Monday, December 04, 2006
The Blue Fjord lays to rest in Toba Inlet, northeast of Campbell River, after a Hemlock log pierced her hull yesterday. Captain Mike and dog Shadow spent the night in the dingy cut off from civilization for 17hours. Thankfully they are safe, his wife Judy was flying up to meet him and they were spotted from the air.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
The critical habitat designation encompasses parts of Haro Strait and the waters around the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and all of Puget Sound, a total of just over 2,500 square miles. The agency is excluding from the designation 18 military sites covering nearly 112 square miles of habitat.
Proposed Recovery Plan for Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) (PDF)
Proposed Recovery Plan for Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) (PDF)
Friday, November 24, 2006
The symposium offered eight individual sessions focused on answering these high priority research questions for each of the following topics:
• Population dynamics
• Distribution and habitat
• Vessel traffic
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
(Hugo / L71)
Hugo and three other southern resident killer whales are missing and presumed dead. Hugo (male 20yrs old) was last seen on July 15, 2006 by the Center for Whale Research. Jellyroll / L43 (female 34yrs old) was photoidentified last on September 9, 2006, by the CWR team. Raven / K28 (female 12yrs old) was last seen on September 19, 2006, leaving her calf K39 orphaned at 4 months of age and went missing shortly thereafter. The loss of these whales brings the endangered population down to 87 individuals.
Three Young Orcas Missing From Pod Are Presumed Dead
Puget Sound's killer whales begin their annual trek into nearby waters.
By Christopher Dunagan, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 19, 2006
As Puget Sound’s killer whales begin their fall excursions into Central Puget Sound, researchers have announced the apparent deaths of three young adult orcas since mid-July.
The apparent deaths follow three births earlier this year, bringing the total population back to 87. But the most disturbing aspect of the deaths is that all three animals were in their prime reproductive years, said Kelley Balcomb-Bartok of the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island.
Deaths of reproductive females are not normal, and they have implications for the long-term survival of the population, he said. The Puget Sound whales are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
On Wednesday afternoon, a group of killer whales was spotted off the south end of Vashon Island going into Tacoma Narrows, according to Susan Berta of Orca Network, which tracks whale movements via shoreside observers. The whales were believed to be all or part of L Pod, one of the three major Puget Sound groups.
The typical pattern is for the orcas to spend a good part of their summers in the San Juan Islands, feasting on chinook salmon. They tend to move south in the fall and early winter when chinook runs decline and chum runs increase along the Kitsap Peninsula and areas farther south. Last year, the orcas were seen near Bainbridge Island and South Kitsap the second week of October.
The cause of the three deaths is unknown, Balcomb-Bartok said. Researchers who observed the whales through the summer noticed each animal missing at a different time. Orcas hardly ever stay alone for long, which is why the missing animals are presumed dead.
One of the two females that died had a 4-month-old calf that probably was still nursing, and there is serious doubt that the baby can survive through the winter without its mother, he added. The missing orcas are:
K-28, a 12-year-old female known as Raven: The orca was photographed by researchers on Sept. 19. The photo shows a clear sign of "peanut head," a condition characterized by a depression behind the blow hole caused by a loss of blubber. That suggests that the orca was sick or malnourished. After K-28 went missing, her calf has been seen swimming with its aunt and other relatives.
L-43, a 34-year-old mother of three known as Jellyroll: Jellyroll was last seen Sept. 2. She leaves behind a 2-year-old son, L-104, which was named Domino in August following a public vote on the name. The youngster is expected to survive without his mother. She also is survived by a 10-year-old son, a 20-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old granddaughter.
L-71, a 20-year-old male known as Hugo: The orca was last seen July 15. Hugo leaves behind his mother and a 13-year-old sister. Hugo is the third child that his mother has lost.
Although there is speculation that the whales may have starved to death, another scenario relates to decreased immunity caused by high levels of toxic chemicals in their bodies. Puget Sound orcas are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world. A lowered immunity can lead to disease, which can affect their ability to obtain food.
Jay Zischke, a fisheries biologist with the Suquamish Tribe, said it does not appear that chinook salmon were in short supply in the San Juan Islands this year. Now that the whales are moving into Central and South Puget Sound, they should find abundant runs of chum on which to feed.
