Canada proposes more habitat protection for southern-resident orcas – Seattle Times

Canada is taking steps to expand habitat protection for killer whales to boost survival of the critically endangered southern-resident population. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is taking steps to expand habitat protection for killer whales to boost survival of the critically endangered southern-resident population. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced Wednesday the department is initiating a 60-day comment period on creating new areas of critical habitat for the whales.

One area is off the coast of southwestern Vancouver Island, including Swiftsure and La Pérouse banks (important for both northern and southern residents). The other is in Dixon Entrance, along the north coast of Graham Island from Langara to Rose Spit (important for northern residents). The move to expand habitat protection comes on top of a reduction by the department of chinook salmon harvest by up to 35 percent for the 2018 fishing season, with a full closure of commercial and recreational fish for chinook in three key foraging areas for the southern residents: the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Gulf Islands and the mouth of the Fraser River.

These measures, enacted June 1, will continue until Sept. 30, and include increased monitoring to assess the effectiveness of the closures. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

 

Whales and their watchers in Discovery Bay

It was reported to me by someone watching from their home that whales visited Discovery Bay on Thursday, with a fleet of whale watchers of various size surrounding them. The whales were likely the T65As, mom and her 5 kids.

Here’s what my friend reported:

Discovery Bay is a place normally void of boaters. I look out over Becket Pt. Sometimes whales come. Yesterday I saw one killer whale. There may have been more but I only saw one surface at a time. It was followed by 4 whale watching boats. 3 of them very large, slowly following the whale. The whale(s) moved to off where Joe D’Amico used to have his gun range. Then these huge whale watching boats started going full throttle past Beckett Pt towards town and some back from town. This went on for a few hours then I had to leave. I’m not sure how many boats were involved. One big boat had an especially load engine and I can only imagine what it sounded like underwater. Sometimes the boat closest to the whale would like guess where the whale was and sometimes be in front of it and sometimes behind. The others kept a bigger distance. The chase boat would slow down and turn around and head for the whale. The other boats were farther away and I guess 100 yards away. But the chase boat probably got closer than that.

A couple of things worth noting. First. The distance to the whales should be 200 yards or more by law.

In 2011, NOAA Fisheries Service adopted new regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act to protect all killer whales in inland waters of Washington. Be Whale Wise and Follow the Law. It’s easy as 1, 2, 3…

WHO do the new rules apply to?  All motorized and non-motorized vessels (including kayaks), with exceptions to maintain safe navigation and for certain types of vessels- government vessels in the course of official duties, ships in the shipping lanes, research vessels under permit, and vessels lawfully engaged in commercial or treaty Indian fishing that are actively setting, retrieving, or closely tending fishing gear.
From the BeWhaleWise web site:
Except for specific exemptions, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United State to:
I. Cause a vessel to approach, in any manner, within 200 yards (182.9 m) of any killer whale.

II. Position a vessel to be in the path of any killer whale at any point located within 400 yards ( 365.8 m) of the whale.

WHEN do the new rules go into effect?  May 16, 2011

WHERE do the new rules apply?  In inland waters of Washington State- east of the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and south of the U.S./Canada international boundary.

WHY did NOAA adopt new regulations?  Southern Resident killer whales were listed as endangered in 2005.  Vessel impacts were identified as one of the threats.  These new regulations implement an action in the recovery plan and are designed to protect all killer whales by reducing impacts from vessels.  Additional background information on the rationale and analyses to support the regulations is available at  www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov.

IF you see boats harassing an orca, please note the name of the boats, the date, the time, general location, lat/long if you can get it (how? your smart phone! Yes, there is an app for that! Once you note these things, you can either right then or later go online and fill out the following form

http://www.bewhalewise.org/report-violators/

Or call:

For you boaters, please learn the rules so you will help protect our Orcas and not get fined a lot of money!

 

One Orca, two stories. A way forward?

Over the last few days, I saw two stories that really drove the message home to me that we are very likely to fail at saving the Southern Resident Killer Whales without new thinking, outside the box. And it’s really not a box, but about outside the silos. It’s not some dire story of good and bad guys. Just a reflection of what is our lack of being able to look at the big picture instead of silos of interests. One silo is the scientists along with the Tribes, the other is the sports fishing community and it’s state of Washington Fish and Wildlife people. My intent is not be critical of either side but to point out a gap that is likely going to doom efforts to support the Orca.

Over the last week, the Seattle Times and many other news outlets, covered the story of J50. J50 is the SRKW that is in poor health. Scientists and members of the Lummi Nation, are trailing around with the whales with live hatchery Chinook (King) salmon, the Orcas most favored food (though it prefers them wild from either the Frasier or Columbia river. This  is likely because, over thousands of years, these two river systems deposited the strongest and largest population of wild Chinook, every year like clockwork until white Europeans  arrived about 200 years ago, give or take 50 years. We all know what happened next. ) They are doing this because it is, to the best of our knowledge, that there is not enough Chinook salmon for the Orcas to survive. So they are bringing the salmon to the Orcas in order to see if they can nurse J50 back to health. A  noble and worthy effort.

So while the scientists and tribal members were doing their best to feed this wild animal,  another story caught my eye. The closing of salmon fishing for the summer by the State of Washington.

The Peninsula Daily News reported “Chinook Season Wraps Up”. The article stated:

SALTWATER CHINOOK FISHING has closed for the season for the bulk of the North Olympic Peninsula — while remaining open to hatchery Chinook retention off of La Push and south of Ayock Point in Hood Canal. The state estimated … chinook guideline estimates show that anglers caught 61.7 percent of the 4,900 kings allotted (3,023).

One thought is that if the Chinook fishing is still allowed out off LaPush, and the Orcas have gone there, it must be after the fish. So I’m left wondering, if we really wanted to save starving orcas, why on earth are we allowing recreational fishers to catch 3023 fish? As to the ocean limits, according to state F&W, the ocean recreational limits were:

 27,500 fish, which is 17,500 fewer fish than 2017’s quota of 45,000.

So this is approximately 30,000 chinook we are catching when the story of the day is that the Orcas can’t find these fish in the Salish Sea. And this is in addition to whatever the seals and sea lions  have been taking, The studies on seals and sea lions show that they eat primarily juvenile salmon, not as much the older ones! However the study concludes that the seals and sea lions are a problem.

See https://www.earthfix.info/news/article/puget-sound-orcas-salmon-sea-lions-seals-food-study/

and

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-14984-8

 

I have not seen the numbers of the commercial and tribal catch of chinook, but I’m sure it’s higher than 3023 fish.  The State F&W web site stated this spring:

In meeting conservation objectives for wild salmon, the co-managers are limiting fisheries in areas where southern resident killer whales are known to feed. The adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for chinook and other salmon in areas critical to the declining whales, said WDFW.

This seems to say that they state only wants to restrict fishing in the areas where we know the Orca feed. Well, according to what I’ve read, they travel all over the Sound to feed, which is why we see them off Seattle, Tacoma and many other locations. To restrict fishing to some area that they spend more time in seems to be an arbitrary idea of humans as so as to allow fishing to continue.

The facts on the ground (or sea) remain. Some orcas are starving. Many scientists believe we are on the edge of the end of these whales, because the breeding pairs are just too small a number to survive. Calves are dying at birth or shortly after. The Governor has stated that it is unacceptable to lose them and radical ideas need to be implemented. He has dozens of people working on a plan. In the meantime, thousands of chinook are being caught and eaten by us, who have other sources of protein! 

Do we really want to save the resident orcas? Then instead of chasing them with a boat with a few live fish on it, maybe we should consider not competing with them for their food source. Just for a few years, maybe a decade. we may also have to cull sea lions and seals for a few decades to see if it also helps put more fish in the sea, more to placate the fishing interests that routinely claim that they are one of the main competing mammals out there.  The sea lions and seals seem to have rebounded and if the scientists say that a cull of some size is warranted, then let’s do it. Then scientifically see  if things improve. We have alternatives for salmon from Alaska. We don’t need to stop eating the fish. Consider putting a moratorium on catching them in the inland waters and the coast  for five to ten years.This is not a new idea It’s been done all over the world to recover decimated fish stocks. They are called Marine Reserves . It’s a controversial topic to be sure, but it seems to map to our current needs to save the Orcas by giving them more food. And it’s been an idea that many old time fishermen I’ve personally talked to say is needed.

I say this as someone who has done salmon fishing in the Sound in the past, who ate salmon twice in the last three days (and likely will have leftovers of it tomorrow), and who’s son is an avid sports-fisherman with a small boat.

A moratorium is  the fastest way to give more fish to the whales. All other means, whether radical protection of the shorelines, tearing down dams or whatever, will take decades.   But it will take a lot willingness by various groups to put the long range health of salmon ahead of their own short term financial gain and personal pleasure fishing.  Anyone willing to give it a try? If not, why not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

 https://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/2018/02/17/orca-protection-bill-stumbles-and-dies-on-state-senate-floor/

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…”

http://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/2016/04/16/with-killer-whales-expect-the-unexpected/

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)

http://phys.org/news/2016-02-ship-noise-frequencies-endangered-killer.html

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

http://komonews.com/news/local/ninth-baby-orca-confirmed-in-puget-sound

%d bloggers like this: