Tag Archives: salish sea orcas

Southern Resident Orca “Scoter” Hit by Invasive Satellite Tag by NOAA – To What End?

This is a unique population of friendly, urban whales. (Center for Whale Research photo).

Wounds left by a satellite tag on an orca in previous studies.

The NOAA announcement:
Southern Resident Killer Whale Satellite Tagging
December 31, 2012 Update – As a continuation of a project began last year to help us understand where Southern resident killer whales go in the winter, and thus their winter habitat use, NWFSC researchers tagged an adult male, K25, in Puget Sound on December 29, 2012 with a satellite-linked tag. The information gathered from this tag will address the data gap in winter distribution identified in the Recovery Plan as well as provide information for improving Critical Habitat designation. This technique was recently identified as an important approach for addressing this issue by the independent science panel that assessed the impact of salmon fisheries on southern resident killer whales (http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/Whales-Dolphins-Porpoise/Killer-Whales/ESA-Status/upload/KW-Chnk-final-rpt.pdf).

For the most recently available track of K25 and more information on the satellite tagging project, please visit http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/cbd/marine_mammal/satellite_tagging.cfm. We appreciate the work of all our partners to protect and conserve killer whales and their habitats, and look forward to continued efforts in 2013. Thank you and happy New Year!

While NOAA is very careful to explain that the Southern Resident orca population is not recovering at a rate likely to sustain positive growth, they have also concluded that reducing the commercial catch of the orca’s primary food, Chinook salmon, may or may not help the whales and hence NOAA is not recommending changes to commercial catch.  Basically, the problem is too complex for the researchers to sort out, but because the orcas are classed as an endangered species the researchers justify a more invasive tagging program – inquiring minds want to know where these orcas go in the winter.
What difference will this knowledge make to the whale population? The researchers claim that the data will assist them in defining a ‘critical habitat’ – although they don’t say how this will do anything to help the whales if fisheries are allowed to continue taking Chinook salmon at present levels in that habitat, or if the military operations that are harmful are allowed to continue in those regions.
The scientists explain in detail why less invasive studies have failed or are too expensive, and show that these tags have been used on other species, but does that justify risking the well-being of this endangered population? NOAA’s last fail whale attempt stayed on the orca “Mike” (J 26) all of three days and revealed nothing new about the whale’s distribution. And do they really know the impact of these tags? This monk seal (another endangered species) definitely seems impacted by the tag:

Elephant seal with satellite tag.

Ribbon seal with satellite tag.

If the tag stays on it will be interesting to see how Scoter (K 25) uses the environment, but I’m not sure how much the researchers will be able to extrapolate to the entire population, nor is it at all evident that the information is going to be put to use to protect the whales and not commercial interests.

Whales Protest! Southern Resident Orca Still in Small Tank – 42 Years Today

Today (August 8th) is the 42nd commemoration of the disastrous orca capture that snared a young whale and sentenced her to a life in a tiny tank.
She was first given the name Tokitae, which was changed to the cheesy “Lolita” by the Miami Seaquarium. A few years ago, as a reminder that she is a member of the endangered population of orcas, we gave her the honorary number L-pc25 (“L” for her natal pod, “pc” for Penn Cove where she was captured, and “25” for the whale assumed to be her mother L-25, who still swims free).
The whales, for their part, are staging a protest:

To learn more, and to help bring this whale home to her family, consider attending one of today’s events:

Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA – August 2012 marks the 42nd anniversary of Lolita’s capture from her family, the Southern Resident orcas, in Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, WA.
To commemorate this anniversary, Orca Network is holding our annual event in Coupeville on the waters and shore of Penn Cove to remember all the orcas who died during the captures or in captivity, and to honor Lolita, or Tokitae, the sole survivor of those taken from the Southern Resident orcas, held in a small tank at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970.
On Wednesday August 8th, please join us from 4 – 6 pm, for a ceremonial cruise on Penn Cove, Whidbey Island, around the perimeter of the capture site. Captain John Stone of Aeolian Adventures has generously offered his 52 foot classic ketch, Cutty Sark, for this two hour cruise with special guests (very limited space available – tickets $40/person), and Captain Billy Wind has offered his sailboat Stella Blue as well for those without boats who want to participate in the on-the-water portion of the event, for a $30 fee. You may also participate with your own sail or motor boat, kayak, or rowboat and join our fleet by launching from Capt. Coupe Park in Coupeville, to join our vessels at the Coupeville Wharf for a group departure at 4 pm.
We’ll travel to the capture site in Penn Cove for a wreath ceremony to remember the orcas killed in the capture, and those who have died in captivity. We’ll provide flowers and cedar sprigs to toss into the water, or you may bring your own flower or other eco-friendly offering to toss in the water during the ceremony. The vessels will circle Penn Cove and the capture site, and time/weather permitting, will take a short tour of Penn Cove before returning to the Coupeville Wharf at approximately 6 pm.
Following the on-the-water events, we will gather at the Coupeville Wharf at 6 pm for a few short presentations, music from the Shifty Sailors (6:30 pm), and sharing of stories about the captures, Lolita, and the future of her family, the Southern Resident orcas, and updates on other captive orca news, such as the release of the new book “Death at SeaWorld” by David Kirby.

