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What are the migratory patterns of Orcas in the Pacific Northwest? Do the pass by Vancouver in the Fall?
I know you can never predict the sightings of a wild creature, but I was wondering what the migratory patterns of orca pods are in October in the Pacific Northwest, and what the possibilities are that they may be passing through Vancouver?
How large is the population of the migratory orca pods passing in the fall (if one can even know that)?
There are three ecotypes of orcas which are all members of the same species but tend to display different behaviours, communicate differently and have different prey preference. The most common ecotype near Vancouver are the Resident Orcas, specifically the Southern Resident Orca population. This population is comprised of the J-pod, K-pod and L-pod. These populations feed mainly on salmon which as scarce in the Salish Sea during the winter. Therefore, resident orcas tend to disperse in search of food during winter months in the as far north as Alaska and as far south as Califorina.
As salmon travel to the ocean from inland rivers for food during the summer, the Southern Resident Orcas return to the Salish Sea to feed. By October, many salmon return to their natal stream to spawn and therefore, the abundance of prey for the Southern Resident Orcas depletes. During this time, orcas will begin to disperse North and Southward in search of more abundant prey but some will linger to feed on the salmon late for spawning.
If you're interested in more information about this population, check out Orcas of the Salish Sea
The killer whale or orca (Orcinus orca) is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, of which it is the largest member. It is recognizable by its black body with a white underside and patches near each eye. Killer whales have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as seals and other species of dolphin. They have been known to attack baleen whale calves, and even adult whales. Killer whales are apex predators, as no animal preys on them.
Data Deficient (IUCN 3.1) 
- Delphinus orca Linnaeus, 1758
- Delphinus gladiator Bonnaterre, 1789
- Orca gladiator (Bonnaterre, 1789)
A cosmopolitan species, killer whales can be found in all of the world's oceans in a variety of marine environments, from Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas, absent only from the Baltic and Black seas, and some areas of the Arctic Ocean. They are highly social some populations are composed of very stable matrilineal family groups (pods) which are the most stable of any animal species.Their sophisticated hunting techniques and vocal behaviours, which are often specific to a particular group and passed across generations, have been described as manifestations of animal culture.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature assesses the orca's conservation status as data deficient because of the likelihood that two or more killer whale types are separate species. Some local populations are considered threatened or endangered due to prey depletion, habitat loss, pollution (by PCBs), capture for marine mammal parks, and conflicts with human fisheries. In late 2005, the southern resident killer whales, which swim in British Columbia and Washington state waters, were placed on the U.S. Endangered Species list.
Wild killer whales are not considered a threat to humans and no fatal attack on humans has ever been documented, but there have been cases of captive orcas killing or injuring their handlers at marine theme parks. Killer whales feature strongly in the mythologies of indigenous cultures, and their reputation in different cultures ranges from being the souls of humans to merciless killers.
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Gray Whale Migration Seasons
During the two annual gray whale migration seasons, up to 20,000 whales pass by the coast, close enough to the shore to be visible from the mainland. It’s easily one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in Oregon.
Moreover, each year there are about 200 to 400 “resident” gray whales in Oregon. Falling out of the northward spring migration and sticking along the Oregon Coast in summer and fall, this group of whales offers reliable, year-round whale watching in Oregon. As such, you can spot gray whales in Oregon at any time of the year.
There are two peak gray whale migration seasons to know for the best whale watching in Oregon—from March through May and from mid-December through mid-January.
The spring migration season is when the gray whales migrate from their Baja Mexico breeding lagoons to their feeding grounds in the Arctic. Pregnant females and nursing mothers with young calves are the last ones to depart, leaving only when they’re sure their children are strong enough for the journey. Those young families arrive in Oregon around mid-April, which, as mentioned above, is also when you might see orcas hunting off the Oregon Coast.
A couple of hundred whales leave the group and stay just off the Oregon Coast through summer and fall. They will join the southward migration again in winter.
The Dyrt PRO ensures easy trip planning and helps you deal with last-minute cancellations. With the upgraded version of The Dyrt app, you can access campgrounds, maps, and photos for offline use during outdoor adventures.
As early as October, as the northern sea ice slowly creeps southward, the first gray whales begin migrating back south from the Arctic Sea. They start arriving in Oregon in December. The peak of the winter migration typically happens between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when about 30 whales migrate past the coast each hour.
While the total number of gray whales in Oregon is the same during both migration seasons, the winter season sees a far denser concentration of the animals simply because it’s much shorter. All animals pass by Oregon in the timespan of about a month in winter. The spring migration season, on the other hand, lasts up to four months.
What eats them?
The only known natural predator for harbor porpoises in Puget Sound is the Bigg’s killer whale, which is increasing in abundance in recent years (Shields et al. 2018). Observations have shown that all regularly encountered groups of Bigg’s killer whales predate upon both pinnipeds and cetaceans (Ford et al. 1998).
In other areas, including off the outer coast of British Columbia, great white sharks predate on harbor porpoises. Although there are not any official documented encounters with great white sharks in the Salish Sea, they are common along the coast of Washington and could come into the area occasionally.
Members of the southern resident killer whales, including L pod and more recently J pod, are sometimes observed to kill but not consume harbor porpoises (see this synopsis in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound).
Known for its mesmerizing scenery and successful wine industry, Oregon is situated in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. Luckily for whale watchers, Oregon is a largely coastal state.
The coast of Oregon is famous as a tourist attraction for the various activities it provides. Although whale watching has a place of its own in terms of popularity, these include hiking and camping.
The Oregon Coast is stated as one of the seven wonders of Oregon, and with good reason. There are many species of whales, porpoises, and dolphins to be spotted along this coast. There are up to ten species and are usually seen all year round.
In particular, blue whales can be seen further out to sea where there are generally colder waters, while humpback whales can be spotted closer to the shore. Oregon also is a good spot to see minke whales, and among many other marine mammals, orcas make a rare appearance.
However, Gray whales are the star of the show and are the most spotted species during whale watching. Gray whales are plentiful in the area all year round and can be spotted easily.
Oregon conducts a special program each year to officially begin the holidaymakers’ period of whale watching.
They call the program ‘Whale Watch week,’ and it starts mid-December every year, the usual time of vacation. Lasting two weeks from mid-December, Whale Watch week is a truly unique experience and is the perfect time to go whale watching in Oregon.
Oregon has specific areas teeming with whales, and one of these is Depoe Bay, usually considered the best place in Oregon to go whale watching.
Depoe Bay is the main area where grey whales are found throughout the year due to their feeding habits, and there is an abundant source of food in the waters around the bay.
Cape Lookout State Park is another excellent whale watching spot that comes close behind Depoe bay to give the most successful whale watching experience.
Situated at a higher altitude that needs considerable hiking to get to, Cape Lookout State Park is a largely reclusive area surrounded by forests and facing the open sea.
It provides the perfect backdrop to the place where the magic of whale watching happens, and its cliff face structure provides an even better view than from the shore.
Cape Lookout is found a few miles west of Portland and doesn’t require a cruise tour to whale watch as it juts out into the sea and is ideal for whale watching.
Whale & Dolphin Tracker Live Sightings Map
The Whale & Dolphin Tracker app is designed to record on-water sightings of marine wildlife from locations worldwide.
