We’ve had quite a busy couple of days keeping Southern Resident orcas out of harm’s way — in fact, out of the line of fire. Below is the transcript and a link to the report on CHEK News last night.
For the record, the Navy now says they were simply conducting a “routine small-arms training” — nuthin’ to see here, folks, move it along — but the story changed throughout the day. And although the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard were both fairly clearly engaging in what they first called a “joint exercise” with the Navy, they also backtracked when reporters came calling, saying they only were just involved in alerting mariners of the live-fire war games… uh, I mean the routine small arms training. A spokesman for Naval Air Station Whidbey Island also said they were sure no whales were in the area. As it is, there were J-Pod and the L12s right off shore.
When PWWA’s own Capt. Hobbes Buchanan (hero of the hour) called Lynne Barre at NOAA Fisheries, she said they had no idea this was taking place. I would say more accurately, they go the memo, just didn’t pick it up. In any event, yet again, our feds and military aren’t on the same page when it comes to conducting potentially harmful exercises around endangered orcas.
As I said in the press release, “things like this happen when we’re distracted by endless discussions about ineffectual recovery measures like this no-go zone off the west side of San Juan Island, which has done nothing but divide the community and waste precious time, and take our eyes off addressing the things that really are killing the whales – the lack of salmon and pollution – and the very real threat of oil spills in the Sound and Straits. And yes, even the threat of military exercises conducted unwittingly in the presence of orcas.”
Whatever the truth is, here’s what we do know — concerned citizens, led by Capt. Hobbes and PWWA — took immediate action, forced the Navy to stand down, and no doubt to do a better job of picking up a phone and seeing where the whales are before doing anything like this again. And perhaps to make sure some people at NOAA pay better attention to what’s going on around the population they’re supposed to be protecting.
The CHEK News piece is below — and again, AWESOME work by Capt. Hobbes, Capt. Mark Malleson from Prince of Whales Whale Watching, and as always, our treasured PWWA Science Advisor Anna Hall.
Michael Harris Executive Director, Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) Seattle cell (206) 465-6692