Free Event Commemorating Orca Captures – August 8th, 2012

August 8 will mark 42 years since Lolita was pulled from her home and family, tied to a flatbed truck and driven to Seattle for delivery to Miami.

(Orca Network)

(Orca Network)

Penn Cove Orca Capture Anniversary Commemoration

Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA – August 2012 marks the 42nd anniversary of Lolita’s capture from her family, the Southern Resident orcas, in Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, WA.
In memory of the 45 Southern Resident orcas captured in Washington State, and the 13 orcas killed during the captures, and in honor of Lolita, the sole survivor, Orca Network invites you to our annual Penn Cove Orca Capture Commemoration Wednesday, August 8th on Penn Cove and at the Coupeville Wharf, Alexander and Front St., Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA.
From four – six pm join us for a Penn Cove sail and wreath ceremony at the orca capture site, departing from the Coupeville Wharf onboard the Cutty Sark or Stella Blue sailing vessels (tickets $40/$30/person – the Hawaiian Chieftan Tall Ship will also be joining the fleet) or bring your own boat or kayak to the event (launch at the Capt. Coupe park boat launch on 9th St, and meet us at the wharf at 4 pm).
From six to eight pm we will gather on the back deck of the Coupeville Wharf to learn more about the 1970s orca captures and Lolita. Author Sandra Pollard of Freeland will read from her upcoming book, “Whales for Sale,” and Howard Garrett or Orca Network will read from David Kirby’s new book “Death at Seaworld” www.deathatseaworld.com, and will give an update on efforts to bring Lolita home to her family in Washington state. The Shifty Sailors will be on hand to perform sea shanties, whale songs, and of course, Vern Olsen’s song “Come Home Lolita!”
The event on the Wharf is free to the public, though contributions to support Orca Network’s educational programs and work on orca captivity issues are appreciated.
Contact Orca Network at info@orcanetwork.org, call 360.678.3451 to reserve space on one of the sailing vessels, and check out our website www.orcanetwork.org for more information.

Four endangered Southern Resident orcas are still missing

At the moment, the total population of Southern Resident orcas is thought to be 85, down by three percent – a significant loss for a population that is struggling to survive. Researchers are awaiting more encounters before making the final determination (follow the Center for Whale Research Facebook page for updates).

We will wait for a couple more good encounters with L pod before writing them off to make sure they were not just missed.  If these two remain missing, the Southern Resident population will have lost four whales this year so far since L112 washed up dead on the Washington Coast in February 2012, including J30 who has not been seen since last December.  With the loss of four whales and the addition of L119, the Southern Resident population currently stands at 85.

These whales band together and take care of each other, so even the loss of the oldest whales is a blow to the whole population, and the loss of a young male just entering the reproductive years is devastating.
Missing are 17 year old J30, Riptide (pictured below with his great-grandmother, the venerable J2, Granny)-

J30 with great-grandmother j2 and younger sister J37 (Photo by Astrid van Ginneken, Center for Whale Research)

78 year old L12 (Alexis), photographed below with 21 year old L85 (Mystery).  Mystery lost his mother when he was just three years old and was then adopted by his aunt, but she died when he was 14, and Alexis seemed to have accompanied him until the present-
78 year old L12 (Alexis) with 21 year old L85 (Mystery). Photo by Erin Heydenreicht, Center for Whale Research.

47 year old L5, Tanya, who has no surviving offspring.  She often traveled with 22 year old L84, Nyssa, who lost his mother when he was nine. L5 helped with other young whales – she is photographed below helping with a new calf belonging to L54, Ino –

L5 swimming with a new calf (L117) with the baby's mother (L54, Ino) following. Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research.

And finally the young L112, Victoria, who washed up on a beach in February, her death caused by still undetermined percussive force. Her mother and brother both survived the winter.
Victoria with her mother, L86. Photo by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research.

