Orca Network News - June, 2009

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats
June 1, 2009 through June 30, 2009.

Killer whale narrowly misses out seal for meal
June 30, 2009 (China Daily)
Mel, the killer whale or orca, narrowly misses out on a seal that it was hunting, in Patagoniain in this undated photo taken by photogrpaher and conservationist Rob Lott. [CFP]
Photogrpaher and Conservationist Rob Lott travelled to Patagonia to study and photograph the foraging behaviour of 18 Orcas. Of the 18 only 7 have mastered the stranding behaviour whereby the Orca enter the shallow surf to feed on seal pups.
During his study, Rob photographed 50-year-old male orca Mel, who had previously been studied by David Attenbourough in his "Trials of Life" documentary.
Distinctive by his 2 metre dorsal fin, Mel is an expert hunter who feeds on seal pups before taking it back to his pod. This lucky seal however managed to escape the hutner's attentions.

Gov. Gregoire's statement on funding for salmon, Puget Sound recovery
June 30, 2009 (The Governor's Office)
Gov. Chris Gregoire released the following statement today on Recovery Act funding awarded to projects in Washington from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
“The stimulus funds announced today by NOAA are a great win for Washington’s salmon recovery and Puget Sound restoration efforts. In early April, I endorsed and submitted requests for federal stimulus funds for habitat restoration grants across Washington state. Today we learned that Washington will receive $16.5 million, or nearly 10 percent of the funding awarded in this national competition.
“This decision highlights Washington’s leadership in the nation in responding to Endangered Species Act issues, and working successfully with communities to engage citizens in the challenging work of restoring Puget Sound. I am proud of the work done by the Puget Sound Partnership to restore fish and Puget Sound.”
NOAA funds will go to six projects from the Puget Sound Partnership’s Action Agenda to clean up Puget Sound and develop a salmon recovery plan. The projects are:
Elwha River floodplain restoration (Port Angeles) – $2 million – In conjunction with the Elwha Dam removal, this project restores 82 acres of the floodplain of the lower Elwha River through the removal of dikes and culverts, re-vegetation and invasive species control.
Removal of derelict fishing gear in Puget Sound (Seattle) – $4.5 million – Removes more than 200 metric tons of marine debris, including 3,000 nets, and restores 600 acres of habitat.
Smuggler’s Slough Nooksack River restoration (Bellingham) – $1.7 million – Raises a roadway and reconnects tidal exchange for 493 acres of Smuggler’s Slough channel that will flow to restored salt marsh and eelgrass habitat in Lummi Bay. Seven miles of slough habitat will also be opened.
Qwuloolt Estuary restoration (Marysville) – $2 million – Restores 350 acres of wetland and 16 stream miles to fish passage for several species of salmon on the lower Snohomish River and its surrounding tidal floodplain by removing levees, excavating channels and planting native vegetation and trees.
Fisher Slough marsh restoration (Burlington) – $5.2 million – Restores 60 acres of the Skagit River floodplain by replacing antiquated agriculture floodgates and restoring 15 miles of high-quality habitat for chum, coho, threatened Chinook salmon and other species.
Hansen Creek floodplain restoration (Milltown) – $988,000 – Excavates and reconnects 140 acres of forested floodplain habitat and installs woody debris for chum, coho, threatened Chinook salmon and other species.

GRAYS HARBOR COUNTY: Biologists not sure what killed gray whale
June 29, 2009 (News Tribune)
After performing a necropsy on the carcass of a gray whale that was found on Copalis Beach last week, marine biologists can’t figure out a cause of death, according to The Daily World of Aberdeen.
A group of marine biologists from Cascadia Research, a nonprofit group that conducts research to manage and protect threatened marine mammals, spent Thursday morning performing a post-mortem on the carcass. The team determined that the carcass of the gray whale, a 43-foot adult female, had been too decomposed for them to figure out how or when it died, said Jesse Huggins, a stranding coordinator for the organization.
“It was too decomposed, but we think it had been there for at least a couple of days,” she said.

Tangled whale puts training to test
June 29, 2009 (Toronto Globe and Mail)
Being trained to disentangle whales from nets, lines and assorted fishing gear might seem like an obscure skill that one would never use.
But twice in the past several weeks Paul Cottrell has had an opportunity to put that training to use, both times on an accident prone humpback named Twister.
A few weeks ago Mr. Cottrell was called back to Knight Inlet - on what was only his second entangled whale call - and again he found Twister with a prawn line caught in his mouth.
This time the humpback had made a real mess of it, twisting up in a 3,000-metre length of rope that was towing about 50 prawn traps, weighing nearly 300 kilograms.
Mr. Cottrell, Mr. Humphries and Mr. Plummer caught up to the whale in a rigid hulled, inflatable DFO patrol boat. They pulled the outboards out of the water, so the props wouldn't cut Twister, and then began to hand line themselves up the prawn rope, inching closer and closer to the whale, which was now towing their boat as well as all the prawn traps.
"Our big fear was that the gear might get caught on the bottom, pull him down, and drown him," said Mr. Cottrell.
They got close enough to the whale to be able to reach out and touch it. But Mr. Cottrell said they weren't worried the whale, which could have flipped the boat with its powerful tail, was going to lash out at them.
"They are really gentle giants," he said of humpbacks. "I don't know if he was aware we were trying to help him, but as we got closer and lifted up the weight of the prawn traps, he slowed down ... he knew where the boat was and he was really careful not to hit us."
"It's an incredible feeling, realizing the line is gone and he's going to be OK," said Mr. Cottrell. "It just brings this euphoria. It's like scoring a goal in triple overtime."

Training range OK for whales, Navy says
June 26, 2009 (Jacksonville News)
A Navy review has settled on the Florida-Georgia coastline as the site for anti-submarine training that many environmental activists fear will harm wildlife, particularly right whales.
The range, covering 500 square nautical miles, would be outfitted with about 300 underwater devices that would send and receive acoustic signals from ships and submarines there.
"We have here competing public interests - for national security and trained personnel and [for] preservation of creatures that are threatened by man's activity," said Tom Larson, chairman of the Northeast Florida Sierra Club.
The club, along with other groups, had urged the Navy to limit its training during the winter calving season.
That was among 10 suggestions the Navy rejected as impractical, in this case saying its existing training schedule is designed to prepare sailors for their duties and has no excess training that could be cut.
Other ideas that were rejected included setting special limits on sonar volume or ship speeds; surveying for whales before exercises; and adopting other navies' precautions.
The Navy rejects some of those because it needs to train crews in realistic conditions and meet overseas deployment schedules of many ships, subs and aviation units, the training range project manager, Jene Nissen, said in an interview last year.
The Navy has a number of whale-safety measures, including use of lookouts to watch for the animals. Their locations are routinely reported so other vessels can avoid them.

Whales find peace in B.C.'s Inside Passage
June 26, 2009 (Wired)
On Gil Island, just west of Princess Royal Island some 80 kilometres south of Prince Rupert, whale researchers Hermann Meuter and Wray have established Cetacealab, a research station to study the lives of resident and transient orcas and the growing population of humpback whales that pass through these waters every year. For any lover of these creatures, as Hermann and Wray surely are, it's a wilderness dream come true.
While scientists track the southern pods of resident orca whales in the Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound with some concern for their future (in March, researchers confirmed the birth of a calf in J Pod, bringing the precarious southern resident killer whale population up to 86), in the sparkling northern waters around Princess Royal Island the future of whales looks sunnier. Wray estimates there are "about 100" humpbacks living near the lab and about 2,000 that pass through the Inside Passage every summer.
Wray and Meuter built Cetacealab in 2001. They formed the North Coast Cetacean Society, a charitable organization dedicated to the research and protection of whales in B.C. coastal waters. "From Gil over to Aristazabal Island is like an orca highway," Wray explains over a cup of tea in the house they built by hand. "We have four hydrophones placed around the region, with one more to come. We've lost a few over the years to the winter storms, which are pretty rough. Hermann dives down to 60 feet and places a hydrophone on a cliff or rock face, and fixes it in place with rocks. A microphone runs up a cable to the forest and a radio transmitter. The hydrophone and cable each cost $2,000 and the transmitter is $2,000, so it's about $8,000 per unit."

Make my day, Flipper: Pesky dolphins under siege
June 26, 2009 (Wired)
Boat captains say dolphins, known for their toothy grins and playfulness, are growing increasingly aggressive in their quest for food, with some taking fish right off the hook - something that rarely happened just a few years ago.
In response, fishermen are pulling out everything from pipe bombs to .357-caliber Magnum pistols to fend them off - and breaking a federal law against harming the sea mammals.
Stacey Hortsman, dolphin conservation coordinator with the National Marine Fisheries Service in St. Petersburg, Fla., said studies have linked the dolphins' behavior with people feeding dolphins, often from sightseeing tours that are common in many resort areas. Dolphins learn to hang around people for food handouts, she said.
Zales blames the problem on state and federal fishing limits enacted in recent years to protect against overfishing of species like red snapper.
Rather than saving fish, he said, the rules cause many anglers to throw back large numbers of undersized ones - oftentimes right into the jaws of waiting dolphins.
Coker helped investigate a case last year when an informant reported that the captain of a 60-foot commercial fishing boat based in Panama City was making pipe bombs to toss at meddlesome bottlenose dolphin.
"When he was offshore and dolphins approached he'd light one and throw it in the water," said Coker. "The deckhands said it would rock the whole boat."

Whales Might Be as Much Like People as Apes
June 25, 2009 (Wired)
As the annual International Whaling Commission meeting stumbles to a close, unable to negotiate a compromise between whaling opponents and people who’ve killed more than 40,000 whales since 1985, scientists say these aquatic mammals are more than mere animals. They might even deserve to be considered people.
Not human people, but as occupying a similar range on the spectrum as the great apes, for whom the idea of personhood has moved from preposterous to possible. Chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos possess self-awareness, feelings and high-level cognitive powers. According to a steadily gathering body of research, so do whales and dolphins.
In fact, their capacities could be even more ancient than our own, dating to an evolutionary explosion in brain size that took place millions of years before the last common ancestor of the great apes existed.
“If an alien came down anytime prior to about 1.5 million years ago to communicate with the ‘brainiest’ animals on Earth, they would have tripped over our own ancestors and headed straight for the oceans to converse with the dolphins,” said Lori Marino, an evolutionary neurobiologist at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

June 25, 2009 (Save Our Wild Salmon)
May has been an especially big month for those of us working to restore healthy, fishable populations of wild salmon and steelhead to the Columbia and Snake Rivers!
There have been several very positive developments - from the Court, the Obama Administration, and Congress. These events indicate a growing recognition of the crisis facing salmon and Northwest communities, a growing interest in bringing people together to craft an effective solution, and a return of sound science, good economics, and common sense to this debate.
Please enjoy this issue of Wild Salmon & Steelhead News!
I. May 1st - Obama Administration requests more time.
II. May 18th - Judge Redden weighs in – has “serious reservations” about salmon plan.
III: May 26-28 – Administration officials visit Northwest for a ‘listening session’ while fishing men and women hold rally.
IV. May 29th - Senator Crapo (R-ID) endorses comprehensive “Salmon Solutions” Negotiation.

Hidden Whale Culture Could Be Critical to Species Survival
June 24, 2009 (Wired)
That whales could even have culture is a relatively new scientific proposition. It was not unil the late 1960s that recordings of humpback whale songs provided a glimpse of the unexpectedly complicated and beautiful world of cetacean communication. The songs don't appear - for now - to reach the level of language, but they're clearly a form of learned communicative behavior common across the cetacean realm. And as researchers spend more time with whales, they’re realizing just how much their learned behaviors differ.
One of the best-known example of marine culture comes from killer whales (which, technically, are dolphins, but they're mentioned in the same breath as whales by biologists). Pods of killer whales have highly varied dialects and ways of life, even while sharing the same habitat — the aquatic equivalent of a neighborhood populated by two different ethnic groups.
Over the last decade, two pods found off North America's west coast and known to researchers as the Northern and Southern residents became the focus of an international conservation battle. Scientists showed that the pods had different dialects and feeding habits. The Southern Residents, their numbers at a fraction of historical levels, often ranged south through Puget Sound and into waters off the California coast. They're more threatened than their Northern counterparts by shipping collisions and depleted salmon populations.
In 2004, Canada's environmental officials declared the Southern Residents both distinct and endangered, but U.S. officials insisted on treating the two pods as a single, genetically similar and unendangered group. The next year, following outrage among scientists and environmentalists, the United States acknowledged the Southern Residents as unique and endangered.

Ray skips lunch with orcas
June 24, 2009 (New Zealand Herald)
Roundtop, Funky Monkey, Porky, Fuego, Digit, Miracle and Magic made a splash at Kohimarama and St Heliers yesterday.
The pod of adult and baby orca whales came in close to the shore to hunt for stingrays, much to the delight of hundreds of spectators.
Elizabeth Meadows was out for her morning walk when she saw the pod at St Heliers Bay.
"I followed them to Kohimarama. They were leaping out of the water chasing stingrays. It looked like they were teaching the younger ones how to hunt."
Some onlookers were worried that the whales would become stranded because they were hunting so close to the shore.
But orca researcher Ingrid Visser said it was common for them to swim near shallow waters looking for stingrays.

County restoring salmon habitat
June 24, 2009 (Everett Herald)
Chinook salmon once flourished in tidal marshes that stretched from Smith Island, near the mouth of the Snohomish River, upstream to Ebey Slough.
That fish habitat started disappearing rapidly after the 19th century as settlers set up dikes to turn the area to farmland. Only one-sixth of the marsh remains today.
The county hopes a $13 million effort to restore chinook habitat on Smith Island will change that. The project would come at the expense of farmland, though, and some farmers are strongly opposed.
"The big question on the table is, 'What's the appropriate mix of agriculture versus habitat restoration?' " county public works director Steve Thomsen said.

