The Southern Resident orcas NEED the whale watch boats – here’s why (video)

Wild orca riding in the wake behind the whale watch boat. (travelvancouverisland.com)

As I watched the live stream of yesterday’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force meeting I was struck by the cool-headed logic and data presented by the Pacific Whale Watch Association captain, Jeff Friedman. He detailed how many southern resident orcas have been present in the Salish Sea this season, which pods, where, and when.
Had it been needed he also would have been able to provide information on the body condition of each whale, background on which females may be pregnant, and how the older calves are doing. Government agencies and small NGOs just don’t have the resources to locate the orcas or to provide daily surveillance.
Star (J46) with her mother Polaris (J28) (deceased) and brother Dipper (J54) (also deceased). Read Star’s story.   (Photo credit: Center for Whale Research)

Earlier this year I heard from so many about the anguish, pain and tears that clouded their vision but never their judgement as they gave a grieving mother space while she carried her dead baby for over two weeks. Hers was a silent rebuke to what we’ve allowed to happen but those who were out there on the water watching from a respectful distance brought her message to the public…the whales need more fish.
And one last thing – the whale watch boats are part of the orca’s lives. Of course it’s impossible to know what they think about the humans who are so enchanted by them, but they know we’re watching.
Check out the video below to see just how aware they are!
 

References:
Southern Resident Orca Task Force meeting (today, 18 October 2018). Archived versions are not yet available. UPDATE 10/19/18 the archived versions are now available. Click on this link and enter ‘killer whale’ into the search bar.
Center for Whale Research
Pacific Whale Watch Association

The role sea otters play in saving salmon – a benefit for the Southern Resident orcas

Photo Credit: Alaska Magazine

In a marine protected area off of Vancouver Island, Canada, a rich ecosystem supports breeding and migrating seals and sea lions – and at least one adorable sea otter, Ollie. Southern resident killer whales pursue the adult salmon that hide among the kelp fronds, and the mammal eating transient orcas hunt the seals and sea lions.
Luckily, nothing seems interested in eating Ollie, to the relief of his fans who follow his Facebook page.
Admittedly, not everyone loves these furry machines that need a quarter of their body per day to keep warm, even with their luxurious coats. They consume over a hundred different species of primarily bottom dwelling invertebrates, but come into conflict with fishermen over the sea cucumbers, urchins, clams, abalone etc that have a fairly high market value.
When the otters move into a region they do have an impact on those fisheries, but what they give back to the environment makes them worth their weight in gold – their foraging habits quickly restore kelp beds where juvenile salmon hide on the journey to the open ocean. Each female Chinook salmon that successfully returns to spawn carries as many as 17,000 eggs, so each fish saved by adequate kelp beds can have a significant impact.
Via Sea Otter Conservation

Juvenile salmon prefer to use kelp bed prefer to use kelp bed habitat over bare areas, where they swim in the middle of the canopy as they migrate. The kelp forests also provide cover for the forage fish that fuel the salmon’s journey.
In the Puget Sound and greater Salish Sea there are few otters, and the kelp forests are in trouble:

 Dr. Tom Mumford, Washington Department of Natural Resources, reports that floating kelp beds have all but disappeared from southern Puget Sound. Declines are also reported generally from the Salish Sea, including British Columbia, Canada.
Because of the ecosystem functions provided by kelps, the consequences of declines to kelp beds in Puget Sound are not limited to the direct effects on kelp populations, but influence indirectly the many species that depend on the presence of these forests. (Puget Sound Restoration Fund).

Bull Kelp from Betsy Peabody on Vimeo.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the fluffy otters helping in the effort to restore kelp forests?

Where you may be able to see otters in Puget Sound:

In 2006, the distribution of the majority of the Washington sea otter stock ranged from
Pillar Point in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, west to Cape Flattery and as far south as Cape Elizabeth
on the outer Olympic Peninsula coast. However, scattered individuals (usually one or
two individuals at a time) have been seen outside of this range.
… Sightings around the San Juan Islands, near Deception Pass, off Dumas Bay, off the Nisqually River, and in southern Puget Sound near Squaxin and Hartstene Islands have also been reported.

Photo Credit: popsugar.com.au

 
 
 

Another update on the captive orca mother Morgan and her calf (1 October 2018)

orca calf, killer whales at Loro Parque
2010 photo of Kohana’s calf Adan being bottle fed. ( Ulrich).
Bottle-feeding has resumed for the calf, although the formula is augmented by the addition of Morgan’s milk. The videos below show how this was done when another of Loro Parque’s mother orcas, Kohana, rejected her calf.


From Loro Parque (10/1/2018)

It’s now just over a week since Morgan gave birth and the entire team of carers, veterinarians, and international experts who have been monitoring the situation are delighted with the calf’s progress. The primary focus continues to be ensuring that the calf is getting all the nourishment it needs and the team has been concerned that Morgan’s milk production has been lower than required.
While natural breastfeeding is always the preferred option, nothing is more important than the wellbeing of the animals in our care – so the veterinary team has stepped in to assist at times by temporarily bottle feeding the calf.
Despite continuous attempts to help Morgan feed naturally, her milk production remains low. As a result, the only option has been to move the calf over to regular bottle feeds. Thanks to Loro Parque’s world-leading facilities and the help of the world’s top experts, we are able add the small amount of milk that Morgan is producing daily to the bottled formula feed, which is provided in a special dedicated medical pool. Using Morgan’s milk helps enrich each meal the calf receives and provides the vital antibodies that aid the development of its immune system.
Despite the challenges in breastfeeding, the bond between mother and calf continues to grow and Morgan is demonstrating exemplary maternal instincts as she swims alongside her calf at all times they are together.
We know from the many messages of support we continue to receive that many of you are closely following this news, so we will keep providing updates as and when we have new information.