West Seattle, Washington
2:02 PM: Just got two texts reporting orcas passing West Seattle! Both say the whales are transient orcas, southbound in the Alki Point vicinity.
2:45 PM: In the comment section, an update from Herongrrrl: “Closer to Lincoln Park” right now.
3:23 PM: Just added photos by Gary Jones from Alki/Alki Point vicinity earlier. (Orca Network says that’s a research boat with them, in the second photo.) Gary also sent this one with “harbor porpoises going the other way”:
3:55 PM: As of a few minutes ago, commenter SS says, they’re south of West Seattle and still headed SB.
6:20 PM: Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail shares info about the visitors in this comment. (By the way, The Whale Trail’s next event is coming up Thursday at the Dakota Place Park Building – find out about the increase in humpbacks and grays in Puget Sound!)
7:28 PM: Chris Frankovich says the orcas are headed back northbound, and shares this photo:
Chris says this shows them off The Arroyos.
They’re the whales we talk about the most, but orcas are not the only whales in our waters – increasingly, humpbacks and grays are turning up in Puget Sound too. Sometimes as beautiful sights – sometimes as tragedies, as with the humpback death south of the Fauntleroy ferry dock last August. Among the researchers and experts who came to the scene was John Calambokidis. One week from tonight, he’ll be the guest speaker presented by The Whale Trail in the historic building at Dakota Place Park (4303 California SW). Here’s the announcement:
“The New Giants of the Salish Sea: Humpback and Gray Whales Discover Our Waters”
Presentation by John Calambokidis
Thursday, April 20, 7:00 – 8:30 pm.
New research reveals insights into the return of two magnificent whales to the Salish Sea and the mysteries of their lives. Humpback whales who once roamed these waters hundreds of years ago have returned in spectacular numbers. See some of the new research documenting this return, why it has occurred and some of the implications.
Gray whales migrate along the Washington coast and some feed in outer coast waters but one intrepid group, nicknamed the Sounders, has discovered a highly profitable but very risky feeding strategy in northern Puget Sound. New research and underwater video taken by the whales themselves reveals their incredible feeding strategy from a unique perspective.
Join researcher John Calambokidis, a founder of Cascadia Research Collective who has studied large whales for over 30 years both in our waters and throughout the eastern North Pacific.
Buy tickets now to reserve your seat. And hurry! This will likely sell out.
About the Speaker
John Calambokidis is a Senior Research Biologist and one of the founders of Cascadia Research Collective, a non-profit research organization formed in 1979 based in Olympia, Washington. He periodically serves as an Adjunct Faculty at the Evergreen State College teaching a course on marine mammals. His primary interests are the biology of marine mammals and the impacts of humans.
John has served as Project Director of over 200 projects. He has authored two books on marine mammals (on blue whales and a guide to marine mammals) as well as more than 150 publications in scientific journals and technical reports. He has conducted studies on a variety of marine mammals in the North Pacific from Central America to Alaska. He serves as Project Manager of the Southern California Behavioral Response Study and has directed long-term research on the status, movements, and underwater behavior of blue, humpback, and gray whales. Some of his recent research has included attaching tags to whales with suction cups to examine their feeding behavior and vocalizations.
John’s work has been covered on shows by National Geographic, Discovery Channel, BBC, and others. In 2012 he received the American Cetacean Society’s John Heyning Award for Lifetime Achievement in Marine Mammal Science.
Tickets are available online – $10 general, $5 for kids under 12 – buy yours here.
Thanks to the texter who sent word of a late-night double coyote sighting: Two in the 5600 block of 35th SW [map]. They wanted to be sure people in the area knew about it before letting their pets roam outdoors; researchers say coyotes’ diets actually includes more wild small animals – rodents, in particular – than domesticated ones. The sightings reports we’ve received over the years are archived here; state experts’ advice on coexisting with coyotes is here.
When we first mentioned Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s concerns about a seal pup nicknamed Taffy, who’s been coming and going from a stretch of Alki Beach for two weeks, they described her as healthy. Now, that’s changing, and they are asking you to please keep your distance:
This morning she tried to come ashore, but was scared away repeatedly by people gathering on the sidewalk above her – this, even though they were standing behind the yellow tape – still far too close to the 7- to 8-month-old weaned pup. The pup is terribly sensitive to activity even 50 yards away, much less 20 feet. She gave up after about 5 attempts and we did not see her the remainder of the day and on into this evening. It is imperative that harbor seal pups get stress-free rest out of the water.
Taffy appears to have some kind of trauma to her front foreflippers, though we have not been able to sight any specific wounds. The first few days we observed her, she would not bear weight on her left flipper. Now she will not use either one. This makes her terribly vulnerable on land to people and off-leash dogs.
We have seen a rapid decline over the past week as she has lost weight, is dehydrated, and appears to now have some lung issues, most likely lungworm infestation. While trying to come ashore this morning, we could actually hear her hoarse breathing and cough – not a good sign.
It is unusual for Seal Sitters to leave a tape perimeter in place when there is no seal onshore. However, under this special circumstance, we have been leaving tape intact on the sea wall above small bit of beach she prefers, as well as leaving stakes and tape on the beach when the incoming/outgoing tide permits.
We ask that people please respect the perimeter – even if you can’t see Taffy inside it. Often, she crawls up in between rocks and cannot be seen. Since she is now struggling with health issues, her haulout patterns have changed and we can’t predict when she will try to find rest. If you see her onshore, please don’t gather directly above her on the sea wall. Observe her from either end of the perimeter and please call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325) if volunteers are not onsite, as that means we are not aware Taffy is on land at this dangerous location. She needs space.
Seal Sitters First Responders had hopes of capturing the skittish pup today and transporting for evaluation and treatment. Capture will be very challenging because of the location and her hyper-awareness – she stays just a few feet at most from the water’s edge. Sadly, we anticipate her health will rapidly decline.
If you haven’t already noticed the taped-off perimeter in the past two weeks, the area in question is east/north of the main sandy stretch of Alki; if you are walking/running in the area, consider crossing to the inland sidewalk until you’re past where the tape is.
It’s been seven hours since our first report today of orcas in the area – and now a caller tells us they’re right off West Seattle; he’s watching from the Don Armeni Boat Ramp vicinity. Just checked the Orca Network thread and they too have someone seeing orcas in Elliott Bay. As always, sighting reports appreciated – in comments or via text/voice at 206-293-6302 – thank you!
8:33 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the first tip – orcas are back in central Puget Sound today! As Orca Network commenters also are chronicling, they were seen by ferry riders – including state ferries and the Vashon Water Taxi – headed for Rich Passage, the waterway to and from Bremerton – but they could just as easily head back this way, so we’re publishing this heads-up. Let us know if you saw/see them!
1:28 PM: The orcas have spent the past few hours delighting fans in Kitsap waters – here’s a photo gallery on KitsapSun.com.
More than 100 people gathered on Alki this afternoon to spotlight the plight of a Puget Sound orca who has lived in captivity thousands of miles away for almost half a century.
The Miami Seaquarium calls her Lolita. Here, she is known as Tokitae. Advocates have long pushed for her to be set free so she can live out her life back in her home waters, where there’s a plan for a “sea pen” that would be her home before a potential transition to open waters.
This was a march in solidarity with a gathering in Miami dubbed the “Miracle March.” Organizers included Orca Network founder Howard Garrett, and the marchers heard from Duwamish Tribe council member Ken Workman, welcoming them to Duwamish land and waters, and Paul Chey’okten Wagner from Protectors of The Salish Sea, praying in the Salish language for Tokitae’s return.
This webpage tells her story, including that the orca believed to be her mother is still alive. She is the last surviving orca from among those captured in local waters in the 1970s. The Miami park owners, so far, show no interest in releasing her; this Miami news report includes their statement.
You’ve probably seen – or at least heard – the sea lions and seals who hang out on that mooring buoy off West Seattle’s northeast shore. Christopher Boffoli‘s photo provides a drone’s-eye view from more than 300 feet up (drone operators are required to stay below 400 feet). It also gives us a reason to remind you about the rules on the ground – we talked earlier this week with Seal Sitters at a taped-off stretch of Alki, east of the end of the sandy beach, and learned about what happened to Taffy the harbor seal. Most of the marine mammals on the buoy are California sea lions, by the way.
12:13 PM: Thanks to Trileigh for first tip – orcas have been seen off Alki in the past half-hour, headed southbound. While we were writing this, Donna from The Whale Trail called in a tip too – look toward Blake Island.
12:46 PM: Texter says they are visible “mid-Blake” – so you should be able to see them from the Beach Drive shoreline, especially Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook.
1:48 PM: Commenter Jen says they’re off Vashon now.
