The Orca Connection
The Southern Resident Orca Whales of Washington State's Puget Sound are a critical part of the Northwest ecosystem and economy, drawing millions of tourism dollars each year. They are also endangered, facing severe threats to their survival. One of the major problems orca's face is a lack of food, and that means salmon. Read more for additional information on how these two critical Northwest species are connected.
Watching Our Waterways: Orca-tagging project comes to an end for now
April 5th, 2013 by Chris Dunagan
A research project that involved tracking the travels of K pod for more than three months in the Pacific Ocean apparently has ended, as the transmitter seems to have run out of battery power, according to research biologist Brad Hanson.
“This has been a phenomenal deployment,” Brad told me yesterday after it appeared he had logged the final transmission from K-25. “It has been a quantum leap forward for us in terms of understanding what is going on.”
K-25 is a 22-year-old male orca who was implanted with a satellite tag on Dec. 29. The battery was expected to last for 32,000 transmissions, and it actually reached about 35,000, said Hanson of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. No data arrived yesterday during the normal transmission period.
The three months of satellite tracking data will be combined with fecal and prey samples from a 10-day research cruise to serve up a wealth of information about where the Southern Resident killer whales go and what they eat during the early part of the year, Brad said. Until now, this has been a major blank spot in the understanding of these whales, he noted.
The information gathered over the past three months should prove valuable in management efforts to protect and restore these orcas, which are familiar to human residents of the Puget Sound region. After the data are analyzed, federal officials should be able to say whether they have enough information to expand “critical habitat” into coastal areas for the endangered killer whales. If not, we should know what additional information may be required.
Revealing new data shows killer whales' winter affinity for the Columbia River mouth
From the desk of Howard Garrett, co-director of Orcanetwork
Seeing orcas cruising by seems to bring out the best in people, and many residents around Puget Sound and beyond are often thrilled to see members of an extended family known as the Southern resident orcas (J, K, and L pods) foraging and playing in the waters of the Puget Sound. Watching orcas is like a drug-free mood lifter. People seem to open their eyes wide, smile and share their excitement when viewing the huge, graceful whales travelling in tight family groups, rising up to look around, or leaping clear out of the water in a mighty breach. Since the mid-1970s this tight-knit orca community has been the most watched and studied population of cetaceans on the planet. Researchers and fans alike have learned to recognize each individual whale, year after year, including their family histories.
This particular clan of orcas is precariously close to extinction, however, largely due to the scarcity of chinook salmon, their primary, traditional food source. Chinook comprise about 80% of their diet, along with a side dish of chum salmon during fall months. These orcas refuse to deviate from that menu even when faced with starvation, as was shown by the drastically ramped up mortalities between 1995 and 2001 that correlated closely with region-wide declines in chinook numbers. The resulting 20 percent drop in the population to only 78 individuals in 2001 prompted the listing of this distinct population as endangered under the ESA in November, 2005. The most recent official count shows only 84 individuals.
Most of the dietary studies have been done in summer months around the San Juan Islands, where these orcas are easily found chomping on Fraser River chinook from late spring to early fall. They tend to spend winter and spring at sea, however, and until recently there was very little clear data on where they go or what they are eating in the open ocean waters.
Will The Obama Administration Act In Behalf Of Orcas And Salmon?
- a three part series by Howard Garrett
Commercial Fisheries, Salmon, and Orcas
by Candace Calloway Whiting
From Seattle PI's City Brights
Turn on any health/talk show, and it is not long before your might hear the host touting the benefit of eating salmon. We are told that the fats present in salmon and a few other species of fish are good for our hearts, and it is recommended that we eat moderate portions of those fish twice a week.
That is all well and good...except there are so many mouths to feed; over 300 million Americans at present, and nearly 7 billion people on the planet. If even just 10% of us eat salmon twice a week, we are talking about a tremendous amount of fish. How in the world will we ever manage to catch enough? Can we? It would seem that much is riding on the ability of the commercial fishermen and women to provide us with the salmon we need, yet leave some for the orcas, without driving wild salmon to extinction. It's a tall order...
"River of Renewal" - Salmon, Dams, Orcas, and You
by Candace Calloway Whiting
The following is part one of a five part series on the intertwined fates of salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers and southern resident killer whales.
The other night I just happened to catch on the PBS station KCTS the second half of an excellent documentary about the Klamath River, called "River of Renewal". I found the part that I watched to be coherent and insightful, and regret that I missed the first half. Although the Klamath River runs through Oregon/California, the film covers the same issues we face here in Washington as we consider removal of dams in the Snake/Columbia river basin.
Part 2 - Timeline: Salmon, Dams, and Orcas
Part 3 - How Many Fish Do The Orcas Need?
Part 5 - And Baby (Orca) Makes 5!
And the latest: Have A Heart SeaWorld, And Let Corky Go Home
- Jun 10, 2009 - Orca Awareness Month
- Mar 03, 2009 - Saving Snake River salmon will save Puget Sound killer whales