Orca Network News - September, 2002
News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
September 1, 2002 through September 30, 2002.
Navy training killing fish in Puget Sound
September 29, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) The U.S. Navy routinely conducts little-known underwater explosions in Puget Sound that can kill thousands of fish and may imperil federally protected salmon and trout.
The Navy has run explosive training exercises for the past decade, but federal fish regulators first became aware of them last year. Since then, the regulators have privately argued with the Navy about how best to minimize the number of fish killed.
About 1,000 dead and stunned fish -- mostly smelt and other small fish -- floated to the surface during the only exercise monitored by federal fish officials. The officials estimate 5,000 fish died from that detonation of a 5-pound explosive charge near the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
Norway deep-sixes Florida aquarium's offer to take Keiko
September 27, 2002 (Seattle Times) The Norwegian government has nixed a request to have Keiko the killer whale moved from a fjord to the Miami Seaquarium, saying, "It would be a great step back to put him in an aquarium again."
Meanwhile, a Puget Sound group has filed a counter-volley in what is becoming a worldwide orca-custody battle. The Whidbey Island-based Orca Network yesterday asked federal marine officials for a permit to take Lolita, a killer whale now at the Miami Seaquarium, and return her to her native Puget Sound.
In a firm but diplomatic letter sent Tuesday to Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek said Norway plans to keep Keiko in its waters in part because the country is generally skeptical about "keeping huge animals like whales in captivity."
Coalition may sue salmon farms
September 26, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Pinks' survival is at stake, group says.
A coalition of environmental groups threatened yesterday to take legal action against the federal and British Columbia governments to halt open-sea fish farms they say are threatening the survival of wild salmon.
The threat followed a report by the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform earlier this week that said virtually entire spawning runs of pink salmon off the northern coast of Vancouver Island were wiped out by an outbreak of sea lice that originated in fish farms in the area.
Biologist Alexandra Morton, a longtime critic of salmon fish farms, said her research indicated more than 3 million pinks failed to return this fall to seven streams to spawn.
Salmon are spawning and thriving but could use a good rain
September 26, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) In mere inches of water, the threatened species can be seen splashing frantically, dorsal fins above the river's shimmering surface, white bellies flashing in the sun.
That the fish are plentiful is an encouraging sign of the successful recovery of wild and hatchery salmon, say experts, who attribute much of the comeback to habitat restoration and other conservation efforts -- and prime ocean conditions.
But that's this year. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, currently conducting fish surveys, is warily monitoring low water levels that could affect future generations of salmon.
"The stream flows are extremely low," Ferber said. "There's a lot of fish out there, but the majority of them, especially coho, are still waiting out in the ocean and Strait (of Juan de Fuca). There's good feed in the ocean, plus they're not suicidal. They're biding their time until the rains come."
"It's good news; it's very encouraging," Hymer said. "But people need to remember that these things are cyclical -- that things can go gunnysack quickly. Just seven years ago, we had the lowest spring chinook run on record -- only 10,000 came back compared to this year's spring count of 400,000."
Kraemer and others also say as the population increases, water levels of the Northwest's rivers, creeks and streams will loom larger as a regional issue. More growth means greater demand for hydroelectric power, water for drinking, showering, car washing, lawns and even golf courses. Agriculture, the state's second-largest industry, also needs water for irrigation.
B.C. salmon runs near collapse, biologist says
September 25, 2002 (National Post) 'Much worse than I predicted. What we are looking at now is a 99% decline'
A near collapse of pink salmon runs in the Broughton Archipelago, where more than three million fish failed to return to spawning rivers this fall, is being blamed on fish farms in the area.
Close to 30 farms, which raise Atlantic salmon in open sea pens, have clustered in the bays and inlets on the approaches to spawning streams in the region, on the mainland coast off northern Vancouver Island.
Alexandra Morton, a biologist who has long been a critic of fish farms, said yesterday the farms have created a perfect winter breeding ground for sea lice, which flourish in the farms because of the concentration of fish and artificial lighting.
State drops the ball on global warming
September 24, 2002 (Seattle Times) Over 70 percent of all Americans believe global warming is happening, it's serious, and they want something done about it.