Saving Puget Sound’s orcas can’t happen without saving our region’s salmon. Next Thursday, The Whale Trail‘s next Orca Talk will show you what’s happening, and what needs to happen. In case you haven’t already seen it in our calendar, here’s the announcement:
Washington State’s Regional Fishery Enhancement Groups: Making a Real Difference for Salmon (and Orcas)
Presentation by Jeanette Dorner
Thursday, March 30, 7:00 – 8:30 pm.
C & P Coffee Company, 5612 California SW
Cost: $5 suggested donation; kids free!
Presented by The Whale Trail
Salmon, the primary food for our endangered orcas (J, K, and L pods), are in trouble. Almost 20 years ago the state of Washington created a network of 14 non-profits to work with local communities on salmon habitat restoration projects in different watersheds.
These Regional Fishery Enhancement Groups have worked since then with private landowners and community partners to identify and implement valuable projects that can help increase the number of salmon returning to Washington state.
The latest report on the state of Washington’s salmon shows that overall the recovery of endangered salmon is mixed and salmon populations in Puget Sound are still declining. It is even more important to support and invest in these efforts to restore habitat.
Jeanette will share what the Regional Fishery Enhancement Groups across the state are doing to make a difference and also about the group in Seattles backyard: the Mid Sound Fishery Enhancement Group and how you can help.
Buy tickets now to reserve your seat. And hurry! This will likely sell out.
About the Speaker
Jeanette Dorner has a long history working to recover salmon in Puget Sound. She worked for 11 years as the Salmon Recovery Program Manager with the Nisqually Tribe, coordinating the protection and restoration of salmon habitat in the Nisqually watershed. She played a lead role in helping facilitate with partners major salmon restoration projects including the 900-acre restoration of the Nisqually Estuary. She then worked as the Director of Ecosystem and Salmon Recovery at the Puget Sound Partnership, supporting the work of hundreds of partners around Puget Sound to protect, restore and clean up their rivers, streams and Puget Sound shorelines.
In January of this year Jeanette became the Executive Director of the Mid Sound Fishery Enhancement Group. In her new role she is focused on working to grow the organization to achieve a broader impact on restoring salmon habitat in the Mid Sound area which includes the Green – Duwamish watershed, the Cedar/Sammamish/Lake Washington watershed, the watersheds of Eastern Kitsap County which drain into Central Puget Sound, and all the Puget Sound shorelines in the Central Puget Sound area in King County and Kitsap County.
Jeanette is also the mother to two wonderful kids – a 13-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. Part of her passion to recover salmon habitat and to preserve and protect this beautiful place we call home is to try to pass on to her children a home where they can continue to enjoy the natural wonders of this place with their families – going to watch orcas swimming through Puget Sound, visiting salmon spawning in our local streams, and hiking in the majestic forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Go here to get your ticket now!
Thanks to the texter who just let us know that transient orcas (the ones who are NOT the Southern Resident Killer Whales) have been seen off Bainbridge, southbound, this afternoon. According to Orca Network commenters, they’re closer to the Kitsap side, so if you go to look, bring good binoculars. Our texter says Whale Scout will have a volunteer looking from Alki Point around 4:30.
Thanks to Alisa for the text: She says transient orcas are in the area, southbound, “slightly north of and between Alki and Restoration Point.” A little murky out there with the rain, but … let us know if you see them!
It’s nesting/hatching season for bald eagles in our region, so tread lightly if you see a nest! As you know if you’ve been in West Seattle for any length of time, we are lucky to get frequent views of the bird that’s in its third century as America’s national symbol. Here at WSB, we are lucky to have been able to share awesome photos of local bald eagles, courtesy of generous and talented local photographers. One of those photographers, Danny McMillin, recently put together the slideshow video you see above – all photos of eagles (“and a few corvids”) in the Alki area, except for a few views from the Yakima River Canyon at the end – and sent it to us for sharing. Thanks, Danny!
P.S. Think you know everything about bald eagles? Check the Seattle Audubon fact sheet.
I think I saw a bobcat this morning at 6:00 AM on 39th and Marine View (Arroyos) on the hill. Pretty cool
They’re more common than you might think, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Department‘s infosheet about bobcats (which includes a photo).
Thursday night, West Seattle-headquartered The Whale Trail presents its next Orca Talk – this time, Dr. David Bain tells the story of the Barnes Lake Killer Whale Rescue. 7 pm at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor), here’s what you’ll hear about::
In 1994, nine offshore killer whales became entrapped in a large tide pool at Barnes Lake, Alaska. A film crew sought help for the whales as NOAA determined how to address the life-threatening situation. Dr. Bain was recruited to help, and led the attempt to return the whales to open water.