House narrowly rejects bid to nullify salmon protection rules
June 19, 2009 (San Jose Mercury News)
The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly rejected an attempt Thursday by a San Joaquin Valley congressman to set aside regulations adopted this month to protect salmon and killer whales from the operations of dams and pumps in California.
The move was an attempt to strike back at increasingly tough rules that are cutting into farmers' water supplies after nearly a decade of relatively unfettered access to Delta water. As water deliveries from the Delta increased, fish populations collapsed and courts have since found that regulators were not doing their jobs.
Introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, the measure would have prevented the National Marine Fisheries Service from spending money to enforce its sweeping new rules issued earlier this month. It failed by a vote of 218-208.
Since 2001, salmon, Delta smelt and a host of other fish species in the West Coast's largest estuary have suffered badly while water deliveries hit record highs. While there are numerous possible explanations for the ecological collapse, there is no doubt that Delta pumping played a role.
Commercial salmon runs also collapsed, and for two years California's coast has been closed to salmon fishing. While natural fluctuations in ocean conditions are to blame for the downturn, water operations appear to have contributed.
Earlier this month, federal regulators issued the permit to protect salmon, steelhead and sturgeon. During the scientific analysis done in preparation of the document, federal biologists determined those water operations also threaten the Puget Sound's killer whales that feed on California salmon during parts of the year.

Should Killer Whales Be Kept in Captivity?
June 18, 2009 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog by Candace Calloway Whiting)
The subject of keeping orcas in captivity is a big one, fraught with emotion and embedded in huge financial investment. We plan to tackle this thorny issue in detail once the summer season of research has been completed, but given the fact that The Seattle Aquarium is hosting what promises to be a rare opportunity to learn about the situation, now seems a good time to introduce it.
So far we have only begun to share with you how orcas live their lives - we talked about their family bonds, the challenges they face, and what it might mean to us to lose them. We have yet to talk about how they communicate, how intelligent they may be, or what their ocean environment is like.

Study: Pollution killing rare Irrawaddy dolphins
June 18, 2009 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Pollution in the Mekong River is putting the rare Irrawaddy dolphin in danger of disappearing from Cambodia and Laos, according to a study by an environmental group released Thursday.
A Cambodian government official, however, rejected the finding and demanded that the group apologize.
The World Wide Fund For Nature Cambodia said it has documented 88 deaths in the past six years of the Irrawaddy dolphin or Orcaella brevirostris along a 118-mile (190-kilometer) stretch of the Mekong River.
The Irrawaddy dolphin, which is related to orcas or killer whales, frequents large rivers, estuaries, and freshwater lagoons in South and Southeast Asia. The population in the Mekong is now believed to include as few as 64 members, the WWF said, down from 80 to 100 just three years ago.
Researchers from WWF Cambodia said they found levels of the pesticide DDT in the bodies of dead dolphin calves from the Mekong that were 10 times higher than in a similar population in India, plus environmental contaminants such as PCBs. They also found mercury, a toxin used in gold mining that can compromise the immune system of marine animals, they said.

Scientist discovers whales may be singing their own names
June 17, 2009 (The Local - Germany)
“From our research, one can say that whales have signature tones,” said Heike Vester from her lab in the northern Norwegian town of Hennigsvaer. “When many pods of whales come together, the sounds the whales make is very different than if they are just with their own family. This is very important for communicating between groups.”
Pods of whales use clicks for echolocation of food, but the songs they sing are a distinct language that can give instructions too once the food has been found. This means the whales can set a hunting strategy.
“The groups have their own modifications to the language that are learned dialects. It shows other whales the dynamics of that group,” the 39-year-old marine biologist from Baden-WŁrttemberg explained. Killer whales have as many as 17 different tones in their whistles, hum and click that each pod can produce to communicate with the community around them.
When more than one pod of whales meet at a school of herring, these tones allow the whales to communicate specifically with their own pod when hunting, like a family calling each other by name.

Public shore-based places to view orca whales on San Juan Island
June 17, 2009 (Seattle Examiner.com)
Whales on the west side of San Juan Island
Besides the well-known Limekiln State Park, off West Side Road on the western shore of San Juan Island, there are three other public viewing areas along West Side Road where orcas can often been seen during the summer months.
Deadman Preserve
Just south of Limekiln State Park off Westside road is a property owned by the San Juan County Landbank. The preserve has 1600 feet of public shoreline including a gravel beach. When orcas are in the area this is also a good viewing area.
West side Scenic Preserve
A couple miles south of Deadman Preserve is another Landbank property. The preserve has 15 acres of high bank bluffs overlooking Haro Strait. The high vantage point is a good whale lookout spot, and also offers stunning views of the Olympic Mountains.
San Juan County Park
About 3 miles north of Limekiln State Park is San Juan County Park. The park has rocky bluffs, and a gravel beach. In addition to day use, there are 20 campsites, a group camping area, and an area set aside for hikers, bikers and kayakers. All camp spots have water views, eat dinner, lean back and look for the whales.
Whales on the south end of the island
American Camp National Historic Park, and the adjacent South Beach overlook the Straits of Juan de Fuca and are both sites where whales can be spotted. To reach American Camp, head south out of Friday Harbor on Argyle Road. Where the road takes a sharp turn to the right, it becomes Mullis road. After another sharp right, the road become Cattle Point Road. Follow Cattle Point Road to the entrance of American camp.
To reach South Beach, go past the entrance for America Camp Visitor Center and turn right on Picket Land. The first parking lot is about a half mile down Picket Lane. It is located in the middle of South Beach, so you can head east or west to the beach.

Vancouver WA adopts tougher stormwater rules
June 16, 2009 (Columbian.com)
For decades, rainwater was something you wanted to channel away from your land to prevent a muddy mess.
"You needed to find a ditch or a creek or a river to put it in," Vancouver Councilwoman Jeanne Stewart said Monday night. "That’s how you did it. Now, as the expression goes, the chickens are coming home to roost in terms of degraded water quality."
The city council, with the backing of business and environmental interests, late Monday unanimously approved tougher controls that will require some developers to spend more to prevent stormwater from cascading off future projects.
Runoff carries dirt, oils, fertilizers and other contaminants into urban waterways, all harmful to fish and other aquatic life. A major downpour can create a torrent that scours stream beds and destabilizes banks, sweeping away spawning gravel and removing vegetation that helps keep water cold for fish.
According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, polluted runoff is "the state’s biggest urban water quality threat.

Humpback whale comes to surface near harbour
June 16, 2009 (Canada.com)
An unusual visitor to Nanaimo's harbour was spotted on the weekend.
A humpback whale, which appeared to be alone, was seen in waters between Harmac and Gabriola Island, surfacing several times.
Marine biologist John Ford, of the Pacific Biological Station, said the sighting is somewhat unusual but the whales have been spotted more frequently each year.
"It's not totally unprecedented but it's still pretty exciting for people to see," said Ford on Monday. "It's good to see they're making use of local waters."

Fewer Orcas to Watch this Month in WA
June 15, 2009 (Public News Service)
June is Orca Appreciation Month in Washington, but the orca population is dwindling. The future of this rare whale is caught up in the battle over salmon recovery in the Northwest, because salmon are orcas' main food source.
Two federal reports – one examining the Columbia and Snake rivers, the other about California's Sacramento River – have come to opposite conclusions about whether dams on these rivers kill enough salmon to affect the orcas. Attorney Steve Mashuda with Earthjustice sides with the California opinion: Fish reared in hatcheries don't make up for the numbers of wild fish lost due to man-made changes to the rivers, and orcas are traveling farther to stay alive.
"Orcas shouldn't have to swim all the way to Monterey Bay every year just to find a decent meal. The Columbia-Snake system is in the whales' backyard, and it was once the largest salmon producer in the lower 48 states. We need to revisit the determination made under the Bush administration."
The Obama administration is reviewing the Columbia-Snake report, which was written while George W. Bush was President. That report says dams do not jeopardize the orcas’ food source. Mashuda says a decision is expected by the end of June about whether the feds will accept that report or redo it. Either way, both orcas and salmon remain on the endangered species list.

Save the krill, save the whales
June 15, 2009 (Oregon Statesman-Journal)
Many whales, as well as other species, depend on small shrimp-like animals called krill. While each individual krill may weigh only 1-2 grams, they cumulatively constitute one of the largest biomasses of any known animal species on the planet.
Krill also perform a unique service, transferring energy from some of the smallest ocean organisms, upon which they feed, to some of the largest, such as the mighty blue whale, which feed upon them. In this role, they form the bedrock of the food chain for a bevy of species including seabirds and salmon. In fact, blue and gray whales -- which provide a rich ecotourism industry along the Pacific coast -- feed almost exclusively on krill.
Recognizing the importance of krill to the ecosystem, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, an advisory body to the U.S. government, voted to ban krill fishing up to 200 nautical miles off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington. This rule, which is undergoing final review by the White House, closes previous loopholes and takes an important step towards a management system that protects the entire ecosystem.
Far away, however, in one of the most remote regions of the world, Antarctica provides a home to a species of krill that is also critical food for whales, seals, penguins and numerous other animals. Yet Antarctic krill are subject to the largest industrial fishery in the Southern Ocean. While krill are not currently overfished there, worrisome signs loom on the horizon.
The world can't afford to let krill become the first domino to fall in a chain of ecosystem failures that undermine the stability of our oceans. Allowing whales and penguins to go hungry due to careless fishing practices would be a tragedy in any hemisphere.

Study on Snohomish River system chinook begins this week
June 15, 2009 (Seattle Times)
More eyes will be paying attention to chinook salmon migrating into the Snohomish River system this summer, and anglers are also asked to do their part in the study program.
A study aimed at improving management of federally protected chinook salmon begins this week, when state Fish and Wildlife biologists expand efforts to monitor and track chinook returns to the Snohomish River basin.
Biologists will be capturing, marking and releasing chinook in the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers as the fish make their way upriver to the spawning grounds.
Survey crews will then document the marked salmon found on the spawning grounds and caught in the sport fishery, as well as those fish that return to the Wallace River Hatchery and Sunset Falls fishway.
Hahn said information collected by survey teams will allow state fisheries to make a population estimate, which will be compared to other estimates made by counting salmon spawning nests, known as redds. Crews count redds by helicopter and by floating the spawning grounds in rafts.

Western governors dip into growing water demand
June 15, 2009 (Seattle Times)
Quenching the growing demand for water in the warming West will require a bigger push for conservation, innovative technology and a rethinking of supply and demand, Western governors and water experts said Sunday.
The three-day Western Governors' Association meeting that began Sunday focuses on key issues that affect states throughout the West, including water use, climate change and energy.
This year - with several cabinet members from the Obama administration and a record attendance - the political landscape has shifted and there's a renewed urgency for swapping ideas and working together, attendees said.
Sunday's main discussion, which included Canadian officials and experts from the Middle East and Australia, focused on managing water amid changing climate conditions.
States can no longer rely on simply building more storage capacity, which can be expensive and "politically challenging," he said. The West needs to consider other supply options such as rainwater, use of treated wastewater and desalination plants, Gleick said.
Climate change - which will alter precipitation and the timing of mountain snow melt - also needs to be incorporated into all water management decisions, he said.

Oysters in deep trouble: Is Pacific Ocean's chemistry killing sea life?
June 14, 2009 (Seattle Times)
The collapse began rather unspectacularly.
In 2005, when most of the millions of Pacific oysters in this tree-lined estuary failed to reproduce, Washington's shellfish growers largely shrugged it off.
In a region that provides one-sixth of the nation's oysters — the epicenter of the West Coast's $111 million oyster industry — everyone knows nature can be fickle.
But then the failure was repeated in 2006, 2007 and 2008. It spread to an Oregon hatchery that supplies baby oysters to shellfish nurseries from Puget Sound to Los Angeles. Eighty percent of that hatchery's oyster larvae died, too.
Now, as the oyster industry heads into the fifth summer of its most unnerving crisis in decades, scientists are pondering a disturbing theory. They suspect water that rises from deep in the Pacific Ocean — icy seawater that surges into Willapa Bay and gets pumped into seaside hatcheries — may be corrosive enough to kill baby oysters.

Hatchery Fish May Hurt Efforts To Sustain Wild Salmon Runs; 'The Data Are Now Pretty Clear'
June 13, 2009 (Underwater Times)
Steelhead trout that are originally bred in hatcheries are so genetically impaired that, even if they survive and reproduce in the wild, their offspring will also be significantly less successful at reproducing, according to a new study published today by researchers from Oregon State University.
The poor reproductive fitness – the ability to survive and reproduce – of the wild-born offspring of hatchery fish means that adding hatchery fish to wild populations may ultimately be hurting efforts to sustain those wild runs, scientists said.
The study found that a fish born in the wild as the offspring of two hatchery-reared steelhead averaged only 37 percent the reproductive fitness of a fish with two wild parents, and 87 percent the fitness if one parent was wild and one was from a hatchery. Most importantly, these differences were still detectable after a full generation of natural selection in the wild.
The effect of hatcheries on reproductive fitness in succeeding generations had been predicted in theory, experts say, but until now had never been demonstrated in actual field experiments.
The implication, Blouin said, is that hatchery salmonids – many of which do survive to reproduce in the wild– could be gradually reducing the fitness of the wild populations with which they interbreed. Those hatchery fish provide one more hurdle to overcome in the goal of sustaining wild runs, along with problems caused by dams, loss or degradation of habitat, pollution, overfishing and other causes.

Behavior of Puget Sound orcas is raising concerns
June 12, 2009 (Watching Our Waterways blog by Chris Dunagan)
The Southern Resident killer whales, which frequent Puget Sound, are acting a little strangely of late and their actions are making a few people nervous.
I always look forward to hearing about their arrival to the San Juan Islands in early June. Ideally, someone will see all three pods of orcas getting together in one big reunion called a “superpod” with more than 80 whales splashing about together.
Last year, the superpod occurred on June 3, according to Howard Garrett of Orca Network. Sometimes the orcas show up earlier than that and sometimes they come in later, but generally by mid-June all three pods are hunting chinook in and around the San Juans.
Their “late” arrival this year is not the only thing that’s disconcerting, however. J pod, which is generally in and out of our inland waters frequently, was gone the entire month of April. Now the pod is gone again and has not been seen since May 25.
Also worrisome is how the whales have split into smaller family groups. Nine animals in L pod (known as the L-12s) have been around until possibly leaving today. Meanwhile, twice that many whales in L pod are somewhere unknown.
Two members of K pod have been in and around the islands, but another 16 or so whales are somewhere else.
“It is very worrisome,” said Susan Berta of Orca Network. “I know a lot of researchers who want to wait for the data, but things seem to be changing and we are getting these oddities. Also, they are absent more and more.
There are rumors of more abundant salmon in the Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada — a vast area with lots of inlets where orcas could easily go unreported.
“These animals are mobile predators,” Brad noted. “They can move throughout their range in a very short period of time. Fish are either late or low, but they are not present right now. We hope they (the whales) are taking advantage of fish somewhere else.”