The sightings map displayed here is user-generated and these sightings represent where users of the app are reporting their on-water sightings of whales and dolphins. This map displays the previous 7 days of sightings in near-real time and does not rely on tagged whales. The app is free to use and open to all users who would like to add their own whale and dolphin sightings when they are at-sea. You can use the species and date filters to view sightings from the past 12 months.
Download the App
- Go here from your mobile device and click “Your Account” to create a user login
- Download the app from the App Store or from Google Play below
Pacific Whale Foundation’s Whale & Dolphin Tracker app collects scientific data about marine wildlife from around the world.
Since 2001, our certified marine naturalists have been recording marine wildlife sightings through PacWhale Eco-Adventures . Our Whale & Dolphin Tracker is the latest iteration of this long-term monitoring program. We can now log GPS location, group dynamics, observed behaviors and other data in real time, which is uploaded instantly to our research database.
Members of the public can participate in our research as community scientists by using the Whale & Dolphin Tracker to submit marine wildlife sightings from locations worldwide. Whale & Dolphin Tracker allows you to log sightings in real time, create a full GPS track and upload photos from your mobile device. Your contributions are added to a global database that helps researchers track and monitor cetaceans, determine patterns of species distribution and study marine animal interactions with their environment.
What is the Best Month to See Whales in Maui?
Whale sightings in Maui typically occur between November and May. The best months to see whales is usually between mid-January and March as this is considered peak whalewatching season.
On occasion, we will have our first whale sighting as early as October or late September. That’s why we monitor our live-whale tracker closely and always tell guests to expect the unexpected.
Where can I see Whales in Maui?
As our whale tracker illustrates, the ‘Au‘au Channel between Maui, Moloka‘i and Lānaʻi is one of the best spots to see whales.
That said, whales can often be seen throughout Hawaiian waters, including from places such as Lahaina, Maʻalaea and Honolua Bay.
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What are the migratory patterns of Orcas in the Pacific Northwest? Do they pass by Vancouver in the Fall? - Biology
DFO TO BEGIN RECOVERY PLANNING FOR PACIFIC KILLER WHALES
February 27, 2004 ( DFO Press Release ) Vancouver, BC – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is pleased to announce the launch of killer whale recovery planning for the northern and southern resident populations as required by the Species At Risk Act (SARA).The northern resident population was designated as threatened, and the southern resident population designated as endangered in November 2001 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Both populations are listed in Schedule 1 of SARA.
A core group of technical experts has been selected by DFO to form the Resident Killer Whale Recovery Team. Their mandate is to assess the threats to the northern and southern resident killer whale populations and to provide advice to the Minister on effective measures for recovering these populations. Team members bring expertise from various relevant fields such as killer whale biology, population assessment, genetics and health, in addition to environmental pollution, acoustics, prey resources, ecotourism and management.
The team includes U.S. expertise, recognizing the trans-boundary nature of the southern residents and our common goal of protecting and recovering resident killer whales.
"We are excited to bring together this extraordinary team of experts that will ensure any new protective measures are practical, effective and sustainable," said Marilyn Joyce, Marine Mammal Coordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Chair of the Northern and Southern Resident killer whale Recovery Team.
Early in the process, DFO will provide a formal opportunity through a technical workshop for killer whale researchers, stewardship groups, communities and industry representatives to provide their expertise and perspectives on recovery objectives to the Recovery Team. The workshop is planned for the spring of 2004 and attendance will be by invitation. Anyone interested in participating in this process should consult the DFO Species at Risk killer whale website for information on submitting an application to participate.
Consultations are expected to commence in the fall of 2004, providing an opportunity for members of the public, First Nations communities and other government and non-government organizations to express their ideas and views on killer whale recovery objectives and the approaches under consideration.
For more information on the recovery planning process for resident killer whales, including recovery team memberships and consultation information visit the DFO Species at Risk killer whale website: www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Reworked ordinance offers break on waterside buffers
February 27, 2004 ( Seattle Times ) King County farmers may not have to create wide buffer zones around creeks and wetlands under a proposed ordinance if they provide other protection to those waterways, County Executive Ron Sims said yesterday.
An earlier draft of a revamped "critical-areas ordinance" angered many landowners by requiring a "no-touch" zone of as much as 300 feet around wetlands and 165 feet beside streams.
The law also would severely restrict how much logging or land-clearing rural property owners could do.
Sims' staff drafted those tough proposals after the federal government's finding that Puget Sound chinook salmon is a threatened species. Concern about local fish runs grew further with Sims' announcement last fall that a run of freshwater salmon has gone extinct in Lake Sammamish.
Under the latest reworking of the critical-areas proposal, farmers could avoid waterside buffers altogether and other rural landowners could submit plans to reduce their size.
Bill on cruise-waste rules dies
February 26, 2004 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer ) A measure to more tightly regulate pollution from cruise ships calling on Puget Sound has died in the legislative committee where it was introduced, but its chief sponsor vowed to try again.
Introduced in January, the bill couldn't muster the votes to get out of the House Fisheries, Ecology and Parks Committee by the Feb. 6 deadline.
The measure would have imposed $25,000-a-day penalties against cruise ships that discharged a variety of wastes into state waters, including untreated sewage, sludge from ship toilets and sinks and oily liquid from bilges. It would have allowed state inspectors onto ships.
Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Cooper, D-Edmonds, and committee member Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, said there was concern that the bill would conflict with federal law, which limits state regulation of waste discharges.
Ruling means these salmon won't get any special protections
February 25, 2004 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer ) Citing jurisdictional grounds, a federal appeals court yesterday let stand a ruling that took Oregon coastal coho off the threatened species list because hatchery fish did not get the same protection as wild fish.
Property rights advocates called it an important victory.
The key issue is whether, when considering how many fish are in a salmon stock being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the more-numerous hatchery fish should count.
They should, says the Pacific Legal Foundation, and that should mean that many fewer stocks qualify for protections that lead to restrictions on property use.
Yesterday's ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals left the National Marine Fisheries Service no clear statement whether federal actions such as timber sales on national forests, which could affect salmon, can now go forward, said Brian Gorman, a Fisheries Service spokesman.
Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us
February 23, 2004 ( The Guardian (UK) ) Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters..
A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.
The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.
'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'
The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.
Restoring an urban salmon stream Vision, volunteers and elbow grease
February 23, 2004 ( Tacoma News Tribune ) Bits of faded plastic survey tape - some red, some pink, some orange - flutter from the fragile limbs of thousands of native trees and shrubs at the bottom of Puget Gulch in Tacoma's North End.
In the bleak, gray days of winter, the eye-catching strips alert visitors to restoration within the 66-acre ravine. Several hundred thousand dollars in grants and donations plus a fortune in donated labor have turned a neglected dumping ground into the home of one of Tacoma's only salmon-bearing streams.
The revival campaign is aimed at 1,648-foot-long Puget Creek, which is narrow enough to jump over and empties into Commencement Bay.
Many familiar with Puget Creek's transformation applaud Scott Hansen for his vision and commitment. Hansen, 50, of Puyallup, is a disabled former contractor with a college degree in wildlife ecology who cheerfully devotes all of his time to creek stewardship.
Eventually, he'd like to create an interpretive center in the gulch to teach people about salmon and their habitat.
