USA, Canada: orcas of Puget Sound in danger


This video is about killer whales “wave washing” a seal in the Antarctic.

From National Wildlife Magazine in the USA:

SEEING KILLER WHALES ply the waters of Washington State’s Puget Sound has long been a great thrill for Seattle-area residents.

No other U.S. urban community can boast of resident orcas a few miles from downtown.

Whale watching there is a multi-million-dollar tourist draw. As one orca expert puts it, “Everybody wants a kiss from a killer whale.”

But the thrill may soon be gone.

Three orca pods living in Puget Sound from May through October, known as the southern resident killer whale population, were declared federally endangered late last year by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the federal agency responsible for protecting marine species.

Scientists believe the decline of wild chinook salmon—a major orca food source—as well as global warming, toxic pollution and vessel noise could eliminate this orca population, which ranges beyond Puget Sound into the San Juan Islands and Georgia Strait.

Pollution by Celebrity Cruises of Puget Sound: here.

Fossil sockeye salmon in Washington state in the USA: here.

From the BBC:

The pristine waters of British Columbia’s Fraser River, a few hours’ drive upstream from Vancouver, belie the activity beneath.

Below the tranquil surface, the river has just witnessed one of nature’s most spectacular natural phenomena – the return of the sockeye salmon, and this year it is the biggest salmon run in a century.

This year, despite dire predictions from scientists, 34 million sockeye salmon came back to the exact stretch of river where they were born to spawn.

But what makes this even more astonishing is that it comes just one year after only one million fish returned.

Fewer than 90 orcas left in Puget Sound. Take action to protect their habitat from coal exports: here.

First fishers born in Washington State since reintroduction began: here.

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9 thoughts on “USA, Canada: orcas of Puget Sound in danger

  1. Published: Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Protection for puffins

    …and just about any other waterfowl you can find. This wildlife refuge near Port Townsend has had its own protectors, too.

    By Christina Harper
    Special to The Herald

    Bird watching isn’t on the top of everyone’s “things to do” list, but just mention puffins and people get either cutesy or just downright excited.

    Tufted puffins, with their stylish little Grandpa Munster hairdos and red-orange beaks and feet, are a colorful delight to see – but they can be hard to find.

    Good thing the Port Townsend Marine Science Center takes visitors and puffin lovers on a cruise around Protection Island at the mouth of Discovery Bay in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The cruises are offered Saturdays into August.

    Celebrating 25 years of coastal education and conservation, the science center is offering cruises that give people the chance to learn about puffins and see them in their natural habitat along with seals and other wildlife.

    Protection Island, a natural wildlife refuge, is 364 acres. It’s closed to the public. The only way to get there is by private boat or a chartered cruise.

    We climbed aboard our puffin cruise at Hudson Point Marina in Port Townsend just before 6 p.m. on a recent Saturday. The 65-foot Glacier Spirit was full and people cozied up around tables.

    On the ride out to Protection Island our guides kept us informed of what we might see – various loons and grebes – and told us what to look for and where we might spot puffins.

    The ride was choppy that evening under a brilliant blue sky.

    Out past Discovery Bay the boat began to slow down. It was here we heard the first cry: “Puffin! Puffin!”

    Bird lovers sat up, stood up, and came out on deck to look at three little puffins bobbing around in the water about 200 feet from the boat. These bird enthusiasts came well-equipped with high-powered binoculars and long-lens cameras, and a closer look at the puffins showed their little feet furiously paddling away.

    About 70 percent of seabirds in the Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca area nest on Protection Island. It has one of the largest groups of rhinoceros auklet in the world, and some were out that night.

    Next up to view was a long line of harbor seals resting on the shoreline of Protection Island. In this world without people – except one man who acts as a caretaker – a bald eagle soared above the seals, creating a peaceful picture and a beautiful snapshot.

    On the tip of the shore lay a 14-foot elephant seal that has been coming to Protection Island for three years. Guides can spot the creature by a huge scar on his shoulder.

