Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ways of the Whales Workshop - January 28

The annual Ways of the Whales Workshop sponsored by Orca Network is scheduled for January 28 at Camp Casey on Whidbey Island. For more information and to register:

Harbor Porpoises Returning to San Francisco Bay

After an absence of 60 years, Harbor porpoises are returning to San Francisco Bay. They left largely due to pollution from heavy industrial activity during WWII and after. But in the 1970s as a result of the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Bay was cleaned up.

Gray Whale Migration is On

This is an excellent article on the gray whale migration south from the Arctic region. Apparently, it was a very good feeding summer as the whales appear to be fat and in good condition. NOAA plans to conduct aerial surveys to identify pregnant females.

New Zealand Orca Attacks Sharks

On December 27 a male orca was seen attacking sharks in the surf off New Zealand. Local people videoed the event.

It is believed there were other orcas present but they were herding fish into the shallows. One shark beached itself to get away, but then was harassed by a dog! Apparently, the shark attacks went on for a couple of hours.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"The Whale" Movie Is Gaining Momentum

A recent update from Suzanne Chisolm and Michael Parfit, producers of "The Whale," the story of L-pod orphan Luna, indicates that the movie (already shown in a lot of major US cities,) is gradually spreading out to smaller cities and towns. Check out their website for info on how you can help spread the word. Hopefully the DVD will be released sometime in 2012.

A Nice Christmas Present - New J-Pod Calf!

December 17 was the first sighting of J-48, a new calf born to J-19, Slick. It is estimated that the calf, seen in Puget Sound the morning of the 17th with fetal folds still visible, was probably just a few hours old. This is Slick's fifth calf since her first (J-26) was born in 1991. It will be interesting to find out (hopefully,) who's the baby's father.

Creosote Log Removal Project Very Successful!

The removal of creosote logs from Lopez beaches this fall (reported here in October,) was a very successful project! Three and a half miles of beachfront were cleaned up, including Fisherman Bay Preserve, Weeks Wetland, and Odlin Park, with over 65 tons of logs left the island. Kudos to Tim Clark, Land Bank manager, Lisa Kaufman of DNR and her group of volunteers for a job well done.

Celebration of Successful Indian Island Season

On Friday, November 18, Beach Watchers, Kwiaht and Orcas High School students gathered at the Eastsound Community Center to share with the community the results of their 3rd season of research and monitoring activities. About 120 people participated in the evening's activities, more than double the number who attended last year. Guests circulated around the room viewing various exhibits explaining what Indian Island Marine Health Observatory volunteers have been learning. Hands-on activities included identifying microscopic plankton samples, learn more about why micro-plastics are a serious problem on Eastsound's beaches, and watching experiments on how salt water and fresh react to each other. During the evening's program, student and adult volunteers were recognized, and Russel Barsh presented a slide show showing how the summer research is carried out and some of the more interesting findings. One of the season's highlights was the successful fledging of three oystercatcher chicks! Volunteers have helped to protect the parents' nest for two seasons now. One chick survived last year, and now three! Music and delicious food rounded out the evening. Among the Orcas Beach Watcher volunteers who organized and participated in the evening were: Sheldon Gregory, Marcia Spees, Nancy Alboucq, Kim Secunda, Rusty Diggs, Ron Kinner, Margo Shaw (with apologies to anyone we've forgotten to mention!) Here are a few photos:

Friday, December 9, 2011

As a Citizen Scientist You Can Learn to Recognize Whale Calls and Be A Part of The Whale Song Project

Listen to Whale FM and learn how to recognize whale calls and be a part of The Whale Song Project., which is sponsored by Scientific American.

Click on is one of several projects using crowd-sourcing to work through huge datasets where human senses are better than computers at picking out patterns. It is run by Zooniverse, a developer of citizen science projects that started in 2007. With the data collected, scientists hope to research whether the killer whales and pilot whales have specific dialects within family groups. They may also get some insight into how commercial shipping, oil drilling and other noisy ocean activities are affecting whale life.

