Scientists seek to understand increase in grey whale deaths on West Coast – CBC

The latest whale die-off on our coast continues with no end in sight. Malnourishment seems to be the root cause, but it is still unclear. 

The recent sighting of an emaciated grey whale off Vancouver Island and the discovery of a dead whale washed up on a B.C. beach highlights concerns that the marine mammals are dying in increasing numbers…Officials have not released a cause of death, but they say dead grey whales on the West Coast of Canada have been increasing in number since 2018. (CBC)

An Important Time to Listen – The Narwhal

Interesting perspective on the ability to suddenly measure ocean noise without human activity.

The pandemic offers a temporary reprieve from the clamour of ocean noise — which can affect how whales and other species communicate, navigate and feed — and an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of human activity for marine life. Jimmy Thomson reports. (The Narwhal)

‘An important time to listen’: ocean scientists race to hear the effects of coronavirus under water 

Will Whale Hunting Return to the Pacific Northwest? -NY Times

There are legitimate points of view here on both sides.  The Tribe is a sovereign nation.  As such, they have rights, to hunt and fish in their usual and accustomed places. However, given the perilous nature of whales, and what we know of them now that we didn’t know then, in “traditional” days, should give any modern purpose pause. I seem to remember that much of the last whale was wasted, as the tribe didn’t eat much of it, but I could be remembering wrong. Would love to have someone who was there tell me how much of the whale was actually used by the Tribe.

Many traditional ceremonies have been supplanted by modern equivalents. Female genital mutilation is a traditional ceremony, which has been ended in many parts of the world. It would be great to see the Makah honor the whales by continuing to protect them, and create an alternative that would work for their youth.  Barring that, it would be appropriate for people to boycott going to the reservation to show their dislike for this slaughter of an intellegent, beautiful being that is being destroyed all over the planet by hunting, changing climate, dwindling diet, and more. Do I have to be the to remind readers that hundreds of whales have died, many of starvation, over the last few years, their bodies piling up along the Alaska coast in remote areas.

Some tribes believe in doing things to support seven generations out. I have a hard time understanding how killing whales is going to support that. But the Makahs have their reasons. Here’s hoping they come to a better solution to the problems facing their youth.

The Makah are the only Native Americans with a treaty right to hunt whales, but they have not been allowed to do so for 20 years. A recent proposal could change that.

Researchers seek answers to gray whale deaths after 57 are stranded this year – Seattle Times

A huge number of grey whales have been washing up dead on west coast beaches this year. No one is sure why yet. Here’s a good wrap up of thinking about the situation from the Seattle Times.

Gray whales are dying at twice the usual rate as a brutal migration unfolds, with whales washing up on Washington state beaches, apparently starved to death.

If you don’t already subscribe to The Seattle Times, consider supporting independent journalism today. I subscribe to the Times, PT Leader and others that put full time reporters to work on stories important to us in the Pacific NW. You should too!



Legislature won’t ban orca-watching boats in Puget Sound – Investigate West

The power of business over science. Not even a moratorium to see if it helps for a year or two. Will the last whale watch boat turn out the lights when you leave the San Juans when the resident orca pod are extinct? Thanks.

Washington legislators came into their 2019 session brimming with proposals to help rescue Puget Sound’s imperiled orcas. But now they have dropped one of the most important – and controversial – ideas: A three-year moratorium on commercial whale watching. Lawmakers denied Gov. Jay Inslee’s attempt to force commercial whale-watching boats to keep extra distance from three groups of orcas that summer in the waters of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea between Washington and Canada. In doing so, they turned down a key recommendation from an overwhelming majority of a group of nearly 50 researchers, state and tribal officials and others who served on the Southern Resident Orca Task Force. Rachel Nielsen reports. (InvestigateWest)

Legislature won’t ban orca-watching boats in Puget Sound

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.

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)

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.
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)

Whale Sitings from Orca Network

A deceased yearling humpback whale was found on a remote beach just north of the entrance to Gig Harbor in south Puget Sound on Friday December 18th. She was towed and to a location and examined by Cascadia Research Collective and MaST. “…While the cause of death was not certain, it was in poor nutritional condition, with thin, dry blubber and little food in the stomach and also a significant number of parasites in the intestines and these may all have contributed to its’ death…”
You can see photos and full preliminary report on Cascadia Research Collective Facebook page
and read more in The News Tribune article.

Overall we end 2015 celebrating the birth and lives of the 8 new calves born to the southern residents in the past 12 months, the presence of a fin whale in the inland waters of the Salish Sea, and numerous humpbacks who appear to be moving back home to their ancestral home in Puget Sound.

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

Contact:, 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 ( 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 ( 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

Rare Fin Whale Surfaces in Strait of Georgia–Vancouver Sun

If you see something out of the ordinary out there, you’ll now know what it is.