"It's a lifetime project," he said.
Marine center looks to Tacoma
February 19, 2004 ( Tacoma News Tribune ) Backers of a proposed $20 million to $25 million marine biotechnology research center are looking to the City of Tacoma to put up nearly half the money required for the project. But the payoff could be big, they say.
The proposed Puget Sound Center for Urban Bay Research, which evolved out of a failed attempt to build a downtown aquarium as a tourist attraction, could make Tacoma home to one of the nation's only facilities studying the restoration of polluted urban waterways similar to the Thea Foss Waterway, supporters said.
Unprecedented $3.3 million whale study planned
February 18, 2004 ( The Olympian ) Hundreds of researchers from 10 Pacific Rim nations will take part in a $3.3 million project to study the humpback whale population, federal marine officials announced Tuesday. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration said the three-year project will be the most comprehensive study ever of the endangered mammals.
Richard Spinrad, assistant administrator of NOAA's National Ocean Service, said the study -- called SPLASH, for Structure of Populations, Level of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks -- will provide information to better protect the whales in their habitat and rebuild their population.
Researchers from the United States, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Canada, Philippines, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala will be involved in the project.
The humpback whale was listed as an endangered species in 1973. The whales migrate from summer feeding grounds off Alaska, spending their winters in the Hawaiian Islands.
$3.3 million whale study launched February 18, 2004 ( Maui News )
Hunters fear losing favored spot if island returned to wild
February 18, 2004 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer ) Faced with spending a half-million dollars to repair decomposing dikes and culverts here, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is considering a plan to breach the dikes and let the area return to the tidal marsh it once was.
Already, dikes and other structures used to control flooding have deteriorated to the point that popular hunting spots such as the "first puddle" have turned into inaccessible lakes.
The proposed plan essentially would finish the job nature already has started, inundating much of the northern half of the island.
It would make great habitat for salmon but tough walking for people who hunt, walk dogs, bird watch or trail run on the secluded, tranquil 400-acre island that's just a stone's throw from Interstate 5.
February 16, 2004 ( Tacoma News-Tribune ) The Nisqually Tribe and others have been working to revive this creek. The state and federal governments paid some of the bill - part of $161 million they spent over the last four years for fish habitat protection and restoration across Washington.
Federal oversight also hovers over all kinds of activities in Washington - from paving a new road to building a house or a sewer plant - to ensure the fish aren't killed. Thirty years ago last week, U.S. District Judge George Boldt ruled from his Tacoma courtroom that the state must properly manage the fish.
Why do we care so much, spend so much, regulate ourselves so much, for these creatures?
"Salmon is a Northwest icon," said Jeff Koenings, head of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Indeed, salmon are a way to make a living, and a barometer of our environment.
Fifteen salmon populations in Washington are federally listed as "threatened" or "endangered." The watersheds where they live encompass 70 percent of the state's geographic area and 90 percent of its population.
Global warming hitting Northwest hard, researchers warn
February 16, 2004 ( Seattle Times ) To find the most compelling evidence to date that global warming could shrink damp Cascade snows by half in coming decades, Seattle scientists first took a step back in time.
They picked through a half-century of snow data from Arizona to British Columbia to better grasp how an atmospheric stew of greenhouse gases may shape our region for years to come.
Their conclusion: Their earlier warnings about future water shortages in the Northwest were more accurate - perhaps even understated.
"If you think the water fights we have now are intense . you ain't seen nothing yet," University of Washington professor Ed Miles said yesterday during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Miles said the moisture in snow that nourishes the West and gives life to its network of rivers has been steadily declining since at least World War II.
And the hardest-hit region has been the Cascades, where battles to provide enough water for fish, agriculture and power have been worsening for years.
But in coastal regions, such as the Cascades and parts of northern California, where winter temperatures are balmier, warming during the same period actually reduced moisture in spring snows by more than 30 percent.
Bush air-pollution change opens door to coal-fired plant February 16, 2004 ( Seattle times )
Action to save oceans backed
February 16, 2004 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer ) Poll finds Americans in favor of treaties, ready to eat less seafood
Most Americans favor international treaties to rescue the ailing oceans and say they are willing to eat less of certain kinds of seafood threatened by overfishing, a national poll released yesterday in Seattle showed.
Just under half of Americans questioned in the poll support regulations restricting coastal development and -- despite what scientists say -- only one-third believe their own actions have a large impact on oceans and coastal areas.
The poll of 2,400 Americans was released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest scientific society, whose five-day annual conference concludes here today.
The time to act is now, said Usha Varanasi, director of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, a government lab in Seattle run by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
"We need to act as we get information, and we must not put the burden on scientists to be completely certain before we take action," Varanasi said in her address at the meeting. "The policy-makers need to be brave enough to make decisions."
Coastal development, scientists say, harms the oceans in a number of ways, including shunting tainted water into nearshore areas when rain washes oil, animal feces and many other pollutants off streets and other hard surfaces. Automobile exhaust and scrapings of toxic copper from brakes find their way into nearby waterways and ultimately the ocean.
Even development far inland can have this effect. A "dead zone" the size of New Jersey has developed in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of pollutants washed down the Mississippi River from as far north as Canada.
"When it comes to oceans, what happens on land is as important as what happens in oceans," Lubchenco said.
"We're losing coastal habitats at a frantic pace."
A sea of activity: Project aims for by-the-moment account of ocean floor
February 13, 2004 ( Seattle Times ) At a price tag of $250 million, the North-East Pacific Time-Series Undersea Networked Experiments, or "Neptune," would wire the entire Juan de Fuca Plate, which runs along the Washington coast between Oregon and Vancouver Island. About 2,000 miles of fiber-optic cable would stream data from the seafloor at gigabit-per-second speeds across a land mass the size of Oregon.
Every 70 miles or so, sensors, cameras and robots wandering up, down and around would plug into the network to send data back to scientists on dry land. On the Internet, the public could access that information, just like the images coming from the rovers on Mars. For instance, students could watch an underwater volcano erupting or blue whales migrating via live video.
If the U.S. government approves funding in two years, Neptune could be under construction in 2008 and light up in 2009. The Canadian government has committed one-third of the money.
The Monterey Bay Research Institute and the University of Victoria will install test networks in 2005, and scientists are discussing what kind of equipment the network will require for experiments. The project's partners also include heavyweights such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California .
Open oceans being sought to save variety of species
February 13, 2004 ( Seattle Times ) When Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872, Congress ordered it protected "from injury or spoliation of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural conditions."
That decision is hailed as a good part of the reason the United States still has bison, grizzly bears and a place with habitat rich enough to support reintroduction of gray wolves in the mid-1990s.
Scientists learning more about the loss of ocean predators such as marlin, cod and sharks to fishing are turning to national parks as a model in calling for vast, open-ocean preserves.
Today, scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle will unveil advances in technology that are allowing them to track the movement of sea creatures.
That, in turn, is providing greater evidence of the important open-ocean places the world's largest predators use to feed and breed - places that, if protected, could help such creatures thrive.
Oceans in peril: 'We have to change course,' say scientists
February 12, 2004 ( Seattle Times ) Next month, a report from a panel appointed by President Bush is expected to paint a stark picture of oceans in trouble, and will call for sweeping new oversight measures to reverse decades of ecological decline in marine waters.