Join us to hear this rare, first-hand story of an orca rescue. Dr. Bain will also discuss prior events that made the rescue effort possible, and the implications of this effort for the subsequent rescue of Springer (A-73).
This is the first Orca Talk of 2017, hosted by The Whale Trail and Seal Sitters in West Seattle.
Buy tickets now to reserve your seat. And hurry! This will likely sell out.
About the Speaker
Dr. Bain has been studying killer whales since 1978. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and did post-doctoral fellowships at UC Davis and the National Marine Mammal Lab. His work has addressed many aspects of their biology and behavior. In recent years he has focused on the effects of disturbance.
Dr. Bain is a co-author of Canada’s Resident Killer Whale Recovery Strategy under SARA. In addition to his research, he is active in protecting and restoring habitat for killer whales and their prey.
In 2002, Dr. Bain was a scientific advisor to the Orphan Orca Fund, a coalition of non-profits that supported the successful effort to return Springer, an orphaned orca, to her pod.
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. Our overarching goal is to ensure the southern resident orcas don’t go extinct.
Through our current sites and signs, including two on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 30 million people each year. The Whale Trail is currently adding new sites along the west coast, from California to British Columbia, throughout the southern resident orcas’ range and beyond.
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. Our BC team is led by the the BC Cetacean Sighting Network. Many members of the Whale Trail teams met when they worked together to return Springer, the orphaned orca, to her pod.
The Whale Trail is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, registered in Washington State. Join us!
Get your tickets in advance – go to this Brown Paper Tickets page. $5 suggested donation; kids are free. C & P is at 5612 California SW, between The Junction and Morgan Junction.
(ADDED FRIDAY NIGHT: Video of presentation, courtesy of “Diver Laura” James)
By Linda Ball
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Sea creatures are at risk from a variety of threats. Among them – the struggle for food, climate change, environmental hazards, and increased ocean acidification, which makes it harder for sea life to pull calcium from the water.
That’s what a West Seattle audience heard last night from Lesanna Lahner, DVM, MPH, the executive director and veterinarian for the new organization SR3 (Sealife Response, Rehab and Research).
Lahner spoke to a full room at the Admiral Library last night about SR3, its goals and accomplishments so far, including its mission, “to promote the health and welfare of marine wildlife in the Pacific Northwest such that it can flourish.” Representatives from Seal Sitters, Whale Scout and Sustainable West Seattle were present as well.
Among the species Lahner talked about: Read More
A new nonprofit dedicated to marine-wildlife health, SR3 (Sealife Response + Rehab + Research), will tell its story in West Seattle next Wednesday (February 8th). A major goal for S3 is to build the greater Seattle area’s first marine-wildlife hospital. While SR3 may be new as an organization, we’re told its executive director Dr. Lesanna Lahner is well known to those who help marine wildlife here, especially Seal Sitters, which explains that Dr. Lahner is “one of the NOAA-contracted veterinarians who now consult with local stranding networks and perform on-the-beach health exams.” She assisted Seal Sitters last month with the rescue of a seal nicknamed “Hope“ (at center in SS photo at right).
This Wednesday (February 8th), 6 pm, at West Seattle (Admiral) Library (2306 42nd SW), she’ll speak not only about her organization but also about our area’s wildlife challenges, from the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales to the sea stars lost to wasting disease. All are welcome; no admission charge.
That’s a brand-new sign – in San Simeon, California – along The Whale Trail, the shore-based network of whale-watching spots established by the West Seattle-based advocacy group of the same name. The photo is from TWT executive director Donna Sandstrom, who is in California to launch six new TWT sites, including that one. And this comes as her group celebrates a new grant announced this week by a national organization:
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced that The Whale Trail, based in Seattle, will receive a $50,000 Ernest F. Hollings Ocean Awareness Award for their project, “The Whale Trail Northern California,” to develop interpretive signage on the northern California coast focusing on the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW), extending the trail of signage already found in the Olympic Peninsula.
The award is one of five grants totaling $215,000 awarded by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to expand public awareness of ocean and Great Lakes conservation issues in partnership with America’s national marine sanctuaries.
“The Whale Trail will help engage Americans in understanding how they can change the future for the southern resident orca, since all the issues that have brought the SKRW to the brink of extinction are human-caused,” said Kristen Sarri, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “Supporting local partners and their efforts to conserve this magnificent species is at the heart of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s work and well represents the goals of the Hollings Ocean Awareness Awards.”