Why then does our state government propose to do exactly the opposite and allow enormous, new greenhouse-gas emissions in our state - for private profit - when it doesn't have to be this way?
At least 15 fossil-fuel power plants, the single biggest sources of greenhouse gases and global warming, are proposed for this state. Each is an absolutely enormous greenhouse-gas polluter. One plant alone, such as Sumas 2 in Whatcom County, increases our gases as much as almost half a million more cars!
There's a better option. It's used by the city of Seattle and in other states, and it works. It's called "offsetting" or "mitigation" - the polluter is required to finance projects that reduce the same amount of greenhouse gases elsewhere.
Aquarium in Florida wants Keiko in captivity (See Orca Network Keiko Alert!)
September 21, 2002 (Seattle Times) A curious new notion is crossing the ocean: De-free Willy!
A Florida aquarium has applied to federal marine officials for permission to bring Keiko, star of the movie "Free Willy," back to the United States, presumably for public display.
The move comes after the orca, subject of a massive and costly effort to reintroduce him to the wild, swam 900 miles from an Iceland pen to Norway, where he mugged for handouts and human attention.
Susan Berta of the Free Lolita Campaign said Keiko's interaction with people in Norway's Skaalvik Fjord is "just a setback." The trip itself, she said, "is a huge success and a huge step forward, and that has the marine-park industry shaking in its boots."
For now, Norway has jurisdiction over the animal and aims to keep it that way.
Moreover, the Norwegian people have grown attached to Keiko, he said. And while Norway allows the hunting of certain whales, "Norwegian policy is that whales should not be kept in aquariums."
The orca's keepers decry a plan to turn him into a park attraction
September 21, 2002 (Portland Oregonian) Ken Balcomb, a whale researcher from Washington's San Juan Islands who was instrumental in early negotiations to free Keiko from Mexico, turned his attention to Lolita in 1995. With help from his brother Howard Garrett, former Gov. Mike Lowry and then-Secretary of State Ralph Munro, Balcomb started what is now an international movement that calls for the Seaquarium to free Lolita.
Lolita long has been considered a better candidate for release than Keiko, because her family -- the L pod -- is well-known to Washington marine mammal specialists. L pod orcas frequently ply the waters around the Sound and San Juan Islands.
Keiko's family group, by contrast, is unknown. Orcas often remain with the same pod their entire lives, and they count on one another to survive.
"Putting Keiko in the Miami Seaquarium would be like returning him back to the conditions he was rescued from in Mexico," said Susan Berta of the Orca Network in Greenbank, Wash. "It's bad enough to have one whale in there."
Three or four times a year, the Orca Network stages demonstrations outside the Seaquarium, pleading for Lolita's release.
Animal Rights Groups Fuming Over Latest Keiko Proposal September 21, 2002 (KOMO TV)
Team Prepares Winter Home for Keiko
September 19, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Animal handlers for Keiko the killer whale are looking for a quiet place where the "Free Willy" movie star can spend the winter away from the fans who have swamped him with attention.
"What we want is a place with more killer whales, less people and a local community that is supportive," David Phillips, part of Keiko's team, said Thursday.
Several communities want to host the whale. The Norwegian Fisheries Directorate has said Keiko must not be penned or commercially exploited.
If moved, Keiko would be led by a boat, Phillips said. He said the orca is in excellent health.
Phillips said they still hope Keiko, who was captured near Iceland in 1979, will one day "choose the whales over the people," despite the setback of him seeking, and getting, human companionship Norway.
Culture can grow in logging deal
September 17, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) On a verdant island chain off the remote north coast of British Columbia, Federal Way-based Weyerhaeuser Co. has embraced a new way of logging Indian lands.
In response to losing a lawsuit filed by the Haida Nation, Weyerhaeuser has drastically slashed its harvest levels on the Queen Charlotte Islands.
D-Day looms for Keiko
September 17, 2002 (Aftenposten) A decision is due Friday on where the friendly killer whale Keiko will spend the winter. The team now looking after him in a Norwegian fjord has reportedly received several offers, Norwegian fisheries officials are involved and Keiko continues to enjoy all the attention.