"We have major problems," said Andrew Rosenberg, dean of life sciences and agriculture at the University of New Hampshire, and a member of the president's U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, which has been working for three years on the report. "Whether you label it a crisis or not, we view the issues as very severe. We have to change course."
At least one-third of fish stocks measured by the National Marine Fisheries Service are considered "overfished," including several Pacific groundfish species that will take decades to rebound. The journal Nature reported last year that the estimated number of large ocean predators globally - tuna, marlin, sharks and halibut - has plummeted 90 percent in half a century. Nutrient-filled runoff has polluted at least 38 separate U.S. coastal waterways with enough algae that they're starved of life-giving oxygen - waters ranging from portions of nearby Hood Canal to a "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey.
"If you need an example where plain inattention to man's impacts on a marine species' habitat has put something in jeopardy in a generation, look no further than salmon."
Even today, federal fisheries managers in Seattle are still trying to gauge with precision what's wrong with the 27 species of Northwest salmon now listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Navy report clears Shoup in porpoise deaths
February 11, 2004 ( Everett Herald ) The Everett-based destroyer's sonar is not to blame, it says, but others remain skeptical.
The USS Shoup did not kill or hurt marine mammals when it used its sonar in May during routine training in Haro Strait, a just-released Navy report concludes.
The inquiry comes on the heels of a preliminary report published Monday by the National Marine Fisheries Service that studied the deaths of 11 porpoises that washed ashore near the time the Shoup passed through the strait.
While some whale watchers and marine mammal experts thought the porpoise strandings were tied to the Shoup's passage through the area between Vancouver Island and San Juan Island, the fisheries service report was inconclusive. It said scientists could not find any definitive evidence of ear damage in the porpoises that could be linked to the Shoup's sonar.
The Navy report, however, was more clear-cut.
The inquiry also said the Shoup's sonar did not harm killer whales in the area.
That's significant, because southern resident orcas were designated a depleted stock by the National Marine Fisheries Service last year. The agency has begun work on a recovery plan to restore the orcas, an icon of the Pacific Northwest.
The Shoup came closest to the orca J-Pod as it passed Andrews Bay on San Juan Island in Haro Strait just after 2:30 p.m. May 5. The killer whales were about 1.5 nautical miles away, and experts who reviewed videotapes of the orcas taken as the Shoup passed by said the orcas appeared to act normal.
Report on porpoise deaths splits Navy, whale groups
February 10, 2004 ( Everett Herald ) An examination of harbor porpoises that washed ashore in Puget Sound last year showed no apparent ear damage from the USS Shoup's sonar, Navy officials said Monday.
More certain, the Navy said, the Shoup did not cause a deadly stampede of marine mammals onto seashores when the Everett-based destroyer used its sonar during routine training in Haro Strait in May.
"We did not cause a mass stranding," said Navy Rear Adm. Len Hering, commander of Navy Region Northwest.
Some marine mammal experts, however, said the report was inconclusive.
The report states that the noise emitted from the Shoup's sonar "could not be ruled out" as a contributing cause of the porpoise deaths.
For that reason, members of the community of scientists that track killer whales and other marine wildlife rejected the notion that the Navy should now be able to walk away from blame in the porpoise deaths.
"I'm absolutely certain that they caused virtually every whale, dolphin and porpoise in Haro Straight on the fifth of May distress to the point of panic," said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor.
"There is no doubt that there was a massive response," he said.
No Evidence Of Sonar-Caused Trauma On Dead Porpoises February 10, 2004 ( KOMO TV )
Questions reverberate about sonar incident February 10, 2004 ( Bremerton Sun )
Inconclusive sonar report fans debate
February 10, 2004 ( Seattle Times ) Even with expensive, high-tech tests, scientists found no evidence to prove that a Navy destroyer's sonar echoes near San Juan Island contributed to the deaths of several Puget Sound porpoises last spring, according to an eagerly awaited report released yesterday.
But the scientists wouldn't rule it out, either.
The inconclusive quality of the National Marine Fisheries Service report served to inflame the longstanding and bitter debate between the Navy and Puget Sound environmentalists over sonar testing in the Sound.
The Navy yesterday took the offensive, declaring the study clears the destroyer USS Shoup in the deaths of the harbor porpoises. And the admiral in charge of the Navy's Northwest operations affirmed the Shoup would continue to occasionally test its sonar in Haro Strait, under certain conditions.
That prompted environmentalists to complain the Navy was wrongly assuming its sonar posed no threat to marine mammals. And they again urged the Navy to halt all sonar testing here.
"If this proves anything, it's that the Navy isn't going to give up anything," said Ken Balcomb, who heads the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island. He turned over one of the dead porpoises for the study, but the cause of its death couldn't be determined.
"And this will happen again." Balcomb said. "There's no doubt, especially if the attitude is that, 'We're exonerated and we'll practice sonar anytime we damn well please, anywhere we damn well please.'"
Role of Navy sonar in porpoise deaths still unclear February 10, 2004 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer )
Public campaign targets Hood Canal's dirty secret
February 10, 2004 ( Seattle Times ) Hood Canal, a scenic and seemingly pristine arm of the Pacific Ocean, is polluted, and government needs to quickly identify the culprits and reverse the damage before the fjord becomes a dead sea, Gov. Gary Locke and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks said yesterday.
The two announced a crackdown that will include federal, state, local, tribal and volunteer efforts, underwritten by millions in state and federal dollars. They're hoping to announce a plan of attack by April.
Hood Canal is one of the worst pollution hot spots on the West Coast, said Brad Ack, chairman of the interagency Puget Sound Action Team.
Monitoring shows the problem is growing worse, Locke said.
"It's the development," Dicks added.
As population and the trappings of civilization spring up along the shoreline, pollution seems to follow, he said. It's not a single industrial polluter or U.S. Navy operations on the canal or some other installation causing the bulk of the problem "It's us," he said.
'Unified effort' sought for gasping Hood Canal February 10, 2004 ( Bremerton Sun )
Proposal would spend millions to save Hood Canal from pollution February 10, 2004 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer )
Ruling reshaped fishing, tribal rights
February 9, 2004 ( The Olympian ) If the landmark court ruling known as the Boldt decision has an epicenter, it very well could be the lower Nisqually River watershed on the Thurston County border.
That's the home of the treaty tree, which stands sentinel over the site where Washington Territorial Gov. Isaac Stevens and South Sound tribes signed the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854.
Thirty years ago this Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge George H. Boldt handed down a shocker of a decision, relying on that treaty to all but assure Western Washington treaty tribes a right to half of the harvestable salmon and steelhead in the region.
It's also the home of Frank's Landing, a 6-acre riverfront parcel where Indian activists, borrowing a page from the civil rights movement, staged fish-ins in the early 1960s to draw attention to their yet-to-be-accepted treaty right to fish.
And it's the birthplace of Billy Frank Jr., the charismatic, leather-faced Nisqually Indian who has devoted his life to keeping his tribe and others connected to the salmon and their rivers.
Legal scholars call the Boldt decision -- based on U.S. vs. Washington -- one of the most significant natural resource rulings in Pacific Northwest history, reshaping state fisheries and the way salmon are managed.
