Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Program Update
NOAA Fisheries and Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently held their final workshop on the effects of salmon fisheries on Southern Resident killer whales. The meeting was the third of a series to review and present available information on salmon fisheries and orcas to an independent scientific panel. The panel members expect to release their final report by the end of November. Background information on the workshop process, the draft science panel report, and presentations from all three workshops are available at: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/Whales-Dolphins-Porpoise/Killer-Whales/ESA-Status/KW-Chnk.cfm.
Summary – the final report is due out on November 30th, 2012 but in essence the Southern Resident orcas stand a chance of a slow recovery. It is a complex problem. [Note; this is a correction 10/16/12].
Northwest Fisheries Science Center researchers Marla Holt, Brad Hanson, and Candice Emmons, with collaborators from the University of Washington, University of California at Davis, and Cascadia Research Collective, are conducting a study to examine how sound might affect the behavior of endangered killer whales using Dtags (digital acoustic recording tags). The Dtag is temporarily attached to a whale via suction cups. It contains a number of sensors that record audio and fine-scale movement data. Although Southern Resident killer whales continued to be somewhat sporadic with their time in inland waters this field season, the team successfully deployed Dtags for a total of 31.8 hrs (average tag deployment time was 3.5 hrs) this September. They deployed 2 on adult males, 4 on adult females, and 3 on sub-adult males (6 were L pod, 1 was K pod, and 2 were J pod members). A good range of vessel types and numbers was included in the data set this year. The research team also collected many prey and fecal samples during both Dtag deployments and separate fecal follows. They’re grateful to those folks who gave them space to work on the water. It helped tremendously with their success this field season. See more details, photos and videos of their efforts at http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/cbd/marine_mammal/marinemammal.cfm, http://earthfix.kuow.org/flora-and-fauna/article/unlocking-the-secrets-and-sounds-of-orcas-underwat/ and http://www.cascadiaresearch.org/kws/dtagging.htm.
Note the number of boats present (orange dots), also habitat use by this whale (K 33) – a great amount of information can be gained by the use of a non-invasive tag.
Orcas in Puget Sound
After spending most of the summer in the San Juan Islands, our resident orca pods have just begun venturing south into inland waters for the fall and early winter months. Early reports of orcas in Puget Sound came in Sept. 30, and on Oct. 1, Orca Network observed members of L pod in Admiralty Inlet. On Oct. 8, Orca Network received word of a large pod of orcas heading south in Admiralty Inlet – likely the Southern Resident orcas, chasing salmon down into Puget Sound. You can help by calling in any whale sighting immediately, so research boats can be deployed and land observers can get out to track and photograph the whales while they’re in Puget Sound. Call in whale reports to a toll-free number: 1-866-ORCANET; e-mail to email@example.com; or post on the Orca Network Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OrcaNetwork.