Happy listening and learning.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No Limit to Killing Endangered Sea Lions in New Zealand

Unfortunately, New Zealand sea lions like squid, but so do people. So guess who loses this battle? The sea lions are a bykill of the nets used to catch the squid. Read the story at:

Puget Sound Science Review Website

This is a new site you should all have bookmarked. The Puget Sound Science Review is a publication of the Puget Sound Institute at the University of Washington, and is founded as part of a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Partnership. Here is the link:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whale Museum & Center for Whale Research Apply for Research Permits on Marine Mammals

The Northwest Fisheries Science Center, The Whale Museum and The Center for Whale Research have applied for new permits to conduct research on marine mammals. NOAA Fisheries is requesting comments on those applications. Please see the Federal Register notice on the Fisheries Northwest Region website at for details. You must submit comments by Dec. 5, 2011.

NOAA Releases Draft of New Enforcement Policies for Fishermen, Boaters

NOAA Fisheries has released a draft of its enforcement priorities and invited the public to submit comments through January 9, 2012. These enforcement priorities are the latest step NOAA is taking to improve its enforcement program, and will help the agency emphasize compliance through better communication with fishermen, boaters, and others. Compliance assistance to whale watchers to reduce illegal interactions is included in the Regional Priorities. Enforcement has played a key role in developing and implementing the new vessel regulations to protect killer whales in Washington (, and this is an opportunity to provide feedback to the Office of Law Enforcement. The draft priorities and information about submitting comments are available online at

Dead Female Orca Calf Found on Washington Coast

A newborn female killer whale calf was found dead at Seaview (on the Long Beach Peninsula) on Sunday, November 14, 2011. The carcass was transported to Portland State University where a necropsy was performed by Portland State University, NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Cascadia Research, and Dr. Stephen Raverty. The killer whale calf has not yet been identified to population or ecotype, such as Southern Resident or transient, and a full suite of samples was collected and has been sent to several labs for analysis. NOAA will provide an update when they have more information on the results of this stranding investigation.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Indian Island Marine Health Observatory Annual Report Friday, November 18th

Save the date for the Indian Island Marine Health report to the Community to be held on Friday, November 18th, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m in the Madrona Room at the Orcas Center on Orcas Island. The meeting will include marine slide shows, music, interactive displays, and new data on the health of the Eastsound waterfront presented by KWIAHT Director, Russel Barash. Different displays will be available. Including a phytoplankton presentaion, inter-active microscopes, touch tanks and an examination of the current bioremediation project underway in Eastsound's wetlands. Children are invited to attend with an art project table available just for them. In addition, a meal will be provided by the Orcas Village store. This event is free. Tax-deductible donations to further this long-term project are welcome. Please plan on attending this entertaining and informative snapshot of the Eastsound waterfront. Come "Celebrate the Bay". For further information go to:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

News from NOAA on the Southern Resident Orcas

Southern Resident killer whale recovery program update:

NOAA Fisheries and Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently held a workshop to present available information on salmon fisheries and Southern Resident killer whales to an independent scientific panel. The meeting was part of series of workshops to review available scientific information on the effects of salmon fisheries on Southern Resident killer whales. Background information on the workshop process and presentations from the first workshop are available on our web page at:

Orca research: NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center recently published a Southern Resident Killer Whale Research Update summarizing the latest research results on taxonomy, behavior, ecology, health, anthropogenic impacts and socioeconomics. The newsletter is available at:

Springer/A73 update: In case you hadn't heard, Springer (A73) returned to Canadian waters with A Pod again this summer. Dr. Pete Schroeder, a veterinarian who helped rescue Springer, had an opportunity to see her this summer and provide an update on her health status. His report is available on our A73 web page at: Next year will be the 10th anniversary of Springer's successful rescue and return to her family!

