Category Archives: Rescue and Rehabilitation

An orca rescue, rehab, and retirement facility in the San Juan Islands; please share your thoughts at a town meeting

Orcas
Photo credit – Dale Mitchell, Eagle Wind Tours

Media release:

The Whale Sanctuary Project is holding a series of town meetings in Washington State to discuss the concept for a rehab/rescue facility for the endangered Southern Resident orcas, which can also serve as a retirement home for orcas retired from entertainment parks and aquariums.
The meetings will be held in Olympia, Gig Harbor, Seattle, San Juan Island, Orcas Island and Lopez Island.
A rehab/rescue facility that can also be home to orcas retired from marine parks Lori Marino, President of the Whale Sanctuary Project, and Charles Vinick, Executive Director, will present their vision for a 60 – 100 acre seaside sanctuary that will be a full-service veterinary and “urgent care” facility in the San Juan Islands for free-ranging orcas who live-strand or need special assistance in a controlled setting prior to being returned to their pod. In addition, the facility will house orcas who have been rescued from life in concrete tanks at marine parks and aquariums.
The team is looking forward to making a visual presentation and engaging in discussion with the local communities in the Puget Sound area to hear their input on the sanctuary idea, answer all questions, and discuss all concerns. That’s because any successful sanctuary involves a partnership between the organization creating it and the community that embraces it.
We hope everyone will come out to these meetings to meet Lori and Charles and hear about the Whale Sanctuary Project.

Town Meeting Details

Olympia – Tuesday, July 16, 7pm (doors open at 6:30)
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel – Capitol Room
415 Capitol Way N
Street parking and small adjacent lot.
Gig Harbor – Wednesday, July 17, 7pm (doors open at 6:30)
Ocean5 – Atlantic Ocean Meeting Room
5268 Point Fosdick Dr.
Parking on site.
Seattle – Thursday, July 18, 7pm (doors open at 6:30)
Great Hall at Green Lake LLC – Great Hall
7220 Woodlawn Ave NE
Paid underground parking below PCC Community Market (one block from venue)
San Juan Island (Friday Harbor) – Sunday, July 21, 2pm (doors open at 1:30)
Brickworks Event Center
150 Nichols St.
Plaza parking and street parking.
Orcas Island (Eastsound) – Tuesday, July 23, 7pm (doors open at 6:30)
Emmanuel Episcopal Church – Parish Hall
242 Main St.
Street parking.
Lopez Island – Wednesday, July 24, 7pm (doors open at 6:30)
Woodmen Hall
4102 Fisherman Bay Rd.
Parking on site.

Young gray whale successfully returned to the sea after three days on the beach

Photo courtesy of NOAA

It doesn’t happen often that whales can be returned to the ocean after stranding, but thanks to the dedicated effort of authorities and trained volunteers this young gray whale is among the lucky few. Please be aware that NOAA is facing budget cutbacks, and their ability to help whales and dolphins in need will be curtailed without funding. Please see this page, and contact your legislators (contact information is provided).

 Information on the rescue provided by NOAA spokesman Michael Milstein:

A rescue effort during high tide late Friday night freed a young gray whale that had been stranded on a remote beach in Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary for about three days.
Responders from NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and Olympic National Park fashioned a harness around the whale linked to pulleys anchored lower on the beach and on the shore. Experts from Cascadia Research Collective, SR3 [SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research] , and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife led responders in using the pulley system to turn the whale seaward and pull it into deeper water.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The team also dug a shallow trench around the whale to help float and position the whale as the tide came in. They had hoped the especially high tide at 10:19 p.m. would give the 24-foot whale its best chance of returning to the open ocean.
“The mission at one point seemed like it was failing with little progress made and the whale not seeming to be able to help and even appearing to turn back toward shore,” said John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research Collective. “Then, at the last possible moment, with the whale in about four feet of water in the surf and the harness released, the whale started to swim.”
“A cheer went up in the darkness and the assembled team stood shining lights into the darkness and mist, stunned at the apparent turn of events and success,” Calambokidis recalled.
Experts estimated the whale as one to two years old, and in fair condition. Although the whale was earlier described as female, it is now believed to be a male. The whale remained alert throughout the stranding and tried aggressively to free itself several times during earlier high tides.
Historically it is unusual for large stranded whales to be successfully freed. The National Park Service and NOAA Fisheries thank the many volunteers and staff who assisted in the response.
“Whales are not designed to be out of water so their organ systems rapidly decline when beached and medical care is essential,” said Lesanna Lahner, wildlife veterinarian from SR3, a marine mammal rescue organization. “To help him over these hurdles, supportive medications such as B vitamins and anti-inflammatories were administered.”
Lahner and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife marine mammal biologist Dyanna Lambourn administered the medications.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

NOAA Fisheries removed gray whales from the endangered species list in 1994 and estimates the population that migrates along the West Coast of the United States at about 20,000. Gray whales typically travel north from their Mexican breeding grounds to Arctic feeding grounds in spring and early summer.
Gray whales are unusual among whales in that they regularly feed in shallow waters. Several gray whales have been seen in recent months feeding in the vicinity of the stranding, which is in Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Rescuing large whales is inherently dangerous for both the animals and responders, and members of the marine mammal stranding network are highly trained in marine mammal biology and health, safety protocols, and emergency response procedures. NOAA Fisheries reminds the public not to approach stranded marine mammals and instead report them to the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network hotline at 1-866-767-6114.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Rescued orca Springer has had a second calf – join the celebration

ORPHAN ORCA SPRINGER GIVES BIRTH TO SECOND CALF
The heroic rescue in Puget Sound fifteen years ago of the orphaned orca Springer (A-73) and her return home 300 miles north to Johnstone Strait will be celebrated July 21-23 at Telegraph Cove, British Columbia.