“The Hollings Award will make it possible for coastal visitors and residents to learn more about where and when to watch whales from shore. The northern California coast is a key part of the range for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. With NMSF support we’ll build awareness of these iconic and beloved pods, the threats they are facing, and the role that we can each and all play in their recovery,” said Donna Sandstrom, founder and executive director for The Whale Trail.
The Hollings Award to The Whale Trail was provided in partnership with NOAA Fisheries. The purpose of the Hollings Awards is to foster a better understanding of ocean and Great Lakes issues that leads to increased stewardship of natural and cultural marine resources, including the eight endangered and protected species that are part of NOAA’s Species in the Spotlight campaign. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation seeks projects that inspire local communities to conservation actions, seeking innovative ideas that partner with America’s marine and Great Lakes sanctuaries to draw needed attention to endangered species such as the Southern Resident Killer Whale.
“NOAA Fisheries is pleased to be a partner in these education and outreach projects that support stewardship of the nation’s ocean resources and their habitat,” said Paul Doremus, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations for NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service.
Established in 2005, the awards represent the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s commitment to the legacy of former U.S. Senator Ernest F. Hollings who authored an extraordinary range of laws to safeguard America’s ocean and coasts. Senator Hollings was committed to increasing knowledge of our ocean’s value through research and education.
NMSF is supporting four other organizations with Hollings Ocean Awareness Awards that support projects in California, Georgia, Michigan, and Hawaii. The five funded projects connect with a wide geography of sanctuaries in U.S. waters, and support critical education and outreach initiatives on ocean and Great Lakes conservation and endangered species awareness.
NMSF has awarded more than $1.7 million in grants through the Hollings Awards program from its Ernest F. Hollings Ocean Awareness Trust Fund and other sources since 2005 to approximately 70 organizations.
While the Southern Resident Killer Whales are considered “residents” here, they range into waters far to the north – Canada – and south – California – to find food, so TWT’s awareness campaign is vital along many hundreds of miles of shoreline.
(J2, photographed by Leigh Calvez in the San Juans in 2011)
After almost three months without a sighting, another of the Southern Resident Killer Whales is believed to be dead, orca experts are saying tonight. This time it’s J2, nicknamed Granny, believed to have been the oldest of Puget Sound’s endangered resident orcas at ~105 years old, according to Ken Balcomb‘s “in memoriam” essay on the Center for Whale Research website, which concludes:
The SRKW population is now estimated to be 78 as of 31 December 2016, and J pod contains only 24 individuals plus the wandering L87. To whom will he attach now? Who will lead the pod into the future? Is there a future without food? What will the human leaders do?
The SRKW’s predicament was our choice for the top West Seattle wildlife story of 2016 – and it’s unfortunate that another orca death is making headlines so early in 2017. According to the Orca Network‘s website, L25 (Ocean Sun) is now the oldest of the SRKWs, estimated at 89 years old.
While we don’t usually spend much time looking back as each year wraps up, we do have a few reviews to share before 2016 makes its exit tomorrow night. First – our picks for the year’s top 5 West Seattle wildlife stories:
#5 – THE MYSTERY TURKEY(S)
Back in May, we started getting reports about, and photos of, a turkey ambling about West Seattle – from Pigeon Point to Lincoln Park to Alki. Then-Seattle Animal Shelter director Don Jordan (RIP) told WSB the sightings might have involved multiple turkeys. The mystery was never solved, but what might have been the same turkey turned up in North Seattle neighborhoods a few weeks later, we learned from commenters.
#4 – ‘WESTLEY’ THE DEER
Some found it hilarious that West Seattleites were so interested in a deer, given their proliferation in other areas as close as Vashon Island, just across the water. But the deer that appeared here in November, quickly nicknamed “Westley” in comments, was the first deer seen in West Seattle in a very long time. It was also observed that Westley seemed to be the same deer dubbed “Lefty” during sightings in Union Bay months earlier. While here, he crisscrossed the peninsula, and many worried he would come to an end via someone’s bumper – but instead, he headed south, and at last mention had been seen in Federal Way.
#3 – LINCOLN PARK GEESE PROCREATION, THEN RELOCATION
In June, hearts were warmed by news that the well-known white geese of Lincoln Park (and vicinity) had babies. But it wasn’t long before the sad news that two had been hit and killed. Then one of the adults vanished. And in a startling development in September – the surviving geese were captured and relocated to a Vashon Island sanctuary. Later in September, we published this report with followup information (and backstory on how the geese got to Fauntleroy in the first place), and that’s the last we’ve heard.
An alert from Lauren:
About 5:15 pm tonight we (myself, 1.5 yr old son, and large dog) were attacked by an owl on Marine View between SW 110 St and SW 108 St. [map] It divebombed at my son and I three times as we ran inside. Luckily it didn’t catch us. I think it was going after my son’s pom on his beanie.
They’ve seen it before in the area – brown, “couple feet wingspan,” possibly a barred owl. Here’s what the state Fish and Wildlife Department says about divebombing owls.
Though the Southern Resident Killer Whales were declared an endangered species in 2005, they’re not recovering, the federal government acknowledges, saying that the population “remains small and vulnerable and has not had a net increase in abundance since the mid-1980s.” The three pods together now number just 79 after J34’s death last week in British Columbia. Tonight, West Seattle was one of three locations where people concerned about the iconic orcas held vigils. More than 25 people gathered by Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza, with flowers and candles in memory of and tribute to the resident orcas lost this year.
The vigil was organized “in solidarity with” one held by the Orca Network at the same time at the Langley Whale Center on Whidbey Island; another was planned in the San Juans.
With the Southern Resident Killer Whale population down to 79 after the death of J34 in B.C. waters last week, many who love our orcas continue to wonder what can they personally do – if anything – to try to help keep the endangered whales from dwindling to extinction. Donna Sandstrom, the West Seattleite who founded and leads The Whale Trail, shares these thoughts, republished with permission from TWT’s website:
Let the untimely death of this young whale inspire us to address the issues that are impacting these orcas: lack of salmon, toxin accumulations, and noise and stress from boats. It is not one of these things, but all.
A well-meaning and concerned public has been led to focus exclusively on bringing down the Snake River dams, as if that was the only or even the best thing we can do to help these whales.
Bringing down dams is a complex challenge that will take decades to accomplish. Meanwhile, these pods are disappearing before our eyes. There are plenty of things each and all of us can do *right now* to help.
Watch from Shore. Noise and stress from boats makes it harder for hungry whales to catch the fewer salmon that *are* there. The next time J, K, or L pods are near, find a Whale Trail site near you and watch them from shore. Know that by reducing sound in their environment, you are giving them a better chance to make it.
Support a Whale Protection Zone. Orca Relief and others have petitioned NOAA Fisheries to establish a protected zone for orcas on the west side of San Juan Island. Sign the petition now, and encourage NOAA to give the whales acoustic space in a critical part of their range.
Reduce Toxins. Living on the edge of the Sound, the choices we make in our daily lives have an impact on whether these whales will survive. Orcas are at the top of the ocean food chain. Toxins like PCBs, PBDEs and DDT bioaccumulate in orcas, stored in lipid cells like blubber and mother’s milk. When the orcas are stressed, the toxins may be released into their bloodstream, and make them more susceptible to diseases. Any actions we take to reduce toxins from entering Puget Sound is a win for the whales.
A few simple suggestions:
*Don’t use pesticides on your lawns. Plant a rain garden, or a native plant, to filter toxins and prevent them from entering the Sound as runoff.
*Walk or take the bus instead of driving once a week, and reduce the oil that runs off pavement into the Sound.
Learning from Success:
Next year we will celebrate the 15th anniversary of Springer the orphaned orca going home. In 2002, she was rescued, rehabilitated and reunited with her pod on the north end of Vancouver Island. Three years ago, she had her first calf. It’s the only successful orca reunion in history.
Why does this story matter, and what bearing does it have on the survival of the southern residents?
To get the whale home, we had to learn how to work together, as individuals, and across organizations, agencies and nations.
Above all, we put the whales’ best interest first.
What hope there is for the whales begins with being honest about the issues that are impacting them. That means, putting their best interest ahead of our own, whether commercial, financial, or simply a desire to get closer that puts them further at risk.
We must encourage and embolden our governments to move urgently to protect this population. We must also understand that NOAA and DFO can’t do this alone—as with Springer, we each have a role to play.
As the days lengthen, let’s match the sadness we feel about J-34’s death with a strengthened resolve to protect his family. Their fate is in our hands — that is our challenge, and our hope. Together, we’ll find light in the dark for the whales.
While early necropsy results showed that “blunt-force trauma” killed J34, researchers have not yet conclusively identified the source. This was the third J-pod orca death announced in less than two months.