The NOAA Fisheries Northwest Region has a new home page, which features stories about regional activities and partnerships. We just added a story about The Whale Trail. Check out our home page at:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Long Live the Kings - King Salmon that is

Volunteers including WSU Beach Watchers have been working hard during spawning season at the Glenwood Springs Salmon Hatchery on Orcas to collect eggs and milt from the over 1300 salmon that have returned so far this year (almost double last year's total of 750) and then mix them for placement into incubation trays.
The Glenwood Springs Salmon Hatchery is considered one of the most environmentally natural hatcheries in the world. Young salmon live in outdoor ponds and for the most part have to fend for themselves for food in a practice that most clearly mimic nature. Salmon from this hatchery have been found to most closely resemble the wild species in appearance, behavior and biochemical makeup.
These pictures show adult salmon being collected for their milt and eggs.

New Bridge over Cascade Creek

After several months of construction a new bridge has been completed over Cascade Creek in Olga on Orcas Island. Prior to the new bridge a small culvert connected Cascade Creek to Buck Bay. For decades the old design significantly impeded the movement of water into the Bay and impacted the movement of salmon and trout. The questions being considered are: Will the new bridge increase fish and water movement in Cascade Creek? Will it affect the shape of the shores of the bay and creek?

To find out a team of WSU Beach Watchers from Orcas Island are monitoring stream bank sediments and vegetation, tidal flux and salinity, and fish migrations and spawning. The data gathered from this reseach will help to improve the design of future projects. Including the bridges recommended for three other fish bearing streams on Orcas. The streams under consideration are Fish Trap, Bonnie Brae at West Beach and West Sound.

More pictures:

Celebrate the Bay - November 18th

Volunteers of the Indian Island Marine Health Observatory are hosting a "Celebrate the Bay" gathering on Friday, November 18th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Madrona Room at the Orcas Center on Orcas Island. WSU Beach Watchers and members of the public are invited to attend. There will be music and refreshments.

The Celebration will include displays, slide show, and a report on the biodiversity of the Eastsound waterfront. Using data on fish, invertebrates and eelgrass compiled over the last three years the Indian Island team has identified changes in the timing and distribution of marine life that may reflect weather changes and/or contaminated urban runoff.

Please attend and learn more about what is changing and why and what we can do about it. Oh, did I mention there will be refreshments! Free admission, but donations are always welcome.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Two Orcas Die in Alaska River

Recently, three whales were sighted about 30 miles up the Nushagak River in southwest Alaska, just east of Dillingham. Two female whales died and the third whale, a juvenile, has not been sighted. The hope is that it found its way back to salt water. A necropsy was performed on one of the females and revealed no cause of death, but that she was in a late term pregnancy. The other female will be necropsied as well. Biologists are baffled as to what the whales were doing so far up the river, and hope the second necropsy will reveal a cause of death, as well as the pod they belong to.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) Open House October 19 on the Interisland Ferry.

PSP is holding a series of open houses in various locations around the Sound this month. Their purpose (as shown on their website,) is to:

· share information about PSP's measure of Puget Sound health - the Vital Signs;

· highlight Puget Sound recovery priorities and accomplishments, especially any local priorities and accomplishments;

· describe the upcoming update to the Puget Sound recovery plan, the Action Agenda, and get public input;

· provide general educational information about Puget Sound, recovery, and what individuals can do to help.

The San Juan County event will be on the inter-island ferry on Wed. Oct 19. The presentations will begin when the ferry departs from Friday Harbor at 11:30 am, and will continue for two round trips through the islands, returning to FH at 5:10 pm.

In addition to the PSP part of the afternoon, island environmental organizations are encouraged to set up displays as well, and Kwiaht intern Aileen Murphy is helping to organize a display with handouts and photos of all three of the islands’ Marine Health Observatories. Email Aileen: before Oct 17 if you’d like to help. Islanders can board the ferry at any point during the afternoon to enjoy and learn from the information presented.