For Western Washington treaty tribes and nontribal fishers alike, the ruling hit home in much the same way the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education did 50 years ago in the Deep South, said former state Department of Fisheries director Bill Wilkerson.
But in many respects the promise of the Boldt decision is unfulfilled. Salmon are in decline. Prices for fresh-caught fish are rock bottom. And many tribal members remain shackled in poverty.
"We're getting further away from salmon recovery," Frank said. "Natural resources are so low on the totem pole, nobody cares."
Summary of the Preliminary Report on the investigation of harbor porpoise stranded in Washington around May 2003 coinciding with mid-range sonar exercises by the USS Shoup
February 9, 2004 ( NOAA Fisheries ) During the period of May 2, 2003, to June 2, 2003, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network received reports of 14 stranded harbor porpoise in Washington, an abnormally high number when compared to the average stranding rate of 6 per year recorded over the past decade. The reports coincided with the use of mid-range sonar by the naval vessel USS SHOUP transiting Haro Strait on 5 May 2003, and observations by researchers and the public who reported altered behavior of marine mammals in the area. Eleven of the 14 porpoise were collected for examination.
NOAA Fisheries assembled a multi disciplinary team of biologists, veterinarians, veterinary pathologists, research scientists and a neuroanatomist who conducted extensive classical forensic necropsy examinations from 22 July through 24 July, followed by laboratory diagnostic and histological analyses and complemented by high resolution computerized tomography scans. Samples were taken for a variety of analyses, including disease screening, parasitology, chemical contaminant and lipid analyses, aging studies, prey identification and domoic acid analysis.
The Preliminary Report presents a summary of past porpoise stranding reports, information on the discovery and collection of porpoise during the May-to-June timeframe, gross and microscopic findings from the necropsy examinations, analysis of the high resolution image data, and discussion on the possible causes of mortality.
More than 70 percent of the specimens were in moderate to advanced states of decomposition, which made interpretation of the cause of death difficult. The cause of death was determined for 5 of the 11 porpoises examined by the multi disciplinary team. Of these five animals, two were found to have suffered blunt force trauma, while illness was implicated in the remaining three cases. No cause of death could be determined for the remaining six animals. The examinations did not reveal definitive signs of acoustic trauma in any of the porpoises examined. The possibility of acoustic trauma as a contributory factor in the mortality of any of the porpoises examined could not be ruled out. The multi-disciplinary team noted that lesions consistent with acoustic trauma can be difficult to interpret or obscured, especially in animals in advanced post-mortem decomposition.
Uncovering Secrets of Blue Whale's Song
February 7, 2004 ( National Geographic ) The haunting call of the blue whale is the most intense of any animal alive. These rhythmic pulses and deep moans are so loud they travel across entire oceans, yet the frequency of these calls is often so low that they are totally inaudible to human ears.
Though marine biologists are still at a loss to explain exactly what purpose blue whale calls serve, deciphering this lonely song could assist in conserving the endangered species. Despite being perhaps the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth, the blue whale's low numbers, elusive nature and tendency not to follow consistent migration paths make it difficult to study.
Now, in an effort to glean new insights into calling and other behaviors, National Geographic Crittercam documentary makers have teamed up with Francis and whale expert John Calambokidis to capture both audio and video footage from blue whale-worn cameras for the first time. That unique footage, captured off the coasts of California and Mexico, has helped shed light on vocalizations, and provided novel insights into swimming dynamics and feeding behavior.
Alaska's sea otters to receive federal protection
February 6, 2004 ( Seattle Times ) Southwest Alaska's sea otters, which have undergone dramatic and mysterious declines in recent years, will receive Endangered Species Act protection under an Interior Department proposal announced yesterday.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton said scientists are not yet certain what is driving the sea otters around the Aleutian Islands toward extinction. "But," she said, "listing this population as 'threatened' under the Endangered Species Act will be an important step in discovering the reasons and reversing the decline."
The Center for Biological Diversity, based in Arizona, petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the otters in 2000, and in December, two animal-welfare groups sued, seeking to force a listing decision.
Southwest Alaska's ocean ecosystem has collapsed in the past decade, scientists say. A variety of once-abundant sea mammals has nearly disappeared.
Alaska's sea otters were nearly driven to extinction a century ago by commercial fur hunters, but the population rebounded after hunting was banned in 1911. By the 1980s, the region was again a stronghold for otters, the waters' thick kelp forests home to more than half of the world's population.
But since then, the otters' numbers have dropped by an average of about two-thirds.
A group of scientists, led by James Estes of the U.S. Geological Survey, has theorized that the otters are being eaten by killer whales.
Fishermen defend the slaughter of the dolphins
February 6, 2004 ( The Times of London ) The dolphins thrash in pain as they bleed to death, emitting whistles and cries. The shallow waters of the lagoon in which they are trapped turn red with blood.
It has always been done this way in Taiji, and for four centuries the world paid little attention. Now, however, this obscure spot on the southernmost tip of central Japan has become the site of a remarkable confrontation.
Environmentalists from around the world have used press releases and websites to denounce the hunters. Some activists have descended on the town to obstruct the killing. The fishermen have been defiant. There have been scuffles and arrests.
To the people of Taiji, the foreigners are racist hypocrites, maliciously interfering with a legitimate business rooted in centuries of tradition.
To the activists, the annual dolphin hunt is a barbaric anachronism verging on murder. The atmosphere in Taiji, in a country in which face-to-face confrontation is almost taboo, is tense.
Wild salmon see glimmer of hope
February 5, 2004 ( The Oregonian ) Since the dramatic turnaround in ocean conditions, the risk of extinction for many wild salmon stocks in the Pacific has diminished, according to the latest status reports from the federal government.
Of the dozen Columbia Basin salmon stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act, all except Snake River sockeye are "clearly in less jeopardy of extinction" than they were three years ago, according to the October reports from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Federal officials said improved prospects for threatened fish by no means amount to recovery. Wild spawning populations remain a fraction of their historic abundance, before decades of habitat destruction, dam-building and overfishing.
Without hatcheries -- which release about 200 million artificially produced salmon each year in the Columbia Basin -- the number of returning adults would drop by more than 80 percent for some stocks.
Federal biologists reported that many wild spawning groups are not reproducing quickly enough to increase their population. Population growth rates have remained negative for nearly all spawning groups of chinook and steelhead in the lower Columbia, upper Columbia and upper Willamette rivers.
Since 2000, population growth rates have moved closer to the replacement rate for most stocks. But growth rates declined for at least three populations, including Snake River spring and summer chinook. The future of Snake River sockeye depends entirely on a captive breeding effort.
Hill CT scan tells whale of a tale
February 5, 2004 ( Hilltop Times ) Although located hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, technology at Hill may help unlock the mysteries of how whales use and are affected by sound.
Computed Tomography equipment, normally used to scan Minuteman missile parts to detect cracks, voids or separations, was recently used for something much different - to scan a baby fin whale's head.
The 500-pound, frozen whale head arrived by FedEx from Sea World in San Diego, accompanied by Dr. Ted Cranford, San Diego State University Department of Biology adjunct professor of research, and Megan McKenna, research assistant and graduate student.
"Currently, I am working on a project to investigate the impact of high-intensity sound in large whales with a group of colleagues from Scripps Institution of Oceanography," Dr. Cranford said.
