave federal agencies one year to come up with a new plan for protecting them from being killed by federal hydroelectric dams in the Columbia Basin.
U.S. District Judge James Redden cut in half the time sought by NOAA Fisheries, the Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to revise a plan, known as a biological opinion, that the judge had ruled in violation of the Endangered Species Act last May.
He added that he will keep close watch over the process and that if he sees substantial progress, he could grant a little more time. "We're running out of time," the judge said. "This time we're going to do it."
The latest biological opinion will be the fifth since the federal government took over efforts to save dwindling runs of Columbia Basin salmon from extinction. The fish have suffered from the combined effects of dams, overfishing, logging, grazing, water withdrawals for irrigation and urban development.
Redden went along with the one-year timetable requested of lawyers representing environmentalists, Indian tribes and fishermen.