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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘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/

EVENT: SEATTLE- Author Erich Hoyt- June 8

I don’t usually post Seattle events, but Erich Hoyt is a rare treat. Not only has he been involved in tracking Orcas in the Russian Far East, but he is known as an expert on Marine Protected Areas, and Sanctuaries. Since so many people up here are interested and involved in the establishment of MPAs, you might want to consider a trip to Seattle to see Erich. Carpooling would be a bonus! You likely could walk on the Fauntleroy Ferry and ride a bus or even walk to get to the Hall. It’s just up the hill from the ferry terminal, literally about 6 blocks. 

———————————————————

The Whale Trail Presents

Erich Hoyt: Adventures with Orcas in the North Pacific — From A1 Stubbs to Iceberg, the White Russian Bull


Where: The Hall at Fauntleroy, 9131 California Ave SW

When: Saturday June 8, 7 – 9 (doors open 6:0)

Cost: $5 suggested donation, kids free.

–Tickets available at brownpapertickets.com

Contact: donna@thewhaletrail.org, 206.919.5397

Join us for this this rare Seattle appearance by noted author, whale researcher and marine conservationist Erich Hoyt, author of Orca: The Whale Called Killer.

Erich Hoyt’s first killer whale expedition to Johnstone Strait sailed from Victoria, BC in June 1973, 40 years ago this June. He proceeded to spend parts of the next 10 summers with orcas, culminating in his now classic book Orca: The Whale Called Killer. He went on to study and work on conservation projects related to other whales, dolphins, sharks, deep sea creatures, ants and social insects, working in Costa Rica, Japan, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Argentina, Chile and other countries.

In 1999 he co-founded the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP) to find out more about orca pods targeted for aquarium captures and to get Russian students involved in science and conservation of killer whales in Russian waters. Now in its 15thyear, FEROP has recorded the Russian pods and photo-IDed some 1500 orcas off Kamchatka and in the Commander Islands — including three white orcas found so far in the study areas.

This the fifth in a series of Orca Talks hosted by The Whale Trail. The event also features updates from Robin Lindsay (Seal Sitters), and Diver Laura James (tox-ick.org and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance), and photography from Judy Lane.

Erich’s books will be on sale and they can be signed.

Buy tickets early!

About the Speaker

Erich Hoyt is a noted marine conservationist, whale researcher, lecturer and author of more than 20 books including Orca: The Whale Called Killer, The Earth Dwellers, and Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises, the latter recently named as an "Outstanding Academic Title" by the journal Choice.

He is an authority on marine protected areas (MPAs) and sanctuaries, and is currently Research Fellow with WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, leading its Global Critical Habitat MPA Program. He also co-directs the Far East Russia Orca Project in Kamchatka and the Russian Cetacean Habitat Project in the Commander Islands.

He is as an appointed member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean Specialist Group and the World Commission on Protected Areas, and co-chairs the new IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force. He is a member of the International Committee for Marine Mammal Protected Areas and has helped organize and program its world conferences in Hawaii (2009), Martinique (2011) and Australia (to be 2014).

A former Vannevar Bush Fellow in the Public Understanding of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and twice James Thurber Writer-in-Residence at The Thurber House, Hoyt was awarded the Mandy McMath Conservation Award in April this year by the European Cetacean Society at its annual conference for his body of work including books, papers and work on marine conservation. He is a Canadian-US dual citizen who has lived in Scotland since 1989.

About The Whale Trail

The Whale Trail (www.thewhaletrail.org) is a series of sites around the region where the public may view orcas and other marine mammals from shore. Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment by establishing a network of viewing sites along the whales’ trails through the Salish Sea and the coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Our goals are to increase awareness that our marine waters are home to orcas and other species; connect visitors to orcas, other marine wildlife and their habitat; inspire stewardship and build community; promote land-based whale watching. Our over-arching goal is to ensure the southern resident orcas do not go extinct.

The Whale Trail provides simple, powerful, and long-lasting reminders to visitors and residents alike that orcas and other whales live in our waters.  Through our current sites and signs, including two on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 22 million people each year. Our near-term goals are to add a site in every coastal county in Washington, and around Vancouver Island, throughout the orcas’ range. Together, we will turn the tide for the whales!

The Whale Trail is led by a core team of partners including NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Seattle Aquarium, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the Whale Museum. Donna Sandstrom is the Founder and Executive Director. The Whale Trail is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, registered in Washington Sta

%d bloggers like this: