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Saturday, August 31, 2013

8-31-13 Grasping At 'Straws'

I am attempting to understand who addresses the situation of the declining Chinook salmon that go to the Fraser River.

Here are a few links that I found interesting:

It appears there are multiple agencies and it's confusing to me who does what. Here are just two.

Titled:  Can you tell me about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?

Here's another, this is NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Title:  Ocean Ecosystem Indicators
Very interesting and it is talking about the Fraser River Chinook.
It doesn't answer the question as to why wild Fraser River Chinook salmon are still being caught, but it is information about the assessments.

Maybe I've just been looking at the wrong country.  Maybe Canada needs to stop to 'their' Fraser River Chinook salmon being caught as they pass through these U. S. waters?
Would that make a difference?

It is so convoluted, there seem to be so many layers.  
It's not rocket science.  
No fish - no whales.
And someday no fish for the people.


Good luck whales.  We'll keep trying. 

 
 

Friday, August 30, 2013

8-30-13 The Whales Need Fish Not Words

Many people have asked, "who do we talk to about this lack of Chinook salmon?"...that's something I've been asking myself...this may shed some light on what direction to look when thinking of who you might like to contact.  

In a prior post I commented that the words, endangered killer whales, critical habitat, food source dwindling, and fishing continuing, just didn't compute...
It's the words Critical Habitat that I was misunderstanding.
Here is a link to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:  Critical Habitat What is it?  two page explanation on the internet. Was that ever an eye opener!

Two places in the document really got my attention:
1- at the bottom of the first page:  "A critical habitat designation has no effect on situations where a Federal agency is not involved."  My interpretation of that means that the National Fish and Wildlife Service and/or NOAA (?) is not involved in any fishing regulations regarding the Endangered Southern Resident killer whales. And instead it's the State of Washington that is in charge of the fishing - who can fish, when and what they can catch. This is just my interpretation.

2- the last paragraph of the entire document: "Additionally, the critical habitat designation usually affords little extra protection to most species, and in some cases it can result in harm to the species." (Read the rest of that paragraph for further understanding, it's not quite as bad is it might sound in just that sentence, but not that good either.)

After reading the document I have a better understanding of what Critical Habitat means.  It surprises me to find that even if a species is designated as endangered that there still might be no action taken to make sure they have enough food. Now that doesn't seem to make any sense at all to me. Doesn't every species need food for survival?
In the meantime the Residents have not been here all week. The last two times they came in they left the same day. There have been transient killer whales around a lot, in fact I've been listening to them for the last couple hours on the hydrophones tonight.
A couple days ago, one of the T30s - marine mammal eating killer whale not a salmon eating killer whale - up near Turn Pt. on Maya's Westside Charters  had leaping salmon all round...
...I don't know the the salmon species on the left...the one on the right a pink (aka humpie)...
...from that evening at Turn Pt...


and then this morning...
...the pink salmon numbers have been raised to 16,000,000...
...the sockeye numbers are still very low, and the Chinook salmon, well all I can say is that no one talks about them at all. Wild Chinook salmon are still being caught.  I just don't get it.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

8-29-13 A Must Read

From the San Juan Journal.  

Written by Ken Balcomb, Director of the Center for Whale Research

Please read this:

What shall we do for recovery of our local Orca?



8-26-13 Video Provides A Teachable Opportunity

You have most likely seen this wonderful video as the whales came through Active Pass on 8-25-13...it was taken from shore by some folks from their home...what an awesome sight it was and it is great that they shared it on the internet for others to see.

An educational opportunity arose while I watched this video. I appreciate the comment as it is very appropriate for the situation at hand.  People don't know that there really isn't any food in here for the Southern Resident Endangered killer whales.

One place on the video at about 2 minutes 10 seconds a comment is made: "there must be tons of fish." 

Killer whales in Active Pass 8-25-13 

It's normal for the Southern Residents to travel through Active Pass to the area of the Fraser River to forage on their preferred food, Chinook (King) salmon, so I can understand why the comment was made.  And I wish it was true, but it's not. That afternoon the whales reached the 'T14 can' as it is called, up past the Coal Docks, and instead of foraging they turned around and came back south and left for the open ocean.

The whales don't have enough food for them in here and based on the few sightings of them this season, down by at least 75% they have not had enough food all year long.  The data from the Fraser River Panel test fishing supports that as well.

A decline in Fraser River Chinook salmon has been going on for many years and has reached an undeniable state, yet it appears that people are not being educated as to what is happening.

We all love seeing the whales and in order to continue to do so I think we may need to make sure they have enough food, or they may just decide to not come back.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

8-25-13 They Came, Did They Stay This Time?

Sunday, August 25th
...early morning I am awakened to killer whale calls on the hydrophones...running around to get dressed and out the door, I first hear J and K pod calls...now that was a surprise as I had heard that L pod was coming in!
...once again I had the privilege of going out on Orca with Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research...today it was not raining and the seas were flat calm...it was not a superpod as only about half of L pod was present...
...maybe some salmon had come in and were moving up...I know that last night the purse seiners were getting ready for the next morning for the 7:00 a.m. 'bell' to drop their nets for a one day opening for them for pink salmon...
...the pink salmon numbers were looking good...originally estimated to be 17,000,000 it had been down graded to 10,000,000 but I guess that was enough for a short opening...pink salmon are not something the Residents eat...it's the Fraser River chinook salmon they want...pink salmon are only about 4.5 pounds - that's like eating a crumb...
...the whales were definitely heading north, looking like they might go all the way to the Fraser River...many of them were right out in the middle of Haro Strait going against the ebb tide while some others were in closer to shore, most likely using the back eddy...when they got closer to the entrance to Active Pass they went wild!...it was an amazing experience to watch and attempt to get images of the whales...note: Scoter K-25 still has a piece of metal sticking out of him from that tagging...
...out on Maya's Westside Charters for an afternoon trip we saw three family groups of Transients (see prior post) just 'around the corner'...but while out with them we learn that the Residents had gone just about to where they would normally stop and forage up near the Fraser River, but instead turned around - no foraging- yikes scary!- and were heading back down...now that is not a good sign at all...
...out later to meet them at East Pt. in Boundary Pass as the whales came back south...Blackberry J-27 made a big huge lunge as he and others passed along the shore at Saturna Island...
...Mike J-26 and others...
...more were approaching Boiling Reef (not sure if that is it's official name)...on the inside of the reef...and harbor seals were paying attention to these 'black and whites' too...
...a group got to the bottom of the reef and began to surf in what I can only imagine was a strong back eddy...it was wild to see and near impossible to photograph!...it only lasted a few moments so no time for video...
...on down the shore of Saturna...everyone loves to see the whales...

What will happen if these whales who know this place as their summer habitat and the humans who have designated it as the whales' critical habitat, do if the whales stop coming here.
So sad to think about it.
And I think that might be one of the problems.
'If I don't acknowledge it then it will go away' might be what some are saying.
In this case it might very well be the truth.
If it is not acknowledged and acted upon the whales may very well go away.

Oh, and the whales left the area that same night and were seen the next day heading west in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 
I am posting this 3 days after the whales left.  
There were additional openings for the purse seiners as the pink salmon estimate was increased to a 14,000,000 return. That's a lot of 'crumbs' but not something the Southern Residents eat.
Last night it rained a lot.  A rain that is much needed. Perhaps there are salmon, chinook salmon, out there that will move in.
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

8/23-26/13 - Lots of Transient Encounters

Friday - Monday we had several Transient encounters.
(On Sunday we had another Resident encounter that will be in the next post.)


...out on Maya's Westside Charters we encountered several whales, some who were new to me whales this month...
Friday the 23rd
...the T36As, T37As, T37Bs but T37 I couldn't find in my images, nor were the T34s there...this group had all been together so I wonder if that is why they turned around in Active Pass and headed back out to go meet up with T37 and the T34s...they knew where they were, we humans just didn't...
...I was amazed at the clarity of the water in Active Pass...
...I would guess that is NOT a good sign...usually the water is a greenish/brownish color from the runoff from the Fraser River...could this clarity in the water be an indicator of how bad the water situation is for the salmon getting up the Fraser?...I don't know but it sure makes me wonder, because if so then it is NOT a good sign for the Residents...and all signs are pointing to these types of issues - you know no fish for the Residents means scarce Residents in these waters...

Saturday the 24th
...the T30s showed up again...I don't know if I have ever seen them this animated...well when they are after something, but usually a harbor seal doesn't get this much action...the harbor seal does his own version of 'attack'...

 



Sunday the 25th
...the Transients we had seen last Friday showed up again in the afternoon...I learned that they had been all the way out by Victoria on Saturday...and today they showed up in Boundary Pass...at first there was a group of about 5 then another group showed up, also of about 5...actually I think there are 10, but with so many kids in the group figuring them all out will be a good winter project :)
...this time T37 was there along with the rest of her family, except for T37A1...also present were the T36As and the T34As...
...this image: a couple moms and one of the several kids in these three family groups...


Monday the 26th
...guess who was encountered again today?...yep...some days they are in a resting mode and other times playful...this morning they were playful and this afternoon they rested...
 

...early in the day Patos Island lighthouse was the backdrop...as our last trip ended Patos Island lighthouse was the backdrop again!...during the day they had circumnavigated Waldron Island...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

8-22-13 They Came In, They Didn't Stay

Thursday, August 22nd
...excitement was in the air, no, let me rephrase that - excitement was on the boat!...oh, they could hardly wait to see the Residents today...it's been a long time for the folks on the boat, and such sparse sightings this season...