The whale who literally leaped to fame in the 1993 movie "Free Willy" has been eating well and continues to charm those around him. His adoring public, however, is being kept at a distance.
Baird isn't opposed to the idea of sticking around, but the Skaalvikfjord itself isn't suitable because it soon will be covered with ice. Other local options include the outer fjord area of the Tysfjord in Nordland, where other killer whales congregate during herring season.
Newborn orcas belong mostly to our children
September 14, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer op-ed by Brenda Peterson
It is perfectly still on the Strait of Georgia. Long summer sunlight slants across the quiet waves, illuminating our Island Adventures boat. No generators. Only the hydrophone's rapid clicks and calls of orcas communicating. There is a high mewling sound like a kitten; then rapid-fire bursts of ultrasonic echoes like a rusty hinge.
This is orca talk over long distances, almost out of human hearing. Certainly we cannot see the complex family relationships, because so much of it is under water. But new and exciting discoveries have led some researchers to declare that orcas have their own distinct vocal and behavioral "culture." As Howard Garrett of Orca Network tells the gathered whale watchers: "Orcas live in ancient, sophisticated societies. They practice cooperative hunting, maintain complex family structures, pass knowledge down through generations. They are acutely aware of themselves and others."
Every orca born now belongs mostly to our children, who know so well what it is to be an endangered species. So it is now to these children I turn when we adults fail to see our way -- and their future.
P-I Focus: Now is the time to return Luna to his wild ways
September 14, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) op-ed by Leigh Calvez
Strict New Limits on Coastal Fishing Adopted
September 14, 2002 (Los Angeles Times) New federal rules adopted Friday and intended to protect collapsing coastal fish populations will affect people with the most tenuous association with the ocean--from landlocked diners to weekend sportsmen.
Adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council after a week of excruciatingly detailed discussion, the rules will govern waters extending from Seattle to San Diego. The U.S. Department of Commerce must sign off on the rules before they take effect Jan. 1.
During a public review period which begins now, fishermen are expected to lobby for changes in the council's recommendations. A listing of the proposed new regulations will posted on the council's Web site, beginning next week.
Historic ban slapped on bottom-fishing off West Coast September 14, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Wild Sky Wilderness bill quickly passes key test in Congress
September 13, 2002 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A House committee yesterday approved the Wild Sky Wilderness area, a major -- and surprisingly swift -- step that moves the proposed 106,000-acre refuge in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to the brink of reality.
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., sponsor of the legislation, said the vote yesterday increases chances that the first wilderness area to be created in Washington since 1984 will be approved this year.
Under the bill, the acreage in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest would receive the highest level of protection afforded federal property. It would be off-limits to vehicles, including bicycles and snowmobiles, as well as to logging, mining and other commercial uses.
Fish farming set to grow with moratorium lifted
September 13, 2002 (Vancouver Sun) The fish-farming industry is poised to expand as B.C. lifts its moratorium on new farms, but critics say the move could damage another major industry -- tourism.
But Lynn Hunter of the David Suzuki Foundation said the expansion of fish farming is a mistake even if job creation is its only goal.
"This is an industry that is already out of control," said Hunter.
Van Dongen said that ministry officials will continue to monitor farms and any found polluting will be shut down until the forces of nature clean up the mess. he new regulations allow "for a temporary impact right under the net pen and they will have to allow the site to remediate before they can restock the pen," he said. "That means the natural transition that takes place in the ocean as time lapses."
The minister said 36 fish farms are currently moving to better sites.
Close said improvements in anchoring systems mean that pens can now be put in deeper sites with more current, which means better flushing of waste.
Keiko may have to move
September 10, 2002 (Aftenposten) Killer whale and movie star Keiko may have to leave the scenic Skålvikfjord in Nordmore - but this will not mean the end of Norwegian hospitality. His team seeks a spot where Keiko can more easily meet other orcas.
Marine biologist Fernando Ugarte confirmed that they are looking for a new home in Norway for Keiko. "We are considering three concrete alternatives between Ålesund and Kristiansund. It is an advantage if Keiko can have the company of other killer whales," Ugarte said.