Through this research, Cranford has made many discoveries about how marine animals make and use these sounds. However, after beaked whales began stranding themselves on beaches and dying, the focus of his research has changed course.
Uncertain currents - Geophysical studies paint a complicated picture of the Pacific Ocean patterns that influence salmon populations
February 4, 2004 ( The Oregonian ) To explain the stunning, continuing rebound of Northwest salmon, experts have zeroed in on an enigmatic climate cycle at work in the Pacific Ocean.
Since at least 1890, the Pacific has abruptly alternated patterns every 20 to 30 years. One phase is strongly favorable to young salmon entering the sea. The opposite phase is not so kind, as shown by the consistently poor survival of salmon during most of the 1980s and '90s.
As if on cue, the Pacific seemed to undergo its latest "regime shift" in 1998, moving into a favorable cool cycle last seen from 1949 to 1976. That has stoked optimism for another quarter-century of abundance from the sea.
Indeed, some salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia Basin -- supplemented by tens of millions of hatchery-propagated fish released each year -- have reached the highest numbers since completion of Bonneville Dam in 1938. Last year's spring chinook run more than tripled the 10-year average.
But recent studies, including several presented last week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Portland, paint a more complicated picture. Intense observation since 1998 shows that key climate and ecosystem conditions don't match previous phases. The latest findings suggest the Pacific might revolve through more than two modes of long-term behavior.
Whale of an idea if it works
February 3, 2004 ( The Globe and Mail ) Aboard the RV New Horizon - In a boat off the central California coast, scientists huddle around a computer screen sprinkled with slow-moving white dots, each representing a migrating whale detected with sonar.
The researchers are testing an experimental sonar system, designed to detect any Pacific gray whales within a 1.5-kilometre radius using high-frequency sound waves that are believed to work above their normal hearing range.
Researchers at Scientific Solutions Inc., the New Hampshire firm that developed the system, say the sonar appears to work, detecting marine mammals more reliably than other methods without causing the whales to break away from their migratory path or otherwise show signs of injury.
The navy's role has fed a darker fear for environmentalists - that if it proves successful, the new sonar will make it easier for the military to declare an area of the deep sea to be relatively free of protected species, and thus open to more destructive activities.
"This sonar will be used as an excuse to engage in activities harmful to whales," said Lanny Sinkin, an attorney for the environmental groups. "It helps them escape responsibility for disrupting the normal activities of whales, by saying they're not injuring or killing them."
The sonar's backers say they share the same goal of protecting difficult-to-locate whales and other marine mammals that could be unintentionally injured or killed by human activities.
Salmon study reinforces need to restore habitat
February 2, 2004 ( The Olympian ) A sizeable number of the young chinook salmon cruising the shallow waters near South Sound shorelines were born in other places, according to recent field research by the Nisqually and Squaxin Island tribes.
Fish from the Green, White and Puyallup rivers and their tributaries in King and Pierce counties are using the South Sound near-shore habitat to feed and rest when they leave the freshwater and migrate to saltwater.
Recent studies identifying young salmon caught in nets cast from beaches found that 20 percent to 25 percent of the fish were from rivers and streams outside South Sound, tribal officials said.
Coded wire tags implanted in the fish at hatcheries tell researchers where the fish are from.
"The numbers surprised us," said David Troutt, natural resources director for the Nisqually Tribe. "The prevailing wisdom is that most salmon leave their natal streams and generally head north toward the ocean."
The discovery adds import to efforts to restore and protect South Sound estuaries and shoreline habitat, Troutt said.
"It tells us the Nisqually River estuary is a regional nursery that is incredibly important to young salmon," he said.
Sperm whales steal black cod from hooks
February 2, 2004 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer ) Fishermen marvel at animal's dexterity and intelligence
Sperm whales have learned to pluck sablefish hauled from the black depths of the Gulf of Alaska, showing a dexterity that belies their enormous size and toothy, underslung jaws.
"They somehow just pick them off like grapes," said Sitka longliner Dick Curran, who has fished the gulf's deep waters for decades. "I don't know how they do it, and I don't know the depth. . Sometimes you get the heads back, sometimes you just see lips, and sometimes they're just shredded."
No one knows how they're cueing into the sablefish, also called black cod, whose oily, rich flesh has become a lucrative product in Japanese markets. But a coalition of commercial fishermen and biologists have begun to investigate with about $200,000 from the North Pacific Research Board.
"We don't want the fishermen to have an economic loss, plus it's a biological loss, because we don't know how many sablefish are being taken," said Sitka-based whale specialist Jan Straley, a lead investigator in the project. "My interest is biological, and I really want to understand what these whales are doing."
What Straley and her partners have found after one season suggests that male sperm whales may patrol the edge of the continental shelf, where the water is 1,200 to 3,000 feet deep.
Sperm whales are the largest toothed cetaceans, reaching more than 35 tons and 50 feet in length. That's longer than a city bus and three times as heavy. Their body is about 40 percent head.
What are the migratory patterns of Orcas in the Pacific Northwest? Do they pass by Vancouver in the Fall? - Biology
Salmon Science Goes Rim to Rim
March 27, 2003 ( Tidepool ) Salmon, the Northwest's totem for environmental vitality, migrate long distances, en route crossing national and international borders. But restoration and conservation targeted at salmon often operate in isolation, fragmented by the same political jurisdictions and boundaries. Comprehensive data and yardsticks to measure success are likewise scattered and disparate. And rather than link individual salmon stock declines to broader geographic trends across the entire Pacific Rim -- the historical range of salmon -- theyre viewed as localized events, one more bit of biodiversity slipping inexorably toward extinction.
But Ecotrust and the Wild Salmon Center aim to right the ship, so to speak.
Supported by a $2.03 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation over three years, the two organizations plan to build the single most credible and comprehensive source and synthesis of information on Pacific salmon, the 'State of the Salmon' project.
The Exxon Valdez Spill--Fourteen Years Later
March 24, 2003 ( San Juan Islander ) Opinion By Kathy Fletcher, Executive Director, People For Puget Sound and Mike Doherty, Clallam County Commissioner
Exactly fourteen years ago, at four minutes past midnight on March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez, loaded with 54 million gallons of North Slope crude oil, ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. Sadly, we in Washington State have still not completely learned the lessons of this disaster. Even now, the centerpiece of the states oil spill prevention program – a rescue tug at Neah Bay – has no dedicated source of funding.
After the Exxon Valdez ran aground, 11 million gallons of spilled oil stretched about 470 miles from Prince William Sound to the southern Kodiak Archipelago and Alaska Peninsula. In Prince William Sound, about 452 miles of shoreline was oiled. In the Kenai Peninsula-Kodiak region, more than 1,000 miles of shoreline were oiled.
The Exxon Valdez suffered damage of about $25 million $3.4 million in oil was lost and Exxon spent over $2.1 billion for clean-up activities and reimbursements up through 1991.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the probable cause of the grounding was crew fatigue and excessive workload, Captain Joseph Hazelwood's impairment from alcohol, and lack of an effective vessel traffic safety system. After the disaster, Prince William Sound required tanker escorts, stand-by rescue tugs, and restrictions on vessel transits when the weather got too rough.
One simple lesson of the Exxon Valdez was that it took only one human's error to devastate an ecosystem.