    Protection Island looks barren and yellowed, but is full of life. The deer spotted on one side of the island swam there from the mainland. Harlequin ducks shimmy and shake on rocks by the sea.

    This natural habitat came about because of two women: Eleanor Stopps and the late Zella Schultz.

    Schultz, an artist and wildlife biologist, and Stopps, founder of Admiralty Audubon, worked together learning about the birds and wildlife on Protection Island. They both shared the same goal: to see that the island would be protected for its feathery inhabitants.

    When Schultz died in 1974, the Nature Conservancy bought part of the island from a developer who had already begun work on the island, putting auklets at risk. The Nature Conservancy sold the land to the Washington State Game Department and the 48 acres was named The Zella M. Schultz Seabird Sanctuary.

    Stopps moved closer to Protection Island from Seattle and published a book on seagulls. She also began an Adopt a Seabird program, and with the money she raised, bought lots on Protection Island.

    Stopps pressed on, enlisting people to lobby for the island and write letters in support of a land for the birds. On Oct. 15, 1982, her efforts were rewarded when Protection Island was made a National Wildlife Refuge.

    Stopps was aboard the Glacier Spirit on our trip. When the boat reached Protection Island she took the microphone and told visitors a little about why she did what she did.

    A few more puffins were out for viewing before our boat headed back to Port Townsend. The boat reaches Protection Island usually about the time of the evening when the birds are headed back to the island with food. It’s not unusual to see puffins with two or three fish hanging from their big colorful beaks.

    The puffins might be on their way to their burrows in the cliffs where one or two chicks are waiting for supper.

    Christina Harper is a freelance writer. She can be reached at harper@heraldnet.com

    http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20070714/LIVING08/707140312

  2. Aug 21, 7:17 PM EDT

    Study: Marine bird populations declining

    BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Marine bird populations in northern Puget Sound have seen significant declines since the late 1970s, according to a Western Washington University study.

    The four-year study included a census of 80 north Puget Sound marine bird species – those that live in the water, not just the shores. Students gathered data from about 150 sites between Tsawwassen, British Columbia, and Whidbey Island.

    John Bower, a professor of field biology at Western, says he’s still working on the final report but that early results point to steep declines in a number of key species.

    Among them: the common murre, a long-billed black and white seabird, whose population has declined 93 percent since the 1970s census; and the Western grebe, a long-necked black and white seabird, which has seen its numbers drop 81 percent.

    Other birds in decline include the brant, a coastal goose common on Padilla Bay, and the scoter, a sea duck that’s a popular catch for hunters.

    Bower’s study compares the latest numbers with data collected between 1978 and 1979, when the construction of oil refineries in the region prompted the federal government to document marine species in the area that could be harmed by an oil spill.

    “It was perfectly normal to go out to the bay and see several thousand Western grebes on the shores,” Bower said. But the recent study found a one-day average of 10 Western grebes on Padilla Bay and 436 on Bellingham Bay, Bower said. Now “they just aren’t around,” he said.

    The study seems to confirm earlier results from bird counts by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, but this time the birds were counted from the ground, not in the air.

    David Nysewander, a Fish and Wildlife project leader who assesses marine birds on Puget Sound, said he wasn’t surprised by the study results, but he says a lack of money prevents his department from doing much about it.

    Bower said water pollution, eel grass destruction, global warming and habitat loss could all be factors in the bird decline, but he doesn’t have the research to back that up.

    In addition to government restrictions on shoreline development, he said individuals can do a lot to help the birds by limiting pollution and not allowing their dogs to disturb birds when walking on beaches.

    By protecting the region’s marine birds, Bower said, the public will be protecting the whole Puget Sound.

    “If we have declines in the birds, it means the ecosystem that supports those birds is in trouble,” he added.

    Information from: Skagit Valley Herald, http://www.skagitvalleyherald.com

    © 2007 The Associated Press

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