Jan Einarsen at the Ålesund Aquarium agrees. "He must be moved if he is to have a chance to meet other killer whales. It is rare for one to make the trip to Skålvikfjord," Einarsen said. He has been in contact with Keiko researchers Ugarte and Colin Baird over the past days, discussing alternative sites for the celebrity whale.
Norway's Directorate of Fisheries expressed concerns on Tuesday about plans to move Keiko. "It is important for us that any move does not conflict with other interests, for example fish farming," directorate information chief Olav Lekve told Norwegian news bureau NTB.
The directorate also opposes limiting Keiko's movement and any commercial exploitation of the killer whale. This should spell the end of local suggestions that Keiko get the use of a small bay in Skålvikfjord.
Monday's exercise session for the slightly sluggish Keiko went well, and his researchers were pleased that their charge was recovering from whatever had ailed him in recent days.
Besides getting regular training Keiko has also been getting fed. On Monday he put away 20-25 kilos of fish. His team plan to keep this care routine at least through the autumn, when they hope that he will be able to fend for himself.
Keiko: Experts monitor the whale's health
September 9, 2002 (Norway Post) On Sunday, experts from the Keiko team took blood samples from the whale, after the animal had shown signs of inactivity over the last couple of days.
They hope to determine whether or not Keiko is sick.
US experts who have experience with Keiko from when the whale lived at the Newport Aquarium, will examine the results of the blood tests.
After two days of inactivity, Keiko again moved around a bit on Sunday afternoon, and Fernando Ugarte and Colin Baird from the Keiko team will on Monday try to lead the whale on a short "training session". -We must keep him moving, Ugarte says.
Rest, food and recreation for Keiko
September 9, 2002 (Aftenpost) While Keiko-tenders await the results of a blood test the killer whale will get plenty of care. Penicillin, to stave off what appears to be a cold, 50 kilos of fish, plus some exercise are on the menu for the popular orca.
After a few days of worryingly sluggish behavior, Keiko showed signs of recovery with some brisk swimming on Sunday. On Monday Keiko's team plans to give the killer whale some physical training.
"We are more optimistic now. The worst is over," said marine biologist Fernando Ugarte. The Mexican and his Canadian colleague Colin Baird are responsible for Keiko's gradual transition back to an independent life in the wild. The duo have been concerned about Keiko's recent passive behavior, but believe it is due more to stress than illness.
Ugarte and Baird plan to lure Keiko further out in the fjord so that they can give the animal a controlled and undisturbed exercise session.
"We must get him moving. This means that we take him with us to another part of the fjord, give him some fish, and play with him in a controlled way," Ugarte said.
Pacific Coast Natives gather for celebration of culture
September 8, 2002 (Seattle Times) "For a lot of people this is a chance to celebrate their culture and to say hi to old friends," said Belmont, a Suquamish tribal member who also has ties to the Tulalip Tribes. "This is a chance to say welcome home to all the salmon and a time to get everybody back together."
The annual event, which continues today at piers 61 and 62, remembers the rituals that Native peoples along the Pacific Coast have held sacred for centuries as they celebrated the first salmon runs of the season.
Still, decades of timber clear-cuts, dams, residential development and raising fish in hatcheries have put some species of wild salmon in danger of extinction.
"That's just one more reason for us to be happy and welcome our brother (salmon) home," said one man at the festival.
Norwegians told to quit being so friendly to Keiko
September 7, 2002 (Seattle Times) Norwegian officials yesterday barred people from getting near Keiko the killer whale, hoping to protect the star of the movie "Free Willy" from hordes of fans he appears to enjoy.
Six weeks after he was released from his pen in Iceland, the 6-ton orca turned up 870 miles away in a western Norwegian fjord last week, drawing crowds wanting to pet him, swim with him and even climb on the friendly whale's back.
The ban keeps unauthorized people from going within 165 feet of Keiko or feeding him, Roen said.
Officials hope Keiko will get bored and hungry and set off to find his own food, perhaps finding a pod of killer whales to join.
Dam loss won't hurt economy, new study says
September 5, 2002 (Tri-City Herald) Environmentalists released a new study Wednesday suggesting replacing the four lower Snake River dams with conservation, gas-fired generators, solar stations and wind farms would have a negligible effect on the economy.