The other lessonthat prevention is a lot cheaper than cleanupis a no-brainer here in Washington state. One of the busiest marine highways in the world, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound bustle with oil tankers and huge cargo shipsan average of 6000 trips per year. Every tankers cargo and every ships fuel supply represents a potential spill at least as devastating as the Exxon Valdez.
Good progress toward marine safety was made here immediately following the Valdez spill--we secured tug escorts for oil tankers entering the North Sound once they pass Port Angeles on their way to refineries at Anacortes and Cherry Point. But the 75 miles of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the Pacific Ocean to Port Angeles, and the waters of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, remained unprotected until recently.
Since 1999, weve been able to station a rescue tugboat in the winter months at Neah Bay, right near the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A ship that loses power or steering can now be towed or pushed to safety, keeping it off the rocks and its cargo and fuel on board rather than in the water. Especially during the 2001-2002 season, the tug really showed her stuff, coming to the rescue eight times. She has proven indispensable for assistance as far away as Southwest Washington near the mouth of the Columbia River, and all the way into the eastern part of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
It's time to make the tug permanent. Its time to move on to some of the other ways we need to improve oil spill prevention in the Sound and Straits.
A permanent rescue tug is just plain common senseall year long, every year. Captain Hazelwood didnt drink only in the winter, and engine trouble can happen anytime. A mistake or mechanical failure could be a minor inconvenience if a tug is at hand. Or, without a tug, it could be the death knell for the Orca whales and the rest of our fragile marine environment. Which do you choose?
For more information, visit www.pugetsound.org or call People For Puget Sound at 206.382.7007
Groups sue to prod state action on protecting wild salmon
March 21, 2003 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer ) Citing studies showing that hatchery-produced salmon are chomping down legally protected wild salmon, conservationists this week sued to halt this spring's release of more than 5 million hatchery fish in the Puget Sound region.
Such a move would likely severely curtail sport fishing for salmon in years to come.
Washington Trout and the Native Fish Society filed suit Wednesday in federal court in Seattle against the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Plans to reduce the loss of chinook salmon protected under the Endangered Species Act are more than two years overdue, the groups pointed out in their suit.
The wild chinook salmon guarded by the law are being eaten by coho salmon and steelhead when both are juveniles, or smolts, waiting in freshwater rivers for their time to head to the ocean, the suit says.
"It's happening in virtually every river system in Puget Sound," said Ramon Vanden Brulle of Washington Trout, a Duvall-based conservation group.
"This could be a very significant impediment to salmon recovery."
Department officials have said in the past that they are committed to changing hatchery procedures so the fish produced there are not harming the legally protected wild fish, which spawn naturally.
The disappearance of wild salmon concerns scientists because fish in each river are genetically distinct. This is how the fish have managed to survive in environments as starkly different as the steep, cold streams of the Olympic Peninsula rain forest and the flat Snake River running through Eastern Washington desert.
Wiping out whole fish stocks could eventually leave some rivers without wild salmon, scientists fear.
Gray whale population recovering
March 20, 2003 ( The Olympian ) After enduring several lean, difficult years, the gray whale population is rebounding, looking fat and happy as their annual northern migration past Oregon begins.
Between 1998 and 2002, emaciated whales were common, and a significantly high 600 whales were reported stranded along West Coast beaches. Biologists theorized that the whales had reached their "carrying capacity," -- too many whales competing for the shrimp-like amphipods they dine on along the ocean floor.
But now, marine scientists watching the annual migration say the whales look much stronger than in the past four years.
Biologists are also hoping this year might buck the trend of declining whale populations: between 1999 and 2002, the numbers of eastern North Pacific gray whales plummeted by about one third, from 26,600 to 17,400.
"But last year was a nice recovery, with 834 calves seen migrating north," Perryman said. "I'm confident there will be even more calves this year."
Humanity's Slowing Growth
March 17, 2003 ( New York Times ) A generation ago, Paul Ehrlich warned in "The Population Bomb" that with demands on resources soaring, overpopulation would kill our planet. As demands on water and air soared, many thought he was right. Now it turns out that population growth rates are plummeting - for good and tragic reasons. The implications are profound. According to a United Nations report issued recently, most advanced countries could, in effect, slowly turn into old-age homes. For example, by 2050, the median age in Japan and Italy will be over 50. Fertility rates in nearly all well-off countries have already fallen below 2.1 babies per woman, the rate at which a population remains stable.
In the developing world, fertility rates average three children, down from six a half-century ago, and the U.N. projects that the rate will dip below the replacement level in most poor countries later this century. Slower growth rates are both the cause and consequence of a higher standard of living, and of the emancipation of women.
10 Chummy Years
March 17, 2003 ( Bremerton Sun ) An advocacy group's decade of effort is helping bring back a Central Kitsap stream.
A lot more salmon are swimming in and out of Central Kitsap's Barker Creek than ever before, said Paul Dorn, the Suquamish Tribe's salmon recovery coordinator. "Back in the '70s and early '80s, Barker Creek had very few salmon," he said. "Now, we get a thousand adults returning every year."
Many things are going on to help the stream, said Dorn, and chief among them is a stewardship group called the Chums of Barker Creek.
"They are a hard-working, persistent group that works with their neighbors and county officials" to protect and improve the creek as a salmon habitat, Dorn said.
Barker Creek flows out of Island Lake near Silverdale's Ridgetop neighborhood and empties into Dyes Inlet between Silverdale and Tracyton.
March 17, 2003 ( Sunset Magazine ) Why Copper River salmon is worth $20 a pound, and why it may disappear forever
Tucked into the remote southeast corner of Alaska's Prince William Sound, the delta is a 700,000-acre wetland of rivers, sloughs, and ponds that, in spring, make up one of North America's major waterfowl staging areas.
The delta is dominated by the Copper River - itself roughly 10 miles wide near its mouth - which pours into the Gulf of Alaska between massive, ever-shifting islands of sand the river has carried from glaciers far upstream. In one of the wildest and most unforgiving places on the planet, these are the waters Covel and the fishing fleet of the town of Cordova ply for Copper River salmon, a fish valued by chefs for a flavor and texture that are distinctive to this glacial river. These qualities are so prized that the Copper River king commands more than $20 per pound at the market.
Ever since the last Ice Age, salmon have returned to Western rivers to battle their way upstream - in some cases traveling more than a thousand miles - to spawn and then die. It is an annual rite that has sustained wildlife ranging from bears to bald eagles. And salmon have nourished many Native American tribes for countless generations - as food, as artistic inspiration, and as a religious symbol. The salmon is as much an icon of the West as the grizzly bear.It wasn't all that long ago that these fish teemed in most of the West's coastal rivers and were the mainstay of a major industry.
Today, runs of wild salmon are fast disappearing from rivers in Washington, Oregon, and California. Overfishing, dams, development, pollution, and water diversions have all taken their toll on the West's once-thriving fishing industry. Alaska may stand as the last viable wild salmon fishery. And here, in this overlooked corner of our largest state, may lie the best hope for the future of wild salmon.
Life history and decline of killer whales in Crozet Archipelago, southern Indian Ocean
March 10, 2003 ( Conservation Information and Research on Cetaceans ) The analysis indicates that in ten years, the population has droped from 93 individuals in 1988-1989 to 43 in 1998-2000 . A killer whale was living on average 60 years ten years ago, today its lifespan is less than 20 years.