J-pod update
June 12, 2009 (Seattle P-I blog by Candace Whiting Calloway)
Baby J45 and his family have disappeared for a while, most likely in search of food:
"The last encounter we had with J45 was on the 15th of May. He seemed just fine, and was acting like any normal young calf. He was last seen going by the Center on May 25th he was traveling with his mom J14 and his sister J37. He may have been seen from a whale watch boat since then. J pod left the area shortly after they were seen on the 25th by us, and there have been no reports of them since then."
Erin Heydenreich, Staff Assistant, Center for Whale Research

As Wind Power Grows, a Push to Tear Down Dams
June 12, 2009 (New York Times)
For decades, most of the nation’s renewable power has come from dams, which supplied cheap electricity without requiring fossil fuels. But the federal agencies running the dams often compiled woeful track records on other environmental issues.
Now, with the focus in Washington on clean power, some dam agencies are starting to go green, embracing wind power and energy conservation. The most aggressive is the Bonneville Power Administration, whose power lines carry much of the electricity in the Pacific Northwest. The agency also provides a third of the region’s power supply, drawn mostly from generators inside big dams.
The amount of wind power on the Bonneville transmission system quadrupled in the last three years and is expected to double again in another two. The turbines are making an electricity system with low carbon emissions even greener — already, in Seattle, more than 90 percent of the power comes from renewable sources.
The influx of wind on Bonneville’s system has come as a result of renewable power goals set by governments in the Western states, which aim to reduce their output of greenhouse gases. Bonneville says that when the wind is blowing most strongly, 18 percent of the power in its control area now comes from wind, and that number may rise to 30 percent next year. (Not all of that is consumed in the Pacific Northwest; some is sold to California.)
For decades, environmentalists, fishermen and some local politicians, who want to save the endangered salmon, have fought Bonneville and the Army Corps of Engineers, which want to keep the lower Snake River dams. A federal judge overseeing the dispute has accused the federal agencies of not working hard enough to save the salmon and had raised the possibility of breaching those dams to aid the fish.
The economic stimulus package passed in February will help: it sharply increased the maximum amount that the agency can borrow from the United States Treasury to $7.7 billion, from $4.45 billion. (Another dam agency, the Western Area Power Administration, got a similar boost and also plans more transmission lines to aid wind and other renewables.)

Unlikely voices call for a more inclusive approach to resolving the Snake River’s dam vs. salmon conundrum
June 11, 2009 (Inlander)
Idaho’s Republican Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have emerged as unlikely progressive voices calling for a broad collaboration to preserve endangered runs of salmon that must pass four dams on the lower Snake River. Even if it means talking about breaching the dams.
They are joined in this previously unmentionable view by freshman Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who stated during his campaign that he is willing to support removal of the lower Snake River dams if it is supported by science and if losses to hydropower and barging interests are addressed.
One voice that so far is silent on the call for collaboration and discussion of dam breaching belongs to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The Inlander was unable to reach Murray, but her spokesman, Matt McAlvanah, said in an e-mail that court-ordered remedies have “resulted in historic agreement. Sen. Murray believes the region must now move forward and implement solutions to ensure that those hard-won compromises don’t unravel.”
The translation seems to be no collaboration as envisioned by her colleagues.
Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman, in many ways the dean of Northwest journalists writing about the complexities of salmon preservation, writes in early May, “Murray was responsible for killing, at least for now, Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch’s ambitious efforts to begin a regional forum on resolving the salmon issue before U.S. District Judge James Redden takes it into his own hands.”
Redden, the federal judge in Portland, released a letter on May 18 to attorneys involved in the long-running suit.
He lays out blunt statements that he has “serious reservations” about the latest “biological opinion” presented by the federal government to show salmon can survive with the Snake River dams in place.
Redden writes that the government agencies “improperly rely on speculative, uncertain and unidentified” actions to conclude salmon are “trending towards recovery,” and that the government has spent “the better part of a decade treading water and avoiding their obligations under the Endangered Species Act.”
He sees hope, Redden writes, but he too says breaching the lower four Snake River dams may be necessary.
Such a huge step, even if Redden were to authorize it, would require Congressional approval and a years-long chain of evaluation, permitting and funding.
But at last — inside the Portland courtroom and out — the concept of breaching is mentioned aloud by judges and United States senators. Damn.

House panel OKs 150% hike in Puget Sound cleanup funds
June 11, 2009 (Bellingham Herald)
Federal funding to clean up Puget Sound would jump by 150 percent, to $50 million, under a spending bill approved Wednesday by the House interior appropriations subcommittee.
The money would be provided to the Environmental Protection Agency for use on such projects as monitoring the recovery of the Nisqually River estuary and cleaning up toxic waste in the Duwamish River, Elliot Bay and other sites near Bellingham, Anacortes and Olympia. But the EPA's main emphasis is trying to get a handle on controlling storm-water runoff into the Sound, perhaps the single biggest problem.
The funding is included in a $32.3 billion bill, and subcommittee action is just the first step in a long process. Even so, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the chairman of the subcommittee, said he expected the $50 million in Puget Sound spending to survive.
Every year, roughly 52 million pounds of toxic chemicals are washed into the Sound, Eaton said. The equivalent an Exxon Valdez-size oil spill drips into the Sound every two years from such things cars and boat engines leaking oil.
The problems will be compounded as the region's population is expected to grow by 1.5 million by 2020, Eaton said.
"As we continue to add people, the incremental effects add up," he said. "Storm-water runoff just washes all the urban grime into the Sound."

Water management in California deemed critical to orcas
June 11, 2009 (Watching Our Waterways blog by Chris Dunagan)
Federal biologists are really stirring things up in Northern California. They have determined that the irrigation system in the vast Central Valley farm region jeopardizes the future of several species of fish as well as Puget Sound’s killer whales.
It’s interesting to see the federal biologists address the plight of the Southern Resident killer whales with respect to water use in California. These orcas frequent Puget Sound, but they are spending a great deal of their time along the West Coast down to Monterey Bay. The bottom line in the biological opinion is that salmon availability along the coast could be a key factor in whether the population is able to avoid extinction.
Environmental groups were quick to argue that if water operations in Northern California can raise the risk of extinction to intolerable levels, then surely the dams on the Columbia River ought to be a concern.
“The recent National Marine Fisheries Service conclusion linking destruction of salmon habitat to harm to killer whales is a breath of fresh air,” said Kathy Fletcher, executive director for People for Puget Sound in a statement. “Our killer whales are at critically low numbers, and NMFS has recognized that what we do to salmon in freshwater impacts our orcas in the ocean. But it doesn’t make sense to protect salmon for whales to eat in California while at the same time ignoring the effect of dams on fish in the whales’ backyard.”
The issue of what to do about the dams remains before a federal judge. The Obama administration is considering whether to continue with the Bush approach to leave the dams in place or revisit the issue.