A massive fin whale cruised up the Strait of Georgia to Johnstone Strait this week for the first time in recorded history. “It was photographed off Campbell River and off Nanaimo. It is the first confirmed sighting of a fin whale in Georgia Strait,” said Jared Towers, a Fisheries and Oceans cetacean research technician who has spent the summer doing photo identification of the growing number of fin whales in Hecate Strait and Caamano Sound. Judith Lavoir reports.

Spectacular film of Orcas chasing Dolphins

Thanks to Jules for sharing this with us. An amazing film of orcas hunting dolphins at Hyacinthe Bay BC (north of Nanaimo). And thanks to Grind TV for getting it up online!

Report Inconclusive On What Killed Orca L112 – Earthfix

A new report out Tuesday stops short of determining what killed a young female orca that washed up near Long Beach, Wash. The scientists who produced it for a federal agency came up with new details about the whale’s trauma, bruising and hemorrhaging, and lack of broken bones.

The necropsy report’s findings have whale experts suspicious of naval activity as a possible cause of her death. The Navy is in the process of renewing its permits to conduct sonar and explosive tests in the Northwest.

New Orca calf born to J Pod

1/4 Kitsap Sun–Another Newborn Orca Seen in J Pod
By Kitsap Sun staff

A new calf has been born into J Pod, one of the three groups of orcas that frequent Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.

The young whale was spotted Sunday in Puget Sound by a research crew headed by Brad Hanson of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Today, Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research designated the calf as J-47 and confirmed that the mother is J-35, a 12-year-old orca known as Tahlequah.

At 12, Tahlequah is a young mother, and many first-born orcas do not survive their first year. Researchers say the reasons for the high newborn mortality may include a heavy dose of toxic chemicals they receive from their moms. But Balcomb said this newborn looks robust and healthy.

Read the rest of the story at:

Action Item: NOAA meetings on Killer Whale protections… you can testify…

Killer Whale Recovery Needs Urgent Action on Salmon Recovery & Toxic Pollution Control—-People For Puget Sound today urged its members and supporters to tell the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service (NMFS) that protecting Southern Resident killer whales should focus on more critical actions needed to protect orcas in addition to new rules on vessel traffic.

“Although vessel operations can be part of the solution, we are disappointed that NOAA continues to delay on more critical actions like restoring salmon runs, reducing toxic pollutants and reducing noise impacts from sonar,” said Kathy Fletcher, executive director.

“Restoring salmon runs requires removing dams, restoring salmon habitat, requiring land use restrictions, improving water quality, and changing harvest and hatchery practices,” said Fletcher. “Without food, the Southern Resident population will not survive in Puget Sound.”

According to Fletcher, lack of public awareness about Puget Sound issues is one of the major impediments to successful protection and restoration. Whale watching is one activity that reaches thousands of people every year with compelling reasons to protect our marine waters. “It would be supreme irony to focus so intently on restricting whale watching while the whales themselves go extinct for lack of sufficient non-toxic food,” said Fletcher.

The federal agency is holding three public hearings on its proposed new rules on vessel traffic, the first hearing being held Thursday evening in Anacortes.

Regarding the proposed vessel rules:

•    People For Puget Sound supports the distance (200 yards) and no intentional parking in the path of traveling whales
•    People For Puget Sound agrees in concept with a “no-go zone” akin to the Robson Bight protected area in British Columbia, but has concerns about the scientific basis, actual size, exemptions for some types of operations, access to public parks, unintended consequences, feasibility of enforcement, and other questions.
•    People For Puget Sound suggests that NOAA/NMFS convene a vessel operator stakeholder group  that includes commercial fishing operators, container and cruise ship operators, small recreational boat companies, recreational boating and fishing groups, research vessel operators, military, whale watching companies and others to discuss operational issues and ensure that fair treatment is given to all. Tribal fishing operators should also be part of a further consultation process.

According to Fletcher, enforcement is a key pragmatic and fairness issue that should be addressed regarding both existing and proposed regulations.  Without a much-improved strategy for education and enforcement, it makes no sense to increase restrictions.

“One of the major vessel issues is inappropriate and harassing behavior by recreational boaters who are apparently unaware even of the existing limits,” said Fletcher. “Another issue is how to address the international nature of the problem, reaching Canadian boaters and whale watch operators in an effective way.”

The NOAA/NMFS meetings will be:
* Sept. 24, 2009, 7-9 p.m., Pier One Main Warehouse, 100 Commercial Avenue, Anacortes
* Sept. 30, 2009, 7-9 p.m., Seattle Aquarium, Pier 59, Seattle
* Oct. 5, 2009, 7-9 p.m., The Grange Hall, First Street, Friday Harbor

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Save Our Sound.

People For Puget Sound works with people for a clean and healthy Sound. Since 1991 we have protected and restored habitat through education and action.

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