Perhaps coincidentally, dead harbor porpoises have washed up on Puget Sound shores this year in numbers larger than usual.
At-risk orca calf is now presumed dead
Another Puget Sound orca is missing.
One of the calves born this summer whose mother was recently discovered to have vanished has disappeared, scientists said Friday. That brings the number of missing and presumed dead orcas to four and the total population to 86.
Orcas have tightly knit families, and researchers had hoped that the baby's aunt, who also had a calf, would be able to nurse and take care of the orphaned animal.
But when the rest of the orca's family was recently spotted, the baby was gone, said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist with the Center for Whale Research, based on San Juan Island.
"We assume that it didn't make it," he said. Whale watchers are urged to contact the Orca Network (866-ORCANET) if they see a baby orca on its own.
The local orca population is at risk of extinction and is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Key factors threatening orcas' survival include exposure to toxic chemicals that can weaken their immune system and reduce their reproductive ability; a shortage of their staple food, chinook salmon; the potential for a major oil spill; and boat traffic, which can impede their hunting ability.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
On today’s Ocean Magic II trip we headed south of Victoria to view a mother-calf pair of Humpback whales. The fog had a high ceiling so we could see the animals for quite a far distance. We then headed over to San Juan Island to view J pod, one of the southern resident, fish-eating, killer whale family groups. The whales were foraging near Salmon Bank and taking rests at the surface after pursuing prey. We could hear the whales communicating and using echolocation to navigate and search for salmon.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Reports of killer whales lead the noon Ocean Magic II trip east towards the San Juan Islands. We stopped in the middle of Haro Strait to view a group of Dall’s porpoises. The animals were milling about the area slowly. Then near Henry Island we spotted a Minke whale heading south about a half mile from shore we could hear the southern residents in the distance through the hydrophone. Deeper into Open Bay we met up with J pod and Ruffles / J1 was leading the group southwest. Granny / J2 was not far behind her son and the rest of the animals were traveling at a good pace, some porpoising, and chasing fish along the way. Some were very dramatic high-speed pursuits with lots of whales cartwheeling into the air. Polaris / J26 and Blackberry / J27 were identified among the whales. The family was using vocal calls and echolocation clicks.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
The Ocean Magic II afternoon trip lead us south of Victoria to view Humpback whales. There were two mother calf pairs a couple miles apart circling near Constance Bank. The mother-calf bond is the strongest in Humpback whale society. Females will have one calf every two to three years and they are about 13 feet long at birth and weigh two tons. A group of Steller sea lions were nearby foraging on the schools of salmon. We then headed over to Race Rocks to view sea lions hauled out resting on the rocks. There were lots of Stellers and the California sea lions were on their favorite boat ramp area. Brant’s cormorants were lined up on the rocky edges fanning and drying their wings in the air.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Today was a beautiful sunny day with lots of marine mammals to view on the noon Ocean Magic II trip. First we visited the mother calf pair of Humpback whales near Constance Bank off Victoria. The whales were heading east and taking short dives. Then we headed over to Lime Kiln Lighthouse to meet up with J pod as they traveled and porpoised south along San Juan Island. Mike / J26 and Polaris / J28 were identified as they stopped to forage for prey near the vessel. On the way back across Haro Strait a group of Dall’s porpoises visited the boat for a short wake ride then were on their way.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Another amazing fall whale-watch day. The Ocean Magic II noon trip started out at San Juan Island. There were lots of Dall’s porpoises near False Bay ‘rooster-tailing’ (high-speed travel) and then a group came over and surfed our bow wake. The porpoises traveled with us south for a bit before breaking off then we met up with J pod foraging at Salmon Bank. There were lots of fish chases with whales in pursuit of prey. The killer whales were staying in contact using vocal calls and emitting sonar echolocation clicks. We then headed for Constance Bank where we found a mother calf pair of Humpback whales. The two were accompanied by a Steller sea lion. The mother 'tail lobbed' (raised her flukes out of the water and slapped it on the surface) repeatedly as the whales rolled around on their backs. They headed for the stern of the boat and passed by underwater upside down reflecting back the aquagreen waters of the strait. Their enormous girth and long flippers revealed the massive size of these baleen whales. The most breath taking personal moment of the year!