#Springer

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In January 2002, when she was just a calf, a killer whale named Springer was discovered emaciated and alone by a ferry dock in Puget Sound near Seattle. It was later determined that her mother must have died, leaving the orphaned orca to fend for herself at an age when most calves are still reliant upon their parent.

Twelve years later, Springer has been spotted thriving in the wild near Vancouver with her pod and a healthy young calf by her side — proving that the bonds of a family can persevere beyond our intervention and the walls of captivity.

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When biologists first found Springer, they were able to uncover Springer’s origins after matching her calls for help to the unique vocalizations of a known pod — but the group had already moved on — almost 250 miles to the north.

Over the next several months, the lonely killer whale lingered and languished, never straying far from the only companionship she could find. Springer could frequently be seen approaching boats. The kind of behavior, experts said, that was driven by her need for social interaction.

The story of Springer’s sad predicament eventually gained international attention, and when experts noticed that her health was deteriorating, it spurred a heated debate over whether something should be done to help. Support for the idea was mixed even among wildlife activists, who feared that if the orca was taken to receive medical treatment, there would be a chance she’d never be released.

“It’s going to be heart-breaking if we see the worst thing happen, which is to see her die,” Donna Sandstrom of Orca Alliance told Seattle’s KING 5 News at the time. “But we would rather bear that heartbreak than to know she’s enduring it alone in a concrete tank.”

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Eventually, after careful coordination, it was decided that Springer would be captured, rehabilitated, and with any luck, reintegrated into her pod in the wild. She was moved from the Sound and transported to a sea pen, where she was fed to gain weight and her health improved, though some were concerned that she might have grown too accustomed to human assistance.

After a month in captivity, Springer was loaded into a small pool atop a catamaran and ferried hundreds of miles north to where her relatives had been spotted. As the pod moved near, the orphaned orca was set free and she hurriedly swam to join them.

Biologists continued to monitor Springer in the days and weeks that followed, and were stunned to watch as she was welcomed back into the pod nearly six months after becoming lost.

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For marine mammal specialists, Springer’s release came as proof that orcas could persevere despite knowing captivity.

“This is a great experiment that is a success. We are very happy,” Michael Harris of the Orca Conservancy told KOMO 4 News. “She’s with her family now. She’s fat, she’s happy. We’ve been holding our breath for a long, long time and this is great news.”

Every year since then Springer has been seen in the company of her pod near Vancouver, seemingly unencumbered by her time in captivity. But this year, her visit was extra special — she was with a calf who had survived the crucial first year of its life.

“They appear to be healthy and robust… normal in every way. Great stuff,” wrote Lance Barrett-­Lennard, head of the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Vancouver Aquarium.

“This sighting is great news for everyone interested in the welfare of killer whales off the west coast of North America — and will be particularly gratifying to those who were involved in the many aspects of Springer’s identification, assessment, rescue, rehabilitation, transportation and release 12 years ago.”

Springer’s successful reintegration back into the wild with her pod, despite her prolonged interaction and dependency on humans, stands counter to the argument that orcas currently held at marine parks like SeaWorld must remain that way for the rest of their lives.

Truth is, no one knows what invisible bonds continue to tie captive killer whales to their families in the wild, or what other happy reunions, like Springer’s, could be awaiting them.

Posted in miscellaneous

Famous orca back in B.C. waters with her calf

An orphaned killer whale who made headlines around the world when she was reunited with her pod off he coast of British Columbia has re-appeared — with her own thriving calf in tow.ImageImage

By: The Canadian Press, Published on Wed Jun 11 2014
VANCOUVER—An orphaned killer whale who made headlines around the world when she was reunited with her pod off the coast of British Columbia has re-appeared — with her own thriving calf in tow.

Whale researchers spotted Springer this week in the Inside Passage off B.C.’s North Coast. “They appear to be healthy and robust . . . normal in every way,” Lance Barrett-Lennard from Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Research Program, wrote in an email from the field. “Great stuff.”

Springer — or A73 — was two years old in January 2002 when she was found in Puget Sound, near Seattle, Wash., ailing and separated from her pod of northern resident killer whales. Her mother was dead.

Unlikely to survive on her own, she was captured and confined in a huge ocean net pen for about a month while Canadian and American officials came up with a plan.

On July 13, 2002, Springer was transported by high-speed catamaran to Blackfish Sound, near Alert Bay off northern Vancouver Island, and held in a floating net pen until her pod appeared.

She is believed to be the first orca to be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild.

Springer and her calf — A104 — were first seen last year and the latest sighting is reassuring to biologists that the young whale has survived the most dangerous period of life for the animals.

“This sighting is great news for everyone interested in the welfare of killer whales off the west coast of North America — and will be particularly gratifying to those who were involved in the many aspects of Springer’s identification, assessment, rescue, rehabilitation, transportation and release 12 years ago,” Barrett-Lennard wrote to the aquarium.

The northern resident pod that remains year-round in the coastal waters of central and northern B.C. is listed as threatened in Canada.

Posted in miscellaneous | Tagged , ,

Orca Conservancy’s, Michael Harris, Receives Appreciation Award for 15 Years of Orca Advocacy

Whale advocate Michael Harris pulled together Graham Nash, Joan Jett, Country Joe and others who joined Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart in an Earth Day concert in a killer benefit for killer whales. (http://www.king5.com/news/environment/EMP-hosts-Earth-Day-benefit-for-whales-256275691.html). 1977457_10152370661739860_7758163175408055083_n

With all the recent controversy surrounding captive orcas, Ann and Nancy Wilson decided it was high time to celebrate the wild ones. The Earth Day concert and subsequent hour-long broadcast special are being produced by Seattle-based network journalist (ABC News and others) and wildlife filmmaker Michael Harris, together with EMP Museum.  The sponsors are Guitar Center and the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

“Ann and Nancy and I worked together several years ago on a syndicated series for young people entitled ‘Baby Wild Films Presents,’ with Nancy hosting and narrating,” remembers Harris.

“One of those specials we did was called ‘The Killer Whale People,’ and so I had the pleasure of taking Nancy out with our orcas.  She’s always been a great advocate for animals and wildlife, but I think it was her first time seeing orcas in the wild, and she was hooked.” So much so, in fact, that the Wilsons teamed up with longtime songwriting partner Sue Ennis and wrote a song about orcas called “Baby Wild,” which Nancy performed in a wonderful beach campfire scene (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIbMrwbFpi8) that ends the special, and then later recorded in studio with seven-time ASCAP Award-winning Hollywood composer and Baby Wild Films Executive Producer Tim Truman.

The show went on to win several Emmy Awards. “I’ve been doing network television for over 25 years now and that experience still tops the list,” Harris said.  “I’ve spent a good part of my life amongst whales and wildlife, but watching Nancy see these wild orcas for the first time was a kick.  It was like I was seeing them for the first time too, through her eyes. This legendary rock-and-roller, this power chord guitar slinger, suddenly became a kid again. You could see the transformation, as I’ve seen with so many others who experience orcas in the wild.  But most importantly, Nancy immediately made the connection that this isn’t Shamu – this is the real SeaWorld, this is where orcas belong.  As she says in the show, this is where orcas reach for the sky, but not on command.’  

When I was asked to approach Ann and Nancy about doing this benefit, I think I got a ‘yes’ from them in about five minutes. “And having Graham Nash want to take part in this show is just amazing,” Harris continues. “We’ve now got two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, and one future Hall of Famer, all donating their incredibly valuable time and talents to help the whales. I’ve been a huge fan of Graham’s all of my life. We all are. Graham’s not just royalty in the world of music, he’s also a hero to many of us for the causes he’s taken on, from social justice to stopping wars to fighting to protect the planet and wildlife.  Very few people understand like Graham Nash the power music has to make change.” Screen shot 2014-04-27 at 1.22.36 PM

ORCA CONSERVANCY is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1996 as the Tokitae Foundation, calling for the retirement of Tokitae, also known as Lolita, a Southern Resident orca captured in Puget Sound, Washington in August 1970 and now living alone in Miami Seaquarium, the smallest killer whale tank in the United States.

In 2000 the group changed its name to Orca Conservancy, broadening its mission to do everything possible to help Lolita’s family back in the Sound, to ensure healthy fish runs, to clean up toxic sites, to encourage responsible whale watching, and to prevent an oil spill that in one fell swoop could wipe the population out. And if they ever got into trouble with people, or even if they just happened to run aground on their own, Orca Conservancy resolved to move fast to marshall the public, financial and political support needed to get them out of harm’s way and right back to being wild whales again.

To keep them from going into a tank in the first place.

Under the leadership of Seattle-based television producer and filmmaker Michael Harris and fellow Board Members Fred Fellman, MSc., artist and orca researcher Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, five-term Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro, former Friday Harbor Port Commissioner Brian Calvert, and Friends of the San Juans Executive Director Stephanie Buffum, Orca Conservancy took part and often the lead in an impressive series of campaigns on behalf of whales. The group fulfilled its new mission immediately, being the first on the scene and then part of the operations team leading a highly publicized, successful rescue of a seal-hunting orca stranded on Dungeness Spit, Washington in December 2001.

Orca Conservancy became a petitioner to list the Puget Sound’s Southern Resident orcas under the Endangered Species Act. It was rejected — the feds said our Southern Residents weren’t “significant.” But against all odds and with almost no money, Orca Conservancy took on the Bush Administration. OC joined four other groups and sued NOAA Fisheries. And under the determined counsel of EarthJustice and the Center for Biological Diversity, the plaintiffs won an historic U.S. District Court case that secured the orcas their first-ever federal protection under ESA.

As Orca Conservancy waged whale wars in one of the nation’s highest courts, the group became a central player and prolific media advocate for the orphaned Northern Resident orca A73, or Springer, in what would become the first-ever successful rescue and repatriation of a wild killer whale (See “THE SPRINGER FILE”). Two of OC’s Board Members lived in Seattle at the time, so they say this little wayward calf sorta fell into their backyard, sick and alone, 250 miles from her home waters. Fred and Michael recall it was almost a “civic duty” to help keep an eye on her, to protect her and keep humans away. They fought to get the feds to act on behalf of Springer. And then when they did give the green light, Orca Conservancy porpoised the airwaves and every angel we knew, enlisting a wave of public support and helping to raise over a quarter-million dollars to get her home. All that was needed. The rest is history.

The group has been involved in other successful campaigns — and some that were not. Orca Conservancy led a similar effort to rescue and repatriate the wayward young orca L98, or Luna, a Southern Resident alone in Nootka Sound, BC, working the project literally to the 11th hour, only to see it fall apart — largely, we think, because of the spectacular failings of a few bureaucrats on the Canadian side, the pecking of a clutch of activist hens in the U.S., and the maneuverings of one marine circus clown (see “THE LUNA FILE”). The whole thing turned into a side show. We had just hit a home run with Springer, out of the park, and now this new team was striking out wildly with Luna. After a few weeks, DFO Canada just checked out altogether, leaving our displaced Southern Resident treasure to his own devices. The First Nations tried their best to be kukawiin guardians, but the federal stewardship funds soon ran dry. Luna would spend the next year-and-a-half of his life hounded by his Human Pod, pursued by lookiloos and video cameras, until finally as we feared he nuzzled up to a familiar seagoing tug on a stormy day, with hoots and come-hithers from the crew, everyone looking to get that great Shamu shot — it was Luna’s last photo op. He got sucked into the propeller tube of the tug and was killed.

The tragic and avoidable death of this extraordinary creature was devastating to Orca Conservancy. It almost killed our organization. Many of us went our separate ways. Some got married, some had kids. OC went into a “dormant” stage, if you will, stepping out of the white-hot media spotlight, taking time to regroup and regain perspective.

But that didn’t mean we stopped working. We quietly engaged at important times as NOAA Fisheries moved ahead on its ESA-mandated orca recovery effort, making sure its actions weren’t disproportionate to the levels of threat to the population. Salmon and herring recovery. No fish, no blackfish. Clean up the toxic hotspots, including ag runoff. Get a good oil-spill response plan in place. Stop picking on whale watchers, who are part of the solution, not the problem. At times we seem to be the only ones trying to keep the feds honest — maybe because OC never became a NOAA contractor, while other non-profits have gone on the ESA dole. Funny how that works. We kept advancing our mission in other material ways, namely in helping to craft new guidelines for responsible, sustainable whale watching in the Pacific Northwest. Michael even serves part-time now as Executive Director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, representing 33 operators in BC and Washington, who take out over a half-million passengers a year. Our organization now has a direct line to the most expansive platform for orca conservation in the region.

Orca Conservancy also spent the last few years compiling our vast news archive resources, all of these invaluable assets we’ve collected since 1996, and to make them accessible to conservationists around the world. To learn from our collective experiences, good and bad, to show — maybe even inspire — others that no matter who you are or how much money you have, or if you happen to have a full-time job doing something else (we all do), you can build a fire to light the world — as long as you don’t mind getting burned now and then.

We’ve come out of a lot of fires, and hope to jump into more. That’s our wisdom.  And Luna proved to be a wake-up call, a realization that sometimes the worst things that can happen to whales are some of us humans who say we’re saving them. There needs to be a better way to do this. That’s what Orca Conservancy is always trying to do, to find that new paradigm in conservation and advocacy. Strategic strikes, not social clubs. To make resounding and enduring change, as we did with Springer and the ESA case, as we’re doing today to protect whales and dolphins here in the Pacific Northwest and around the world – all as volunteers.

We don’t pay ourselves anything — but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook! You can help the orcas by contributing a few bucks to ORCA TRUST, our “go-through” fund sending much-needed support directly to orca researchers in the field and projects helping whales. Your donation isn’t going to pay for computer campsters, newsletters and bumper stickers; it’s actually helping policy advocates and scientists save whales. It’s a killer way to show you care.

Posted in miscellaneous

PRESS RELEASE / MARCH 27, 2014 / KISS THE SKY!! ~ ORCA FREEDOM CONCERT

 

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 6.26.15 AMMarch 27, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts: Michael Harris, Baby Wild Films (206) 465-6692; and Anita Woo, EMP Museum (206) 262-3245

WHAT: “Kiss the Sky!  The Orca Freedom Concert”

WHERE: EMP Museum’s “Sky Church” in Seattle, WA.

WHEN: Earth Day – the Evening of April 22, 2014 / Doors Open at 6:30pm, Show Starts at 7:30pm.

BENEFITTING: Wild Orca Research and Advocacy.

BENEFICIARIES: The Center for Whale Research, OrcaLab, and the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute,  through the “Orca Trust” fund of Orca Conservancy, a Washington State 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

ARTISTS: Heart With Special Guest Graham Nash, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Arielle, Country Joe McDonald, Jami Sieber, and Andrew Morse.

PRODUCED BY: Michael Harris/Baby Wild Films and EMP Museum.

SPONSORS: Guitar Center and The Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA).

TICKETS: $100 General Donation; $500 VIP that includes a meet-and-greet with Heart, Joan Jett and other performers, whale watch trips aboard a PWWA member boat, and an invitation to join some of the artists and researchers on a special gray whale watch cruise the next morning out of Everett, WA.

March 26, 2014

HEART WITH SPECIAL GUEST GRAHAM NASH, JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS HEADLINE HISTORIC CONCERT IN SEATTLE TO BENEFIT WILD ORCA RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY

Graham Nash Now Slated to Perform at Earth Day Show / Tickets On Sale Through EMP Museum

With all the recent controversy surrounding captive orcas, Ann and Nancy Wilson decided it was high time to celebrate the wild ones.

The Wilsons – now joined by special guest Graham Nash – and Joan Jett and The Blackhearts will headline an historic concert in Seattle at EMP Museum’s spectacular “Sky Church” this Earth Day, April 22nd, to benefit wild orca research and advocacy.  Joining Heart and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts will be Country Joe McDonald of “Woodstock” fame, cellist Jami Sieber, and New York-based musician and activist Andrew Morse. Also on the bill for “Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert” is an extraordinary up-and-coming LA-based singer/songwriter and guitar virtuoso Arielle, a protégé of Queen’s Brian May. The event will be emceed by legendary radio personality Norman B.

The Earth Day concert and subsequent hour-long broadcast special are being produced by Seattle-based network journalist (ABC News and others) and wildlife filmmaker Michael Harris, together with EMP Museum.  The sponsors are Guitar Center and the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

“Ann and Nancy and I worked together several years ago on a syndicated series for young people entitled ‘Baby Wild Films Presents,’ with Nancy hosting and narrating,” remembers Harris.  “One of those specials we did was called ‘The Killer Whale People,’ and so I had the pleasure of taking Nancy out with our orcas.  She’s always been a great advocate for animals and wildlife, but I think it was her first time seeing orcas in the wild, and she was hooked.”

So much so, in fact, that the Wilsons teamed up with longtime songwriting partner Sue Ennis and wrote a song about orcas called “Baby Wild,” which Nancy performed in a wonderful beach campfire scene that ends the special, and then later recorded in studio with seven-time ASCAP Award-winning Hollywood composer and Baby Wild Films Executive Producer Tim Truman.  The show went on to win several Emmy Awards.

“I’ve been doing network television for over 25 years now and that experience still tops the list,” Harris said.  “I’ve spent a good part of my life amongst whales and wildlife, but watching Nancy see these wild orcas for the first time was a kick.  It was like I was seeing them for the first time too, through her eyes. This legendary rock-and-roller, this power chord guitar slinger, suddenly became a kid again. You could see the transformation, as I’ve seen with so many others who experience orcas in the wild.  But most importantly, Nancy immediately made the connection that this isn’t Shamu – this is the real SeaWorld, this is where orcas belong.  As she says in the show, ‘this is where orcas reach for the sky, but not on command.’  When I was asked to approach Ann and Nancy about doing this benefit, I think I got a ‘yes’ from them in about five minutes.

“And having Graham Nash want to take part in this show is just amazing,” Harris continues. “We’ve now got two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, and one future Hall of Famer, all donating their incredibly valuable time and talents to help the whales. I’ve been a huge fan of Graham’s all of my life. We all are. Graham’s not just royalty in the world of music, he’s also a hero to many of us for the causes he’s taken on, from social justice to stopping wars to fighting to protect the planet and wildlife.  Very few people understand like Graham Nash the power music has to make change.”

Other artists also were quick to sign on to “Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert.” Country Joe McDonald, who delivered one of the most enduring performances at Woodstock (“I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag”), is coming up from San Francisco to play, lending the event another distinctive connection to music activism of the past.  And longtime animal advocate Joan Jett, who doesn’t usually do benefit shows, jumped at the invitation – for the whales, of course, but also for an opportunity to share the bill with Ann and Nancy Wilson, whom Joan credits with taking her under her wing early in her career, dating back to an early ‘80s gig with Heart and Queen, an experience that otherwise would have been nerve-wracking for a young rocker like her.

“Joan also feels like Seattle has adopted her,” explains her producer Kenny Laguna. “Back in the grunge days, all the great bands there embraced Joan Jett and The Blackhearts.  The did a bunch of shows together.  She loves Seattle, loves Ann and Nancy, loves EMP, and is thrilled to be a part of this event.”

The venue is “Sky Church,” the main performance space inside the spectacular Frank Gehry-designed EMP Museum at the base of Seattle’s Space Needle. With a 65-foot ceiling, 33′ x 60′ LED screen behind the stage, and amazing acoustics, it’s unlike any venue in the world, and is the embodiment of Jimi Hendrix’s writings in his journal – some of his last, in fact – where he envisions a place where people of all ages, interests and backgrounds could come together to experience music.  It’s central to the concept for EMP Museum, and quite a fitting theme for this benefit show.

“Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert” will be a night of music. There are no major speeches slated in the program. The evening is going to be an extremely positive, forward-thinking event that celebrates the totem species of the Pacific Northwest, and encourages people to support the groups who are working so hard to recover these endangered orcas and advocate for their well-being and freedom. Beneficiaries for the show are The Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, OrcaLab on BC’s Hanson Island, and Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project, through the “Orca Trust Fund” of Seattle-based 501(c)(3) non-profit Orca Conservancy, a longtime advocate for the Pacific Northwest’s wild – and endangered – orcas.

Tickets are now on sale through the EMP Museum website. General admission/donation is $100, with a limited number of VIP tickets at $500, which include a meet-and-greet with Heart, Joan Jett and other artists before the show, two whale watch passes with any of the 33 member operators of the Pacific Whale Watch Association in Washington and British Columbia, and a very special gray whale watch cruise with some of the performers and scientists the next morning aboard the beautiful 101-foot Island Explorer 3, donated for the day by Island Adventures Whale Watching. Plus, an extremely cool bag of orca schwag.

“Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert” will be an amazing event – great music, awesome venue, and “top of the food chain” beneficiaries, our killer whales.

EMP Museum / www.empmuseum.org

Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert / www.orcafreedomconcert.org

Baby Wild Films / www.babywildfilms.com

The Center for Whale Research / www.whaleresearch.com

OrcaLab / www.orcalab.org

Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project / www.immp.eii.org

Orca Conservancy / www.orcaconservancy.org

Pacific Whale Watch Association / www.pacificwhalewatchassociation.org

Guitar Center / www.guitarcenter.com

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Posted in miscellaneous

Tidal power supply coming to Puget Sound

March 21st, 2014 by cdunagan / Kitsap Sun

A multi-million-dollar tidal energy project in Admiralty Inlet, north of the Kitsap Peninsula, has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Snohomish County Public Utility District, which was granted a license for the double-tidal-turbine pilot project, says it will be the first “grid-connected array of large-scale tidal energy turbines in the world.” The twin turbines are designed to produce 600 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power several hundred homes.

Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 8.43.20 PM“Anyone who has spent time on the waters of Puget Sound understands the power inherent in the tides,” PUD General Manager Steve Klein said in a news release. “In granting this license, the FERC acknowledges the vigilant efforts of the PUD and its partners to test the viability of a new reliable source of clean energy while at the same time ensuring the protection of the environment and existing uses.”

The federal commission acknowledged concerns for fish and wildlife brought forth by area tribes, whale-watch operators and environmental groups. But the pilot project has precautionary measures built in, according to the commission’s order (PDF 503 kb) issued yesterday:

“For these new technologies, where the environmental effects are not well understood, the risks of adverse environmental impacts can be minimized through monitoring and safeguard plans that ensure the protection of the public and the environment.

“The goal of the pilot project approach is to allow developers to test new hydrokinetic technologies, determine appropriate sites for these technologies, and study a technology’s environmental and other effects without compromising the commission’s oversight of a project or limiting agency and stakeholder input…

“A pilot project should be: (1) small; (2) short term; (3) located in non-sensitive areas based on the commission’s review of the record; (4) removable and able to be shut down on short notice; (5) removed, with the site restored, before the end of the license term (unless a new license is granted); and (6) initiated by a draft application in a form sufficient to support environmental analysis.”

Among tribes that fish in the area, the Suquamish Tribe raised concerns about the likelihood of underwater turbines violating tribal treaty rights to fish. The turbines have the potential for killing or injuring fish, according to the tribes, and they could become a point of entanglement for fishing nets and anchor lines.

“Though we respect the tribes’ perspective and concerns, we disagree that Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 8.38.19 PMlicensing this project will adversely affect their treaty rights,” the commission stated in its order. The license contains no restrictions on fishing, and it requires measures to protect the fish.

Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman said tribal officials have not had time to review the license conditions in detail but will do so over the coming days. He said he would consult with legal and technical advisers before laying out possible actions for consideration by the tribal council.

Michael Harris, executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association and a board member for Orca Conservancy, said he was disappointed that more people have not recognized the problems that can be created by these turbines — especially in Admiralty Inlet, a primary route for killer whales and many other species.

The turbines will create unusually loud and potentially painful underwater noise, Harris said. This installation is being developed at a time when researchers are coming to understand that noise can disrupt the behavior of killer whales and other marine mammals.

The turbines themselves have open blades that can injure any curious animal getting too close, he noted. And if the turbines become a serious threat, someone must swim down and mechanically stop the blades from turning, something that could take four days.

“I’m not against green energy,” Harris said when I talked to him this morning. “But let’s not put blinders on. I would like to see these turbines located in another spot. Why not Deception Pass?”

Harris said it is critical for people to pay close attention to the pilot project if it goes forward. Everyone should be prepared to stop the experiment if it proves costly to sea life.

The order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission maintains that conditions of approval will protect killer whales and other marine mammals:

“The Near Turbine Monitoring and Mitigation Plan requires detection of fish and should provide observation of nearby killer whales. Those observations combined with the hydrophone monitoring required under the Marine Mammal Protection and Mitigation Plan will allow detection and observation of killer whales if they come near the turbines.

“The adaptive management provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection and Mitigation Plan will also allow adjustments to project operation if potential harm to killer whales is detected or, in the very unlikely event, a whale is injured….

“This license also contains noise-related requirements that will ensure the project does not have detrimental effects on killer whale behavior. The Acoustic Monitoring and Mitigation Plan of this license requires that if the sound level from turbine operation exceeds 120 dB at a distance greater than 750 meters from the turbine … the licensee shall engage the turbine brake until modifications to turbine operations or configuration can be made to reduce the sound level.”

According to several Internet sources, 120 dB is what someone might hear standing near a chainsaw or jack hammer. That level is considered close to the human threshold for pain.

In the Admiralty Inlet area, at least 13 local species are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

  • One plant: golden paintbrush, threatened
  • One bird: marbled murrelet, threatened
  • Two marine mammals: Southern Resident killer whales, endangered, and North Pacific humpback whale, endangered
  • Nine fish: Puget Sound Chinook salmon, threatened; Hood Canal summer chum, threatened; Puget Sound steelhead, threatened; bull trout, threatened; green sturgeon, threatened; bocaccio rockfish, endangered; canary rockfish, threatened; yelloweye rockfish, threatened; and Pacific eulachon, threatened.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have concluded that none of the species would be in jeopardy of extinction because of the pilot project.

Experts have concluded that marine mammals, including killer whales, could be subjected to Level B harassment (behavioral shifts) as a result of noise from the turbines. That would be in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act without incidental take authorization. That means the Snohomish PUD must undergo consultations with the National Marine Fisheries Service and possibly change its plans before moving forward.

The PUD chose Admiralty Inlet for its swift currents, easy access and rocky seabed with little sediment or vegetation. A cable-control building for connecting to the power grid will be located on Whidbey Island near Fort Casey State Park. The turbines will be located in about 150 feet of water about a half-mile from shore.

The turbines are manufactured by OpenHydro of Dublin, Ireland. Each turbine measures about 18 feet in diameter, with a 414-ton total weight.

According to the PUD, these turbines have been used in ecologically sensitive areas in other parts of the world. One location is Scotland’s Orkney Islands, which features a diverse and productive ecosystem that is home to numerous species of fish, dolphins, seals, porpoises, whales and migrating turtles.

The pilot project has been supported with about $13 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and Bonneville Power Administration along with federal appropriations.

Partners in various aspects of the project include the University of Washington, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sound & Sea Technology and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Posted in miscellaneous

FERC ISSUES LICENSE TO ADMIRALTY INLET PILOT TIDAL TURBINE PROJECT

This is incredibly unfortunate, especially when you consider by the PUD’s own estimate, these tidal turbines will emit 180dBs of sound in critical habitat of a dozen endangered species, including southern resident orcas. 180dBs — and the established pain threshold for orcas is 135dBs. ~S.

Screen shot 2014-03-21 at 10.10.19 PM

ORDER ISSUING PILOT PROJECT LICENSE

(Issued March 20, 2014)

Below are dates and names of the organizations and tribes who submitted comments which are public record with FERC.

April 23, 2012, the Commission issued a public notice that was published in the Federal Register accepting the application, indicating the application was ready for environmental analysis, and soliciting motions to intervene and protests, comments, terms and conditions, recommendations and prescriptions.

Comments from:

1.The Washington State Department of Ecology (Washington Ecology)

2. Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (Washington Fish and Wildlife)

3. Washington State Department of Natural Resources (Washington Natural Resources)

4. United States Department of Interior (Interior)

5. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)

6. The Tulalip Tribes of Washington

7. Whidbey Environmental Action Network

8. Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe

9. PC Landing Corp. (PC Landing)

10. Swinomish Indian Tribal Community

11. Orca Conservancy

12. Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

13. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps)

14. GCI Communication Corporation

15. Point No Point Treaty Council (Treaty Council)

16. U.S. Navy

17. Naval Facilities Engineering Command

On January 15, 2013, Commission staff issued a draft Environmental Assessment (EA), analyzing the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and alternatives to it.

Comments from:

1. Washington Fish and Wildlife

2. North American Submarine Cable Association

3. Snohomish PUD

4. Whidbey Environmental Action Network

5. PC Landing

6. Suquamish Tribe

7. Washington Natural Resources

8. Treaty Council

9. National Park Service

10. Tulalip Tribes

11. Washington State Ferries

12. Orca Conservancy

13. United States Environmental Protection Agency

14. Congressmen Ed Whitfield

15. Greg Walden

16. Pacific Whale Watch Association

On August 9, 2013, Commission staff issued a final EA.

Comments from:

1. The Pacific Whale Watch Association,

2. Orca Conservancy

3. PC Landing

http://www.ferc.gov/whats-new/comm-meet/2014/032014/H-1.pdf

Posted in miscellaneous

GIVING CAPTIVE WHALES A VOICE – INTERVIEW WITH ALEX DORER

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“We have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s important that we power ahead and stay true to the whales. They are the future of our oceans and they depend on us.” -Alex Dorer

Here at Eagle Wing, we have the privilege of seeing orcas the way they are meant to be seen—in the wild. But although we have the great pleasure of spending our days with these majestic creatures, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that not all orcas get to live in their natural habitat. Some have never  experienced it. Not even for a moment.

According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), a global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins, there are 54 killer whales in captivity around the world. Since 1961, over 145 killer whales have been taken from the wild and placed into captivity. Of those, 125 are now dead.

Disturbing statistics, but one woman from Texas is helping fight for their freedom.

Alex Dorer is the 25-year-old president and co-founder of Fins and Fluke, a cetacean advocate group dedicated to educating the public about ocean conservation. Although the organization has only been around since 2012, Dorer Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 9.33.03 PMhas already attracted significant attention to the plight of captive whales. Together with Free the Atlanta 11 and GARP, she hosted a protest against a planned beluga import in Atlanta. And most notably, she joined forces with activist Wendy Brunot to have a lone killer whale named Shouka moved from his isolated tank to a more humane habitat with other whales.

Dorer has accomplished more in her 25 years than many twice her age, and we wanted to know more about what drives her passion for whale conservation. Here’s what she had to say:

1. Why do whales matter?

Whales are an important part of ocean ecosystems. The fine balance of our oceans, predators and prey play a crucial part in preserving the environment. Fins and Fluke is dedicated to preserving the ocean and its natural habitat so all species, including whales, can prosper.

2. What’s your ocean conservation/whales story? In other words, how and why did you get started in this field?

My own personal story started with a swim-with-dolphins facility in the Keys. I participated in their program and swam with a dolphin named Jax. Something didn’t sit right with me after that interaction with a captive dolphin. I started researching, saw The Cove and became involved in the anti-captivity movement.

It felt right to defend these incredibly intelligent animals that do not belong in captivity. From there I went on to learn about the southern resident killer whales. I took a life-changing trip to Washington in September of 2012. Seeing those orcas has changed my life for the better. I am dedicated to helping them thrive and I continue to strive to protect these endangered animals from all the threats they face every day.

3. What resources (blogs, books, websites) would you recommend to someone who’s new and interested in this subject matter?

I definitely recommend reading David Kirby’s “Death at SeaWorld.” It’s full of jam-packed information on not only captive killer whales but wild ones also. I al

lso recommend Alexandra Morton’s “Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us.” It’s fascinating and a great read. Other resources I like to use are Ric O’Barry’s dolphin projectOrca Conservancy, and WDC websites. The movie “Salmon Confidential” is a must-watch. All of the above will help someone understand the issues that cetaceans, both wild and captive, face today.

4. What message would you really like to get out there?

There are so many issues facing the whales right now. Pollution, man-made tidal turbines, whale watching boats disturbing the whales (on a side note I am so pleased to find out you are among many in the Pacific Whale Watch Association), capture and the declining stocks of salmon. We have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s important that we power ahead and stay true to the whales. We cannot possibly let them down and continue to harm these families. They are the future of our oceans and they depend on us.

 5. Who are some other experts in your field that we can learn more from?

Sam Lipman from Orca Aware in the UK is a fantastic woman. She knows her stuff. I also recommend Alexander Sanchez from a group called Promar-Equinac in Spain. They work with mainly stranded and injured dolphins but he knows his stuff. Lastly, I think including WDC would be fantastic. They are truly an incredibly amazing organization.

Posted in miscellaneous