New calf for the beleaguered L-pod orcas! See our Facebook page for details

The Center for Whale Research, Friday Harbor, Wa

The Southern Resident orcas returned to the inland waters of Washington state’s Salish Sea en mass today, after what seems like a prolonged winter along the outer coast.  Their spring visits have been few and far between, with just one L-pod whale, L 87, who hangs out with J and K pods, seen in the area until today.
Best of all, 25 year old L 77 had a calf in tow, who was given the number L-119. Researchers and whale watchers have been particularly concerned about this orca pod, following the death of young L-112 this year to a still unknown cause (please see Dead Orca L-112 is Beginning to Reveal the Story of Her Death).
Please check out the Center’s Facebook page and website for updates on this population of endangered orcas. There you will learn more about the brand new calf L-119 and her family, and follow along as the whales face the summer challenges of finding enough salmon.
Welcome back, orcas, we are all rooting for you.

The orcas are back with a calf in tow – J, K, and L pods showed up today 5/29/12

Center for Whale Research photo

“87 ORCA WHALES TODAY…SUPER POD!!! All three Resident Pods are back in our waters. With an unconfirmed new calf in L Pod… We will wait for the Center for Whale Research‘s official report but a new calf that appears to be 2-3 weeks old… WAHOOO!!!”
Seen and reported by Ocean EcoVentures Whale Watching
to Orca Network

This Dolphin Detonation Event Was Brought to You by the U.S. Navy

(Photo by Ralph Lee Hopkins)

The text below is taken from the published article, I made some changes to avoid acronyms and metrics.  Please consult the original document for details, as well as to learn about the birds and fish that were also affected.
Seabird and Dolphin Mortality Associated with Underwater Detonation Exercises

On 4 March 2011, ‘mine counter-measure training’ was conducted on the ocean [near San Diego] A single time-delayed C4 block demolition charge …was detonated on the sandy ocean floor at a depth of [48 feet], … approximately 0.5-0.75 nautical miles from shore. At 5 minutes prior to the detonation, a group of 100-150 long-beaked common dolphins was observed entering the 640-[yard] mitigation zone by safety observers.

Options to retrieve the charge via divers or from the surface to stop the detonation were considered. However, the short time interval to detonation made this too risky for personnel. An effort to discourage the dolphins from entering the area by placing a boat between the detonation site and the school of dolphins was unsuccessful.

One minute after the detonation, three dolphins were observed motionless at the surface. The rest of the school continued to travel in the same direction as it had been prior to the detonation. The Navy recovered the three animals and transferred them to the local stranding network for necropsy. An additional long-beaked common dolphin stranded dead approximately [42 miles] north of the detonation site, 3 days later.

All four dolphins sustained typical mammalian primary blast injuries.

The distances from various types of underwater detonations at which death, injury, and temporary hearing loss (called a temporary threshold shift, TTS) are expected to occur in marine mammals have been estimated by the Navy and are termed the Zone of Influence (ZOI). …Based on these estimates the dolphins killed would have been within [120 feet] of the blast.

The observed mortality does not exceed the current PBR of 164 for this population, indicating that the blast event alone will not adversely effect the long-beaked common dolphin population (Potential biological removal (PBR) is the maximum number of animals that can be removed from a population through non-natural means and still maintain an optimum sustainable population (Marine Mammal Protection Act, 1994, Amendments). A PBR is calculated for each recognized population of a specie of 164).

However, had four common bottlenose dolphins belonging to the coastal population been killed in the blast, a population effect would be expected, because the PBR for this population is 2.4 The coastal common bottlenose dolphin is common in the waters off San Diego and found within [500 yards] of the shoreline 99% of the time.  The small size of this population and its occurrence in the very near-shore waters of San Diego make this population of critical concern in relation to underwater detonation activities occurring in the region.

The Center for Whale Research has put together an informative page about a similar explosive event  that cost the life of at least one endangered Southern Resident orca, L – 112 (or Victoria, as she was affectionately known).  The following is from a letter written by Ken Balcomb, senior scientist at the Center, the entire text of which can be found on the Center’s website:

Ken Balcomb, Senior Scientist at The Center for Whale Research

I wish to thank Scott Rasmussen for his article (The Journal March 14, 2012) on the necropsy of the three year old baby orca designated L112 that I named “Victoria”, (not “Sooke”) when I first saw her. She was one of the most darling and affectionate little whales in this Endangered population, and she will be sorely missed by humans and by the whale population.
The final results of analysis of her tissues and fluids found in her cranium may take some time, but it is important to note that ALL of the expert observations of her bloody and bruised carcass, and her head, concluded that there is strong evidence of near instantaneous lethal destruction of tissues, mostly on one side, consistent with blast trauma, as already reported.
Her death was undoubtedly caused by humans, and we have to look for the source of the blast. I have asked the Law Enforcement division of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to investigate so that there will be a clear set of rules concerning withholding, filtering, or losing evidence in this case.
…This is really a tragic bureaucratic jungle situation for the whales and other marine life in the Olympic Coast National Marine “Sanctuary”, and I fear it is even more tragic for our wonderful notion of honest and transparent governance. Yeah, this is a complicated issue; but, at this rate the easiest and most forthright way out is to rename the sanctuary: Olympic Coast National Marine Bombing Range (OCNMBR), and say “bye bye” to the whales.
Citizens have until April 27, 2012 to provide public comment on the expansion of, and the activities within, the NWTRC; and, I suppose it would be OK to suggest changing the name if that is our collective wish.
It is absurd to call it a sanctuary.

Luna the Whale’s Gift – He Taught Us What We Are in Danger of Losing

The recent death of the young orca Victoria (L-112) who was killed by an explosive force may seem to some to be inconsequential in the scope of the need for military preparedness. Somehow we humans think that this planet is ours alone, and that our petty squabbles are so important that we have the right to destroy not just each other, but potentially most of life on Earth.
We rely upon world leaders to keep the scale of our conflicts within bounds, to limit where and how the military forces can practice with bombs, gasses, diseases, and sound. Once thought to be both bountiful and indestructible, the planet’s oceans seemed to be the logical alternative.
But now we know better, we know that the life of the sea is in peril everywhere, that the oceans are losing their capacity to absorb abuse, and that military excursions can destroy – in seconds – entire communities of animals.
What are we losing? The story of Luna (L-98), shows us the nature of a species that may turn out one of the only other friendly intelligent beings in a lonely universe. This particular population of orcas, the Southern Residents, is unique and when they are gone they will take with them a rare and irreplaceable culture. (Please take our poll on the Navy impact).
The filmmakers have now made it possible for you to show this touching tale in your own community.

Movie on the Move – Book your screening now!
Wherever you live, you can now host your own screening of The Whale through our new screening program, Movie on the Move!
The home video DVD won’t be out for a few more months, but we are now offering the film to any individual or group that wants to host a screening. There will be a fee in advance, but no revenue sharing will be required if you charge admission, no matter how much your group makes. You keep all the proceeds.
That makes it very easy to use The Whale for fundraisers or for any other kind of event. In the fundraisers for which the film has already been used, thousands of dollars have been raised for worthy causes.
Here’s how it works. You book the film, you organize the venue, and you decide what you’d like to do. You can use it as a fundraiser; you can show it to your film group or church group or school or NGO; you can charge admission; you can open the doors to anyone. It’s up to you.
We will provide you with a DVD or Blu-ray, and still photos, videos, and other information to help you promote your screening. We can also help with posters, and when possible we can arrange for one of the directors to do a post-screening Skype video call. We can also help promote your screening on our website and on our social media networks.
The license fee for a community group or non-profit fundraising screening is $250. For film festivals and commercial screenings, the fee is $350.
Questions? For more information and to book your screening, please e-mail us directly at suzanne@thewhalemovie.com.

How Navy Sonar Kills Whales and Dolphins

The following excerpts were taken from a letter written by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, which does an excellent job of explaining how sound kills whales and other forms of marine life:
“Sound penetrates an animal’s body when immersed in water. Essentially all of acoustic energy goes into a body immersed in water. This effect, which can cause tissue rupture and hemorrhage, has not been adequately addressed in the Navy’s [environmental impact statement]. The implications (of the effect of sound penetration) for marine life are very serious, as described next.”
“The first lethal mechanism involves moderate level sound waves activating the growth of microscopic bubbles in the supersaturated blood and tissue of cetaceans. These bubbles then grow and can cause embolisms, hemorrhaging and localized pressure on the nervous system. Significant oxygen deprivation by blood vessel blockage can kill brain cells and produce stroke. For supersaturated gasses dissolved in cells rather than the blood, activation of bubble formation can rupture the cell walls.”
“The second mechanism for lethal injury involves hemorrhaging caused by acoustic resonance of the LFA [Low Frequency Active] sonar signal in cranial and other airspaces such as lungs and swim bladders. Specifically, the rapid change in pressure (from very high to very low several times per second for the duration of the one-minute LFA sonar blast) can rupture the delicate membranes enclosing the airspace.”
“Animals with air filled lungs and swim bladders are especially vulnerable because of the large difference in impedance between air in the lungs or swim bladders and their body tissues or seawater. Submerged animals exposed to explosions at short range showed hemorrhage in the lungs and ulceration of the gastro-intestinal tract.”
“The killing is largely due to resonance phenomena in the whales’ cranial airspaces that are tearing apart delicate tissues around the brains and ears.”
The Navy is accepting public comments on this sonar program until April 27th, 2012, voice your opinion here. You can copy and paste this or write your own comment: “In addition to its impacts on marine mammals and endangered species, I believe that the Navy and NMFS have a responsibility to consider the full extent of the “collateral damage” that will occur with deployment of LFA sonar, and that you must consider the cumulative effects on all forms of marine life that will be adversely affected over areas totaling thousands of square miles. Therefore, the testing and use of this must cease immediately.”