Study supports theory whales get the bends
June 11, 2009 (Taiwan News)
A new study offers evidence to support the theory that beaked whales get the bends when they surface rapidly, possibly after being startled by naval sonar.
The report could help scientists understand why beaked whales appear to be more vulnerable to the potentially harmful effects of sonar than other marine mammals.
Together with other studies, the results may also help scientists and regulators think of how navies could adjust their sonar use during training to prevent beaked whale strandings and deaths.
"It provides more evidence that beaked whales that are being found dead in association with naval sonar activities are likely to be getting decompression sickness," said Robin Baird, a marine biologist at Cascadia Research Collective and one of the report's authors.

Greater Victoria to stop flushing untreated sewage in sea
June 11, 2009 (Seattle Times)
After years of bad publicity — including a campaign by "Mr. Floatie" — the British Columbia capital of Victoria plans to stop pouring millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the marine waters between Vancouver Island and Washington state.
Regional politicians last week approved a $1.2 billion plan to build four treatment plants to handle about 34 million gallons of raw sewage that Victoria and six suburbs pump into the Strait of Juan de Fuca each day. The cities are home to about 300,000 people.
"It's the first time we've had the region say, 'It's the direction we're going to go in,' " said Christianne Wilhelmson, with the Georgia Strait Alliance, which has pushed for sewage treatment for years.
Efforts to shame politicians into adopting sewage treatment were marked by a humorous yet failed attempt by Mr. Floatie — the 7-foot-tall brown-clad mascot for POOP, People Opposed to Outfall Pollution — to run for mayor of Victoria.
Environmentalists say untreated sewage contains toxic chemicals, heavy metals and other contaminants that pollute waters and harm aquatic life. It's also one of many sources contaminating the region's killer whales, they say.

House panel OKs 150% hike in Puget Sound cleanup funds
June 10, 2009 (Bellingham Herald)
Federal funding to clean up Puget Sound would jump by 150 percent, to $50 million, under a spending bill approved Wednesday by the House interior appropriations subcommittee.
The money would be provided to the Environmental Protection Agency for use on such projects as monitoring the recovery of the Nisqually River estuary and cleaning up toxic waste in the Duwamish River, Elliot Bay and other sites near Bellingham, Anacortes and Olympia. But the EPA's main emphasis is trying to get a handle on controlling storm-water runoff into the Sound, perhaps the single biggest problem.
The funding is included in a $32.3 billion bill, and subcommittee action is just the first step in a long process. Even so, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the chairman of the subcommittee, said he expected the $50 million in Puget Sound spending to survive.

Just add water: Normally dry Chelan River gets wet
June 10, 2009 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
They turned on the Chelan River, and it works.
The Chelan County Public Utility District is spending nearly $16 million to restore year-round flow to the Chelan River Gorge, a four-mile stretch of river that tumbles from the dam at the foot of Lake Chelan to the Columbia River, about 400 feet below.
As a test, crews started spilling water Monday into the normally dry river bed. Water pooled near the river's mouth and spilled into a carefully engineered channel with strategically placed boulders, logs and rocks, all to provide new spawning habitat for steelhead and chinook salmon.
"The real joy will be to see how fish react to it," Hays said, adding that fish may spawn in the new habitat as early as this fall.
PUD officials are trying to make the stream as attractive as possible to fish. The channel is lined with gravel to give fish places to spawn. The utility will plant cottonwood trees and native shrubs this fall to protect the banks and provide shade to keep waters cool for fish.
"In 10 to 15 years, you should notice a substantial difference in the bank," Hays said.
The water will flow from Lake Chelan Dam until early August for the test.
Work under way at the dam will allow a permanent, year-round flow to start in October for the first time since the dam was built in the 1920s.

June is Orca Month, but how are the orcas?
June 9, 2009 (Kathy Fletcher's blog)
With their large brains and highly evolved society, maybe Puget Sound’s orcas spend some of their time discussing the many changes we humans have brought to their world. If they are aware that humans have designated June as Orca Month, perhaps they also realize that we people are locked in a struggle over the life and death of Puget Sound. Perhaps they have a sense of irony about all the talk about pollution and salmon while precious little seems to be improving for them. Or perhaps they have no explanation for their reduced circumstances. Are they even conscious of how close they are to extinction?
Even if the orcas survive and thrive because we finally get our act together to save the Sound, we may never know that much more about what they think and know. My musings may be idle conjecture. But let me make a modest suggestion. If empathy means the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes (or perhaps paws or flippers), let’s at least consider how our actions affect the critters whose fate—through no fault of theirs—we hold in our hands.

USGS Study Links Estrogen to Fish Immunity
June 8, 2009 (Water and Wastewater News)
Exposure to estrogen reduces production of immune-related proteins in fish. This suggests that certain compounds, known as endocrine disruptors, may make fish more susceptible to disease. The research may provide new clues for why intersex fish, fish kills, and fish lesions often occur together in the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. The tests were conducted in a lab by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey.
The study, led by USGS genomics researcher Laura Robertson, Ph.D., revealed that largemouth bass injected with estrogen produced lowered levels of hepcidin, an important iron-regulating hormone in mammals that is also found in fish and amphibians. This is the first published study demonstrating control of hepcidin by estrogen in any animal.
Besides being an important iron-regulating hormone, researchers also suspect that hepcidin may act as an antimicrobial peptide in mammals, fish, and frogs. Antimicrobial peptides are the first line of defense against disease-causing bacteria and some fungi and viruses in vertebrate animals.

Orca's Best Friend
June 8, 2009 (UW Alum magazine)
Three diagonal lines on Samuel Wasser's computer screen may help explain why orcas, or killer whales, are disappearing from Puget Sound.
The lines track how the whales' thyroid hormone levels decline over the course of a summer, as Chinook salmon become scarcer and the whales begin to go hungry. In lean years, some whales are pushed past the edge of survival. "The results have been really powerful already," after just three field seasons of study, says Wasser, head of the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) at the UW. "I think we've shown that without question there's a very strong nutritional signal."
The study, helmed by Wasser's graduate student Katherine Ayres, features an unusual research assistant: a black Labrador retriever mix named Tucker is helping the team collect samples of whale feces, or scat. Tucker is one of 30 dogs in the CCB's conservation canine program helping sniff out scat from vulnerable species in far-flung corners of the globe as well as Puget Sound.
To find orca scat in the water, Tucker stands at the bow of the boat and sniffs the wind. When he catches a whiff, he becomes animated, straining over the edge of the boat. Then, the boat tacks back and forth as dog and humans play a collaborative, interspecies game of getting-warmer and getting-colder, racing to spot the sample and fish it from the water before it sinks. It's a complicated dance—"but it works fantastically," Wasser says. The dogs can find up to four times as many samples as humans can by following their own noses.
Meanwhile, Wasser and Ayres—along with Tucker—wait for the orcas to converge on their summer grounds in Puget Sound again. This year, Wasser wants to gain more insight into how lack of food interacts with stress from boat traffic and environmental toxins to put the whales at risk. To do that, he hopes to get Tucker out on the water for the entire field season. "If you're trying to partition these different factors," he says, "you really need a lot of samples."