Springer was rescued and returned to her family in 2002. Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium

“Fifteen and half years ago Springer was orphaned, 300 miles from home, starving, sick and completely alone,” said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, director of the Cetacean Research Program at Ocean Wise. “Her rescue, relocation, reunification with relatives and transition to motherhood is an incredible story. I see it as testimony to both the resiliency of killer whales as a species and to the wonderful things we humans can do when we work together on behalf of — rather than against — nature.”
Fifteen years later, Springer is still healthy and now has given birth to her second calf. The new baby was first spotted by CetaceaLab on BC’s north central coast on June 5th and confirmed by a Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) research survey. Springer’s first calf, Spirit, was born in 2013.
Springer and her new calf. Photo credit: Lisa Spaven, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

“Springer’s story is an inspiration on many levels,” said Paul Spong of OrcaLab.  “It proved that an orphan orca, alone and separated from her family, can be rehabilitated and returned to a normal productive life with her family and community; and it showed that disparate parties with diverse interests can come together and work together for the common goal of helping one little whale.”
“Celebrate Springer!” brings together the 2002 rescue team to give first-hand accounts of how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated. She was taken by jet catamaran to the north end of Vancouver Island and reunited with her Northern Resident family.
“We can hardly believe it has been 15 years since Springer was reunited with her family.  We encourage everyone to come and celebrate this milestone with us at the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove,” said Mary Borrowman, director of the Center. “The most exciting news is the confirmation that Springer has had another calf and we hope we will be fortunate enough to see this famous mother with her family this summer.”

  • The public is invited to Telegraph Cove at 11 AM on July 22 to hear “Springer’s Story,” a slide show narration by members of Springer’s rescue team, followed by a panel discussion.
  • At 4 PM, the new Telegraph Cove Whale Trail sign will be dedicated.
  • At 5:30 PM, the public is invited to join in for a salmon dinner on the Boardwalk.

 
“The Springer success story continues to be an inspiration for all of us working on conservation in the Salish Sea,” said Lynne Barre, the lead for orca recovery at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast regional office in Seattle. “The partnerships created during Springer’s rescue provide a strong foundation for international cooperation as well as coordination between government, state, tribal, and non-profit groups to benefit both Northern and Southern Resident killer whales.”
“Springer’s reunion is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and co-organizer of “Celebrate Springer!” Telegraph Cove event. “To get the little whale home, we had to learn how to work together, as organizations, agencies and nations. Above all, we put her best interests first. Community members played a key role in shaping Springer’s fate.  We hope her story inspires people to join us in working on issues facing our endangered southern resident orcas today, with the same urgency, commitment, and resolve.”
For more information, check out Springer Facebook Page  and The Whale Trail.

This rescued killer whale calf is thriving 15 years later – “Celebrate Springer!” events

Fifteen years ago, Springer, an orphaned and lost orca calf was successfully rescued, rehabilitated, and returned to her wild family.
“Springer’s story is an inspiration on many levels,” said Paul Spong of OrcaLab. “It proved that an orphan orca, alone and separated from her family, can be rehabilitated and returned to a normal productive life with her family and community; and it showed that disparate parties with diverse interests can come together and work together for the common goal of helping one little whale.”

PHOTO CREDIT:
Graeme Ellis: Springer and calf Spirit, 4 July 2013

“The Springer success story continues to be an inspiration for all of us working on conservation in the Salish Sea,” said Lynne Barre, the lead for orca recovery at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast regional office in Seattle. “The partnerships created during Springer’s rescue provide a strong foundation for international cooperation as well as coordination between government, state, tribal, and non-profit groups to benefit both Northern and Southern Resident killer whales.”
Fifteen years later, Springer is still healthy and in 2013 had her first calf, Spirit. They are most often seen on the north central British Columbia coast and occasionally return to Johnstone Strait in summer.
“Springer’s reunion is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and organizer of the Vashon Island event. “To get the little whale home, we had to learn how to work together, as organizations, agencies and nations. Above all, we put her best interests first. Community members played a key role in shaping Springer’s fate. We hope her story inspires people to join us in working on issues facing our endangered southern resident orcas today, with the same urgency, commitment, and resolve.”
The 2002 Springer rescue team will reconvene in programs and events in Puget Sound, Georgia Strait and Telegraph Cove in May, June and July to give first-hand accounts of how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated. She was taken by jet catamaran to the north end of Vancouver Island and reunited with her Northern Resident family.

Celebrate Springer!” begins on May 20 on Vashon Island near the waters were Springer was found. The Vashon Theater program of “Springer’s Story” will feature members of the rescue team, a dance performance by Le La La Dancers, who were present at Springer’s release, and followed by a late afternoon Whale Trail sign dedication at the Point Robinson Lighthouse.
The event will continue in June and July with programs at NOAA Fisheries, Whale Trail Orca Talk, Whale Trail sign dedications, and conclude with a three-day program at Telegraph Cove, British Columbia, where Springer was released in 2002 and rejoined her Northern Resident family.
For more information, check out the Celebrate Springer Facebook page and The Whale Trail.


“Celebrate Springer!” partners include NOAA Fisheries, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, OrcaLab, Whale Interpretive Center, Vancouver Aquarium and The Whale Trail.