Orca protection bill stumbles and dies on state Senate floor – Watching Our Waterways

State legislation that would increase protection for Puget Sound’s killer whales died this week amidst confusing action on the Senate floor. Now, orca advocates are pushing a narrower bill approved by the House to limit remote-controlled aircraft around whales, while they also hope for a $3-million budget appropriation to support other orca protection measures. Whether people should be allowed to fly a drone around the endangered Southern Resident orcas seems to be the issue stirring up the most attention in the Legislature — although it is a small part of the overall effort. Chris Dunagan reports. (Watching Our Water Ways)


With killer whales, expect the unexpected  – Watching our Waterways

Chris Dunagan in Watching Our Water Ways writes: “…I am reminded again that, while we strive to understand animal behavior, we must not judge them in human terms. I just returned home from the three-day Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, B.C., where orca researcher Deborah Giles of the Center for Whale Research reported on some seemingly odd behavior among our Southern Resident killer whales. The bottom line is that fish-eating orcas are occasionally attacking and sometimes killing marine mammals, specifically harbor porpoises and Dall’s porpoises. Apparently, they are not eating them…”


Ship noise extends to frequencies used by endangered killer whales – Phys.org

Study underway to quantify the issue of noise pollution and Orcas. From this, could come regulations that force shipping to alter course if Orcas are within certain distances from ships.

When an endangered orca is in hot pursuit of an endangered salmon, sending out clicks and listening for their echoes in the murky ocean near Seattle, does the noise from the nearby shipping lane interfere with them catching dinner? To find out scientists measured underwater noise as ships passed their study site 3,000 times. This unprecedented characterization of ship noise will aid in the understanding of the potential effects on marine life, and help with possible mitigation strategies. One of the threats faced by today’s oceans is underwater noise pollution from ships. Amazingly, the growth in commercial shipping has raised the intensity of low-frequency noise almost 10-fold since the 1960s. Because this noise occurs at the low frequencies used by baleen whales there is growing evidence it may impact their ability to communicate, and therefore their survival. But could ship noise extend to the higher frequencies used by toothed whales and therefore pose similar threats to them? To answer this question and understand the nature of ship noise, particularly in coastal areas where ships access ports, scientists measured approximately 1,600 unique ships as they passed through Haro Strait, in Washington State. This area is the core critical habitat for the endangered Southern Resident killer whales—salmon-eating orcas which are iconic in the Pacific Northwest and which support a multi-million dollar ecotourism industry in the U.S. and Canada. (Phys.Org)


Ninth baby orca confirmed in Puget Sound – AP

Good news!  Tempered by the knowledge that approx. 50% of the newborns die before their first birthday, and apparently one did just that this week also.

Whale researchers say they’ve documented another baby orca born in Puget Sound. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said on Facebook Tuesday their researchers documented the new calf Monday.   (Associated Press)

More at


Navy appears to be using active sonar near Orcas – Beamreach

Beamreach has published sound patterns from the Salish Sea Hydrophone Network that appears to show active sonar blasts that could seriously impact Orcas and other marine mammals. The Navy has stated that it would avoid this kind of behavior, and we are awaiting word from them that they either mistakenly did this, or will stop it. To be clear, the intensity of these pings have scientists worried about injury to the whales.

With transient killer whales in the area and the whereabouts of J and L pods (and their many newborns!) unknown, we were concerned to hear that active sonar was utilized late in the morning on Wednesday, January 13, in Haro Strait — critical habitat for species in both Canada and the U.S.  At the same time, military training activities were planned or taking place on both sides of the border.  This is what is sounded like — – See more at: http://www.beamreach.org/2016/01/14/navy-starts-2016-pinging-in-the-pool#sthash.tUSgcTV7.dpuf


Orca baby boom: 7th calf born to endangered southern resident population -CBC

Your good news of the morning.

The Center for Whale Research says yet another orca calf has been spotted swimming with the southern resident killer whale population.  This is the seventh new calf born to the endangered population of cetaceans in the last 12 months. The young orca was photographed in November, but due to poor visibility and unfavourable sea conditions, it took several weeks to confirm that there was indeed a new calf in L pod.  It has been designated L-123 and is believed to be the first offspring of 12-year-old orca L-103. (CBC)


Southern Resident orcas defy recovery efforts – Skagit Valley Herald

The efforts are still not working to save the Southern Resident Orcas. Good intentions alone won’t do the job.

A decade after gaining federal protection, the Southern Resident orcas of Puget Sound aren’t making progress. With 78 whales, the population has 20 fewer than when the group was first listed under the Endangered Species Act. A calf born in September offered a glimmer of hope, which was quickly snuffed out when the baby disappeared before the end of the month. Much like the presumed death of calf L120, what exactly is hindering the species’ recovery remains a mystery. A lack of food coupled with an abundance of toxins and boat traffic are thought to be contributors. But what could reverse the orca’s downward trend has yet to be pinpointed. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)


%d bloggers like this: