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)

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whale strandings off Washington-Oregon coast highest in nearly 2 decades – Seattle Times

Not good news for our ocean friends. This on top of the massive strandings of a few years ago that littered the coast from California to Alaska with whale carcasses.

Sixteen gray and humpback whales have been reported stranded off Washington and Oregon since April 3, the largest number in nearly two decades.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/whale-strandings-off-washington-coast-highest-in-nearly-2-decades/

‘It’s the wild west out here’: Gulf Islanders raise alarm over whale-watching fleet sizes – CBC

The situation in the Gulf Islands (and the American side also) is out of control. If Governor Inslee is serious about saving the resident orca pod, then he needs to get this under control, with the help of the B.C. government. He’ll have to override the pressure from the economic engine of the whale watching industry to do anything of value. While it is appreciated that the whale watch industry helps average people come to learn about the whales, it appears we are loving them to death. The population is approaching some kind of unsustainable number and without radical action will likely go extinct. The time for half measures is gone, as their population continues to fall. Some kind of moratorium is likely needed while we re-establish the whales population, if that’s even possible. But expecting Inslee to override them, is likely a tall order.

Some residents of the southern Gulf Islands are worried too many whale watching boats are chasing too few killer whales—stressing the already at-risk species….  Residents report they’ve seen fleets of up to 25 vessels chasing orca pods during the busy summer months when whale watching is at its peak. They say the problem is compounded because there are no regulations to govern the number of whale-watching boats permitted to track killer whales.Eric Rankin reports. (CBC) See also: Whale watchers update guidelines; Canada to restrict salmon fishing  Chris Dunagan reports. (Watching Our Water Ways)

It’s the wild west out here’: Gulf Islanders raise alarm over whale-watching fleet sizes

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/

Rare Fin whale spotted in Puget Sound – KING

Amazing. Second sighting of a Fin whale since 1930.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association confirmed the sighting of a Fin whale in the Puget Sound on July 15, the second sighting of this endangered species in US waters since 1930. The crew of the Chilkat Express spotted the whale a few miles northeast of Dungeness Spit, taking photographs and video of the massive creature. Captain Mark Malleson documented the sighting of a Fin whale on July 9, and immediately rushed to the aquatic scene to confirm it was the same animal when he was alerted of a sighting by the Chilkat crew. The adult Fin whale is estimated to be between 60 and 70 feet in length and weighing 70 tons. The animal the Chilkat crew spotted is not only endangered, but the second largest animal on earth behind the blue whale. Alexis Daugherty reports. (KING)

http://www.king5.com/news/local/pets-and-animals/second-fin-whale-sighting-since-1930-confirmed-in-puget-sound/277174294

Research shows ample supply of sand shrimp -Whidbey News-Times

Good news for some of the basic building blocks of our food chain. It appears that there is a good supply for both whales and humans.
http://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/news/383022601.html
Finding a balance between sand shrimpers and whale watchers will be the million dollar question moving forward for the Washington Department of Natural Resources. That was the theme presented by a representative from the state agency at a recent public meeting conducted by the Island County Marine Resources Committee. The meeting was a precursor to sand shrimping resuming on tidelands around Saratoga Passage Monday, June 13. Under rules passed by the department, commercial fishers Wahoo Enterprises and Morgan Enterprises are permitted to harvest sand shrimp from June 10 to Feb. 1. Research conducted by the department, Cascadia Research Collective and two state universities showed an ample supply of ghost shrimp for both gray whales and harvesters. It was a determining factor in the lifting of a shrimping ban, which was in place for two years. Langley city leaders and whale advocates successfully lobbied the state to close the fishery, arguing that harvesting may be having adverse ecological and tourism related impacts. Evan Thompson reports. (Whidbey News-Times)

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