Alki event for The Whale Trail: "It's not too late" for orcas
June 8, 2009 (West Seattle Blog)
A grand vision to mark 15 key whale-watching spots on our state’s inland and seacoast shores — The Whale Trail — is coming closer to reality. At one spot set for a marker, Alki, a who’s-who of marine mammal/ecology advocates gathered last night for an open house to show off the plan, including Whale Trail director Donna Sandstrom (seated in the photo below) and Kathy Fletcher from People for Puget Sound:
Sandstrom said orca extinction “will not happen on our watch … it’s not too late.” Fletcher said awareness-raising efforts like The Whale Trail are “part of the overall effort to restore Puget Sound … as an ecosystem.” She also urged people not to be fooled by the Sound’s “extraordinary beauty” — “Puget Sound is in trouble,” all the way down the food chain, which is topped by the orcas.

Baby J-45, You Might Be One Lucky Orca Calf!
June 7, 2009 (Candace Calloway Whiting, Center for Whale Research)
In previous posts we have touched a bit on the challenges that face our resident orca whales, specially the calves. About a third to a half of them don't survive their first year, and those who do carry a toxic burden and face dire salmon shortages. So, in light of that, what could possibly be good news for this newest member of J-pod? He has some really good things going for him, but before discussing that I would like to digress a little.
As noted in an earlier post, the whales are named according to their 'pod', or group identity, followed by when they were first seen. So the baby Orca J-45 belongs to J-pod, and is the 45th member identified since records have been kept. The researchers find this a straightforward and logical way to keep track of the families and for the scientists these numbers are the most practical way to refer to the animals. Once the babies are a year old, The Whale Museum also gives them a name.
The first factor is his birth order. The lion's share of a mother whale's toxic load is transferred to her first calf, and fortunately Baby J-45 is the sixth calf born to his mother J-14. Also, there is evidence that older mothers are slightly more successful in raising a calf through it's first year, although the researchers have not determined why this is so. It may be linked to experience, the reduced toxic load to the calf, the presence of siblings, or a combination of factors. His mother J-14 is 35 years old, has four surviving offspring and only lost one calf.
This brings us to the next thing that makes Baby J-45 lucky: he was born into a great extended family, known as the successful and long-lived "J-2 Matriline". (A matriline is like a family tree where only the mother's lineage is considered). Young Orcas stay with their moms throughout their lives.

U.S. plans to toughen Calif. water restrictions
June 5, 2009 (New York Times)
California farmers reeling from three consecutive drought years are facing further water restrictions under a federal plan to aid imperiled salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon and killer whales.

Plan would aid salmon, reduce water for people
June 5, 2009 (San Francisco Chronicle)
Federal regulators prescribed sweeping changes Thursday to the dams, reservoirs and pumps that supply water to two-thirds of California in an effort to restore a salmon population whose steep decline has sounded an environmental alarm and led to the cancellation of two consecutive commercial fishing seasons.
While the measures could save the chinook salmon and other species from extinction, critics argue the plans reduce the water supply to people and farms at a time when the water system is strained by earlier environmental rules, drought, population growth and crumbling infrastructure.
On Thursday, an 800-page biological opinion released by the National Marine Fisheries Service found that operations of the state and federal water systems had jeopardized the state's spring-run chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and Southern Resident killer whales. Moving water from one area of the delta to another and exporting increased supplies to cities and farms slashed flows for fish and boosted water temperatures, the report found.

Feds release Calif. plan to protect chinook salmon
June 5, 2009 (AP)
Federal regulators on Thursday released a court-ordered plan to help struggling chinook salmon that includes opening California dams and restricting pumping, prompting howls of protest from state officials because it will further reduce the amount of water available to farms and urban areas.
The fisheries service had to redo its salmon management plan for the upper Sacramento River and Shasta Reservoir after a federal judge in Fresno threw out its previous plan last year. U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger found that allowing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water pumps and dams to continue operating as they have would threaten the imperiled species.
The fisheries service estimates that state and federal water regulators will lose 5 to 7 percent of the already limited water they have to manage under the new plan. Pumping restrictions this year due to another protected species, the delta smelt, already have meant a 17 to 20 percent reduction in water supply, said Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources.
Fall-run chinook salmon populations returning to the Central Valley to spawn have declined steeply over the past seven years, down to about 66,000 salmon adults returning to the Sacramento River in 2008 from more than 750,000 adult salmon in 2002.
The decline of fall, spring and winter-run salmon — which return from the sea to lay eggs in their native freshwater habitat — is blamed on a lack of water and increased water temperature caused by the vast series of pumps and canals used to move the precious resource around.
The fisheries service determined that the current water pumping operations by the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project need to be changed to protect a number of endangered or threatened species including winter and spring-run chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and killer whales, which feed on salmon.

NOAA Biological Opinion Finds California Water Projects Jeopardize Listed Species; Recommends Alternatives
June 4, 2009 (NOAA press release)
Federal biologists and hydrologists concluded that current water pumping operations in the Federal Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project should be changed to ensure survival of winter and spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, the southern population of North American green sturgeon and Southern Resident killer whales, [emphasis ours] which rely on Chinook salmon runs for food.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will mitigate some costs resulting from the opinion's recommended actions. The Department of the Interior identified $109 million to construct a Red Bluff Pumping Plant that will allow the old Red Bluff Diversion Dam to be operated in a "gates out" position to allow salmon and green sturgeon unimpeded passage. In addition, the Act contains $26 million to restore Battle Creek, a salmon tributary to the Sacramento River.
The water projects included in the opinion are Shasta Dam at the upper headwaters of the Sacramento River, Folsom and Nimbus dams on the American River, and New Melones Dam on the Stanislaus River. The opinion also covers the state and federal export facilities in the Delta, the Nimbus hatchery on the American River, and the operations of diversion structures, including the Red Bluff Diversion Dam on the mainstem Sacramento and the Delta Cross Channel gates in the Delta.

Feds to release plan to protect chinook salmon
June 4, 2009 (San Jose Mercury News)
Federal fisheries regulators are planning to release a court-ordered plan to protect chinook salmon in the Central Valley. The plan to be unveiled Thursday could end up further limiting the amount of water pumped to farmers and Southern California residents. Commercial fishing for the struggling species has been canceled off the California coast for two seasons.
The agency had to redo its management plan for the fish because U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno threw out its previous plan last year. He found that allowing the Delta water pumps to continue operating as they have would threaten the species.
Fishing industry representatives argue the Sacramento River salmon need adequate river flows and relatively uninterrupted transit through the Delta.

Orcas Peek Heads Into Sound, Then Turn Around
June 2, 2009 (Kitsap Sun)
For a brief time this week, it appeared that Puget Sound's killer whales had returned to Washington waters to take up their summer residence.
Several members of L pod were seen off Victoria on Tuesday, after traveling along the east side of Vancouver Island in Canada, according to reports compiled by Orca Network. But instead of heading on east into the San Juan Islands, the L-pod orcas turned west into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, headed for the Pacific Ocean.
All three groups of Puget Sound orcas — J, K and L pods — typically spend their summers hunting salmon in and around the San Juans. While J and K pods have been around part of the winter, L pod last appeared for only a day or two in February. When L pod showed up Tuesday, it was a good bet that the whales were here for a longer stay, said Howard Garrett of Orca Network.
"They did a quick peek in, then headed out," he said. "The supposition is that they didn't find enough to eat."

Shorelines battle starts to stir behind the scenes
June 2, 2009 (Watching Our Waterways)
Planning the future of Puget Sound’s shorelines is under way or soon will be under way among most local governments in Puget Sound.
Some counties have completed the work because of early funding by the Legislature (King and Pierce) and some because they pushed ahead on their own (Whatcom). Some counties started early but have faced delays (Snohomish and Jefferson).
Kitsap County planners started early but focused their efforts on an “inventory” of existing conditions along the entire shoreline. That inventory, which includes prospects for habitat restoration, could be a major tool in the update of Kitsap’s Shoreline Master Program.
Do I need to remind anyone how contentious this issue is likely to become in counties with substantial shorelines?
In Kitsap County, both property rights advocates and environmental groups have already announced that they are getting ready for a fight.

Climate change turning seas acid
June 1, 2009 (Environmental News Network)
Climate change is turning the oceans more acid in a trend that could endanger everything from clams to coral and be irreversible for thousands of years, national science academies said on Monday.

NASA Satellite Detects Red Glow to Map Global Ocean Plant Health
June 1, 2009 (Environmental News Network)
A study published by NASA uses satellite remote sensing technology to measure the amount of fluorescent red light emitted by ocean phytoplankton and assess how efficiently the microscopic plants are turning sunlight and nutrients into food through photosynthesis. They can also study how changes in the global environment alter these processes, which are at the center of the ocean food web.
"This is the first direct measurement of the health of the phytoplankton in the ocean," said Michael Behrenfeld, a biologist who specializes in marine plants at the Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore. "We have an important new tool for observing changes in phytoplankton every week, all over the planet."

EarthTalk: Is sonar dangerous to marine life?
June 1, 2009 (Miami Herald)
Unfortunately for many whales, dolphins and other marine life, the use of underwater sonar (short for sound navigation and ranging) can lead to injury and even death. Sonar systems - first developed by the U.S. Navy to detect enemy submarines - generate slow-rolling sound waves topping out at around 235 decibels; the world's loudest rock bands top out at only 130. These sound waves can travel for hundreds of miles under water, and can retain an intensity of 140 decibels as far as 300 miles from their source.
These rolling walls of noise are no doubt too much for some marine wildlife. While little is known about any direct physiological effects of sonar waves on marine species, evidence shows that whales will swim hundreds of miles, rapidly change their depth (sometime leading to bleeding from the eyes and ears), and even beach themselves to get away from the sounds of sonar.
In January 2005, 34 whales of three different species became stranded and died along North Carolina's Outer Banks during nearby offshore Navy sonar training. Other sad examples around the coast of the U.S. and elsewhere abound, notably in recent years with more sonar testing going on than ever before. According to the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which has campaigned vigorously to ban use of the technology in waters rich in marine wildlife, recent cases of whale strandings likely represent a small fraction of sonar's toll, given that severely injured animals rarely make it to shore.

Crews pulled creosote-covered wood off of beaches
June 1, 2009 (Everett Herald)
Workers removed nearly 30 tons of creosote-covered wood and other debris Thursday at Iverson Spit and other beaches along Livingston Bay, an important estuarine habitat that supports fish, shorebirds and marine mammals.
Of that debris, which filled three 20-yard dumpsters, about 40 percent -- or almost 12 tons -- was creosote itself.
The state Department of Natural Resources is on a mission to get creosote out of the inland marine waters, said David Roberts, with the aquatics division of the department.
Now regulated as a hazardous waste, creosote is made from coal tar and contains more than 300 chemicals. For nearly a century, the pitchy substance routinely was used as a preservative and painted on telephone poles, fence posts, railroad ties, piers, docks and pilings.
The surface of marine pilings was often coated with several inches of creosote. The problem is, Roberts said, it has contributed to the decline of herring, smelt and salmon in the Puget Sound region.

Estuary Restoration Projects Will Get State Funding
June 1, 2009 (Kitsap Sun)
Two Hood Canal estuary-restoration projects, totaling $2.7 million, are among five Puget Sound projects approved for state funding this week.
The Hood Canal projects are a $1.7 million restoration in the Skokomish River estuary and a $1 million restoration in the Little Quilcene estuary. The other three projects, totaling $1.6 million, are associated with the Nisqually River restoration project.
Funding was approved this week by the Puget Sound Leadership Council, which oversees money directed through the Puget Sound Partnership. The partnership has been charged with coordinating all Puget Sound restoration efforts.

Raw sewage pouring into harbor off Bainbridge Island
June 1, 2009 (Seattle Times)
A major sewage pipe on Bainbridge Island continued to spill tens of thousands of gallons of raw waste into Eagle Harbor on Sunday, a day after rupturing, and a city official said the line can't be fixed until Tuesday morning.
The pipe, which carries about three-fifths of the city's sewage from a pump station to the treatment plant near Hawley Cove Park, was spewing more than 1,400 gallons an hour.
A passer-by reported the spill about 3 p.m. Saturday, but crews couldn't inspect the pipe — buried beneath the beach on the north shore of Eagle Harbor — until low tide Sunday morning, said Lance Newkirk, deputy director of the city's Public Works Department.
When they did, they found more extensive corrosion than expected on the 30-year-old iron pipe.
"It's getting near the end of its useful life," Newkirk said.
Newkirk estimates about 70,000 gallons of sewage spilled between the initial report and 9 a.m. Sunday, when the crew finished putting a temporary metal band on the pipe. The band should prevent any solid matter from spilling and cut the flow of liquid effluent to 35,000 gallons per 24-hour period.
At that rate, as much as 140,000 gallons may have spilled by Tuesday morning, when Newkirk said he expects the pipe to be repaired completely.

Future protection of the oceans could lie in the past
June 1, 2009 (CNN)
If we don't know our history, then we can't know our future. Historians arguing the relevance of their subject often repeat that mantra.
But one group of researchers is showing how true it is. Members of the History of Marine Animals Project (HMAP) believe that scrutinizing the minutiae of historical documents is the key to protecting our oceans for generations to come.
Our seas and oceans face a series of major threats, including climate change and over-fishing.
But the HMAP is using the evidence of documents such as centuries old tax records and sailor's logs to explore how they have changed - and find the information that will help us understand and protect our oceans for the future. Only by appreciating long-term processes, they argue, can we hope to understand our impact.
The project has united academics across a range of disciplines from archaeology to paleontology, and 400 of them met last week at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, to discuss their research.

Traditional burial for young whale
June 1, 2009 (Gold Coast)
A DEAD baby humpback whale which was found washed up at Runaway Bay will be given a traditional Aboriginal burial.
The whale was towed to South Stradbroke Island where it was buried late yesterday at the request of elders from the Kombumerri tribe, traditional owners of the land.
Members of the Kombumerri yesterday said they had a cultural obligation to treat the whale with respect as their name meant 'salt water people'.
"We are traditional hunters and gatherers connected to the ocean and if we had failed to do this the sea gods would be very angry with us," said Hilary Blundell.
Tribal elders will return to the island in the next few days to perform a traditional burial ceremony for the whale.

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