Navy Versus Whales and Dolphins (Caution – Snooze Alert) (At Least Until the Explosives Detonate)

Could the Navy be more obtuse and boring?  Probably.  Could this issue be more important?  Maybe.  But for anyone desiring to know what the Navy does to the marine environment, now is your chance.

What you will learn might seem to depend upon both your stamina and your ability to translate acronyms into language, but don’t be fooled – under the surface, these issues are very basic.
As to your stamina – the original document “Northwest Training Range Complex Environmental lmpact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement” is a mind-crushing 727 pages long.
And as far as acronyms go, doesn’t this sound like fun – “The NWTT EIS/OEIS is environmental planning analysis for testing and training activities to support re-issuance of authorization for permitted activities analyzed by the Navy in previous environmental documents.”  And only 726 more pages to go.
But if you care about things like ‘Dumping Ground Explosives Military’ –  such as what shows up in the recent satellite track of an endangered Southern Resident orca (below) – now is the time to voice your opinion.

Notice the fine print in this map.

It is time to hold the Navy’s collective hands to the fire and make them disclose how their activities impact the marine environment.  And by the way, the “open house sessions” are held in low population areas, not exactly easy for many of those who care about these issues (check bottom of page).
Could it be more inconvenient?  There is nothing about this to make you want to go…but there is an online option (http://www.nwtteis.com/). Please do your best to have an impact.

SILVERDALE, Wash. – The U.S. Navy is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS) to evaluate the potential environmental impacts from military readiness training and testing activities conducted primarily within existing range complexes and testing ranges in the Northwest Training and Testing (NWTT) Study Area.
The Navy is initiating the scoping process to identify community concerns and issues for analysis in the EIS/OEIS. The Navy is seeking public involvement and input, which are fundamental parts of the EIS/OEIS development under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). As part of the public participation process, the Navy will hold open house information sessions to obtain public input on the scope, environmental resources or issues to address in the EIS/OEIS.
The NWTT EIS/OEIS is environmental planning analysis for testing and training activities to support re-issuance of authorization for permitted activities analyzed by the Navy in previous environmental documents.
The Navy proposes to adjust training and testing activities to support current and planned requirements and accommodate evolving mission requirements associated with force structure changes, including those resulting from the development, testing, introduction of new vessels, aircraft and weapon system(s).
The Proposed Action would ensure the Navy accomplishes its mission to maintain, train and equip combat-ready military forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.
The public is invited to attend open house information sessions to learn about the Proposed Action and to provide comments on factors to be considered in the EIS/OEIS. The public may arrive at any time during each open house information session. There will not be a presentation or formal oral comment session. Navy representatives will be available to discuss the project and the Proposed Action.
All written comments must be postmarked or received during the comment period to be considered in the Draft EIS. Written comments must be postmarked by April 27, 2012, and mailed to:
Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Northwest
ATTN: Mrs. Kimberly Kler – NWTT Project Manager
1101 Tautog Circle
Silverdale, WA 98315-1100
Comments may also be submitted online at www.NWTTEIS.com or submitted in person at the open house information sessions.


Nine open house information sessions will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at the following locations:
Washington:     Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Oak Harbor School District
Administrative Services Center Board Room
350 S. Oak Harbor St.
Oak Harbor
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Quilcene School District
Multipurpose Room
294715 U.S. Highway 101
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Central Kitsap High School Cafeteria
3700 NW Anderson Hill Road
Friday, March 16, 2012
Grays Harbor College HUB
1620 Edward P. Smith Drive
Oregon: Monday, March 19, 2012
Tillamook County Fairgrounds Auditorium
4603 E. 3rd St.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Hatfield Marine Science Center
2030 SE Marine Science Drive
California:     Thursday, March 22, 2012
Eureka Public Marina, Wharfinger Building
#1 Marina Way
Friday, March 23, 2012
Fort Bragg Town Hall
363 N. Main St.
Fort Bragg
Alaska: Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Ted Ferry Civic Center
888 Venetia Ave.
Visit the project website at www.NWTTEIS.com to learn more about the project.