The study compiled by the Rand Corp., a California-based think tank, indicated the effect on the states of Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon would be "plus-or-minus fewer than 20,000 jobs," or less than one-third of 1 percent of all potential jobs.
Scientists continue push for whale conservation
September 4, 2002 (Nanaimo Daily News) Nanaimo's Pacific Biological Station has seen a significant jump in federal funding for the study of the west coast's marine mammals starting three years ago in anticipation of the recently passed Species at Risk Act.
Dr. John Ford, the head of the marine mammal program at the PBS, said until a few years ago funding was available for only two scientists to periodically study local killer whale populations.
"We currently have over five researchers studying and monitoring not only killer whales full-time, but also humpback, blue and North Pacific right whales as well as sea otter populations," he said.
Keiko is safe in Norway
September 4, 2002 (Aftenposten) Keiko, film star and killer whale, will be safe in Norway. Despite the advice of an expert that the orca should be put down because of its inability to adapt to life in the wild, officials say Keiko is not in danger.
Death threats for whale researcher September 4, 2002 (Aftenposten)
Note: see HSUS/FWKF news release for confirmation that Keiko has been foraging successfully.
Experts fear Keiko is too fond of people
September 3, 2002 (Aftenposten) While locals flocked to a remote west-coast fjord to play with celebrity whale visitor Keiko on Monday, researchers who've worked hard to get him used to the wild are worried. They fear Keiko is simply too fond of human contact.
"Keiko had managed to become self-reliant," Ugarte told newspaper Aftenposten. "Now we fear the long-term consequences of people feeding him and playing with him."
Jan Einarsen, director of the aquarium at nearby Aalesund, thinks Keiko should decide for himself where he wants to be. Einarsen made a trip to Halsa, the village nearest the spot where Keiko is splashing around, and agrees that people should resist their own urge to play with him and feed him.
"But that's not so easy when Keiko is as friendly as he is," Einarsen said.
Whale expert: 'Best to destroy Keiko'
September 3, 2002 (Aftenposten) While Keiko the killer whale frolicked in a western Norwegian fjord Tuesday, a local whale expert warned that Keiko may not survive the winter. If he doesn't detach himself from humans soon, it may be best to destroy him, he said.
Niels Oeien of the Institute for Marine Research in Bergen, who specializes in sea mammals, says Keiko also may represent a threat to Norway's major salmon breeding industry. "Reports are coming in now that the killer whale (spekkhuggeren, in Norwegian) is disturbing fish farms within the Skaalvik Fjord," Oeien told Aftenposten Multimedia. "If there are more such episodes, he should be destroyed."
Oeien's remarks may be viewed as shocking and brutal by many, but Oeien claims he also has the 26-year-old Keiko's best interests at heart.
"I think the entire Keiko story is more or less crazy," he said. "Millions have been used to tame him, in order to turn him into a movie star. Then millions more are used to try to make him wild again.
Keiko surfaces for a frolic in Norway; desire for human contact seen as big setback
September 3, 2002 (Seattle Times) Keiko, the killer whale who became famous as the star of "Free Willy" movies, has turned up in a Norwegian fjord, where delighted coastal residents petted and swam with him.
And while Norwegians are delighted by his playfulness, the people who have tried to re-acclimate him to the wild after years of captivity say the orca's frolics represent a significant setback.
Famous whale 'Keiko' swims into fjord
September 2, 2002 (Aftenposten) Arild Birger Neshaug had a memorable boat trip on the Skaalvik Fjord on Norway's west coast Sunday. He, his daughter and two friends were out in his open boat when they suddenly found themselves accompanied by a playful whale that experts are convinced was none other than "Keiko." [Note: This article contains an excellent photo showing Keiko is finding sufficient food.]
Keiko the Whale Frolicking in Fjords September 2, 2002 (New York Times)
'Free Willy' whale turns up in Norwegian fjord September 2, 2002 (USA Today)
Keiko a star again September 2, 2002 (Ananova)
Famous movie star finds refuge in Norway September 2, 2002 (Norway Post)
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