This decrease in survival may be partly apparent if the missing individuals from different pods have left coastal waters of Possession Island. However, this hypothesis is not likely as killer whale pods have the characteristic of being socialy very stable and only a few individuals are missing in several pods, which emphasise the hypothesis of an increase in death rate.
The combination of several factors could be responsible for the decline of this killer whale population around Possession Island:
1) The decline of their main prey: large baleen whales due to past whaling, and southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) from the 60's to the 80's
2) Mortality induced by recent interactions with the Antarctic cod (Dissostichus eleginoides) longline fishery. Killer whales (but also sperm whales) understood that they could feed at lower cost by picking up the cods off the line while they are winded up.
Our analysis indicate that the situation of the killer whales is critical and has gotten worse since the development of illegal fishing - fisheries inspectors are present on boats allowed to fish in the Exculsive Economic Zone. This population is demographically unstable with a lack of recruitment (no juveniles) and a progressive loss of all the females likely to reproduce, which makes us worry about the loss of these killer whales.
Cleaning up stormwater for shellfish reasons
March 10, 2003 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer ) This sheltered bay in Whatcom County is a haven for shellfish. The area is mostly rural. Mudflats stretch for acres, and the water is cold and rich with nutrients.
But pollution -- namely fecal coliform and the pathogens that tag along with it -- have squashed shellfish collection here. The stormwater that gushes through Blaine and into the harbor and over the shellfish beds can be tainted with fecal coliform at levels far higher than what's safe to eat.
In the absence of regulations, concerned residents such as Menzies as well as local governments are trying to clean up stormwater on their own. Some governments, such as King County, are doing more than what's required by law.
Menzies is leading a group trying to solve water-quality issues by getting the public involved. Calling themselves the "Farmers of the Tideflats," the volunteers are tending thousands of oysters planted in Drayton Harbor two years ago. Their goal is to get the bay cleaned up enough by 2004 so they'll be able to harvest, eat and sell the bivalves.
The poor water quality "is a community problem," Menzies said. "And if you don't have the community involved and having an appreciation of the harbor, you aren't going to get the problem solved."
In the Northwest: A tale of graceful grays inside an ecological oasis
March 10, 2003 ( Seattle Post-Intelligencer ) Column by Joel Connelly
Even by snowbirds' standards, the gray whales of our Pacific Coast undertake a remarkable seasonal migration, calving in lagoons of Baja California during winter and then swimming 6,000 miles north to summer in Alaskan waters.
A few will stop to feed on sand shrimp near my family's Whidbey Island cabin come spring, signaling their presence with the world's noisiest breathing.
The place to feel these great marine mammals, however, is the breeding grounds of remote Laguna San Ignacio about halfway down the coast of Baja.
This still-wild place was the recent scene of what is perhaps conservation's greatest triumph to date in the developing world.
"We have an average of 300 whales a season living here: 30 to 50 come here to calve," said Raoul Lopez of Ecoturismo Kuyima, one of a half-dozen local outfits that take visitors on carefully regulated boat trips into the lagoon sanctuary.
An experience on the water -- plus driving 40 miles of world class washboard to get there -- will carry in your memory for many a moon.
Man leads beach cleanup effort on Whidbey Island
March 8, 2003 ( KING5 TV ) A one-man cleanup effort is underway on Whidbey Island. Countless beams and lumber treated with creosote are washing up on local beaches causing serious concern about the environment.
Now, Tony Frantz says he's tired of just talking about what to do about it and he's taking action of his own.
Old pilings, broken up ferry docks, railroad ties – they all contain creosote and thousands wash up on the miles and miles of beaches.
"It gets beaten up in the tide action, it splinters into long shafts of creosote that go everywhere," he said.
Tony Frantz decided to begin his cleanup efforts at a marsh that is home to about 150 migratory species of birds. It is also a place where the salmon come to spawn. All of the creosote logs that have collected there over the years have had a devastating impact on the local wildlife.
"The marine life is gone, 95 percent of our herring population is gone," said Frantz.
The Orca Network helped pay for the cleanup effort this time. If you would like to help, log on to the Web site for more information.
Fattened by Seals, Orcas Leave Canal
March 5, 2003 ( Olympian ) A group of transient killer whales has ended its two-month stay in Hood Canal, but not before putting a big dent in the harbor seal population.
The unprecedented visit ended Monday when the 11 black-and-white visitors swam under the Hood Canal bridge and headed north.
The orcas arrived for their extended stay Jan. 3, capturing the fancy of Hood Canal residents and visitors alike, who lined the shores to see the whales and occasionally watch them herd, capture and consume harbor seals near the mouths of several Hood Canal rivers.
The extended Hood Canal visit introduced hundreds of people to the behavior and biology of transient orcas, said Sue Berta, co-founder of the Whidbey Island-based Orca Network Whale Sighting Network.
The network logged 130 transient whale sightings in January and February via telephone or the Internet, she said.
"It was a real exceptional opportunity for the public to get some shore-based whale-watching activity," she said.
Killer whales head out to sea
March 5, 2003 ( Seattle Times ) The transient killer whales that spent an unprecedented eight weeks in Hood Canal, gorging themselves on harbor seals, have headed back out to sea.
Four of the orcas left early Monday, and the remaining seven left a few hours later, said marine-mammal biologist Steve Jeffries with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Hood Canal bridge supervisor Dean Crawford saw the larger group swim north and dive under the floating bridge. About two dozen harbor seals and a couple of sea lions were hanging out on the south side of the bridge as they went by, he said.
"Apparently the pod decided to check the menu one more time to see if there was any hors d'oeuvres left," Crawford said with a chuckle.
After clearing the bridge, Crawford said, "They made a beeline for the mouth of the canal," probably bound for the Strait of Juan de Fuca and out to the Pacific Ocean.
Jeffries said they likely slashed the local harbor seal population, estimated at 1,200 to 1,500 before the orcas' arrival in early January.
"There's probably not a whole lot of seals left," he said. "That's one of the things we'll be looking at."
The average killer whale probably needs one to two seals a day, Jeffries said. If the whales averaged just one seal daily, the take over two months would have been more than 600 seals. And the two big male orcas "probably needed two to three seals a day."
So-called transient orcas live along the coast and feed mostly on marine mammals. The Pacific Northwest's orcas, which spend summers in the region's inland waters around the San Juan Islands and off Canada's Vancouver Island, feed mostly on fish. A third population, called offshores, is thought to mix mammals and fish.
Hood Canal menu skimpy after 2-month feast, so orcas move on March 5, 2003 ( Seattle Post-Inteligencer )
Orcas high-tail it out to sea
March 4, 2003 ( Bremerton Sun ) A group of transient killer whales, which have dined on Hood Canal harbor seals for an unprecedented eight weeks, departed Monday after swimming quickly under the Hood Canal Bridge.
"They stopped and ate one last seal on their way out," reported bridge supervisor Dean Crawford, who observed between seven and nine whales diving under the floating structure shortly before noon Monday.
Killer whale experts had counted 11 orcas in Hood Canal -- often traveling in two groups -- so nobody was sure Monday evening whether any whales remained.