...the whales were in about 4 groups...I'm not sure all were present, but there were a lot of whales and the Residents were coming back in...maybe this time they might stay a while...
...you see, some fishermen have said it's one of the best wild Chinook salmon seasons for them in a long time...
...that has me really curious...why then are the Residents NOT staying in here?...maybe this time they will stay...
...we went out to Constance Bank, on Maya's Westside Charters, where this freighter was anchored and saw the first group...
...as we moved on east from the anchored ship we encountered more whales...the K13s were all together...then another group with a J, K, and L pod mix...and we could see two other groups off in the distance...
...I'm always looking for Granny J-2 - that's her on the left, and then baby J-49...they made it easy today, they were both with J-49's mom, Hy'Shqa J-37 on the right...
...here's an example of the group spread...
...the whales were on their way to the west side of San Juan Island...

...the groups continued toward the island...then one group up ahead slowed down and appeared to be waiting for the next group...
...as we watched we saw the leading group turn around in one big smooth motion 'all together now' it was like...and they headed west... whoa!...but there was a group in the distance that was still going toward the island...
...and just as quickly as they had done that they turned and headed back toward San Juan Island...


...someone began porpoising...

...I am writing this post a few days after they came in, so I know the outcome of their arrival...
...they departed sometime in the night and were last seen the next day, far to the west, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca going back to the open ocean...their stay near the west side of the island was for only a few hours...

...Maybe instead of going to the Fraser River and back down to the west side of San Juan and back up to the Fraser again, as they have historically done, maybe their new route is to come in from the open ocean, visit the west side and then go back out. If there is no food for them they won't be here.

What doesn't compute for me are the words:
-designated critical habitat
-endangered Southern Resident killer whales
-killer whale food source continues in a steady decline
-Southern Resident killer whales' food still being fished


How about catch and release? 
How about catching something that is sustainable?
How about not fishing at all?

8-22-13 Transients In Spieden Channel

Thursday, August 22nd

...it began with finding out that many transients were heading up San Juan Channel...I didn't know if I could make it in time, but off I went anyway...just as I drove down the steep road to the little park I saw dorsal fins! yikes!...they were already there and looked like they were coming into Spieden Channel...I took a few pictures and then headed off to the next spot...just as I was getting out of the car I could see boats rounding the corner into Spieden Channel - wow! they really are coming this way...the tide was ebbing...they had been going against a strong ebb as they came up San Juan Channel, so coming into Spieden Channel they were going with the ebb and zoomed on by...
...they spent the next 1 1/2 hours (about) just east, outside the north entrance to Roche Harbor...here's the last I could see them...the rest of the time they were behind those rocks...arrow is pointing to where the whales were going...

...out on Maya's Westside Charters for an afternoon trip we meet up with the transients as they head north up Haro Strait...
...lots of playful behaviors...




...at one point the T30s and some others changed direction and headed away from the rest of the group...some moved past Turn Pt...
...and some headed along the top side of Stuart Island as others started to go up Boundary Pass, but they changed their minds and aimed for Swanson Channel...the T30s and friends caught up with everyone one else...no one was in any hurry to go anywhere...

...T30A - coming...and going...

...we heard that the Residents were heading back in and they got close enough for our late afternoon trip to go out to meet them...
...next post...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

8/19-21/13 Two Days With Transients

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, August 19-21

Monday
...yesterday when the Residents were here, there were Transients on their way in - lots of them...they went north in the night...but by mid morning someone spotted the T30s who had decided to come back down our way...out on Maya's Westside Charters we met up with them...and they gave us a good example of how Ts will sometimes change direction a lot...we left them heading west out the Strait of Juan de Fuca...
...on a grey kind of morning this boat livened up the picture...
Tuesday
...I believe there were no killer whales sighted anywhere in these waters...which of course gives us other opportunities...Spieden Island a very interesting place...fallow deer...
...it must be getting to be that time of year...
Wednesday
...it started out with an unconfirmed sighting of a (or 2) humpback(s)...not ever found...but by the afternoon whales were seen coming in the Strait of Juan de Fuca...lots of Transients...it seemed like there were 20 or more, including 2 adult males...one was T30A...the other was from the T185 group...I had not ever met that group before, I barely got an image of him...there were lots of family groups with lots of kids...I usually try to get ID shots because I like to know who is here, so I don't try for the pretty scenery shots sometimes...




...most of them seemed to be heading for Port Townsend...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

8-18-13 Not Enough For Us To Stay

Sunday, August 18th
...I was so glad to learn in the morning that there were more than 6 whales down near False Bay...that meant that other Residents had come back in...
...good for us for being able to see them...and curious as to whether they followed some salmon in or there wasn't much out west where they had been...time may tell an answer to that...
...out on Maya's Westside Charters for an afternoon trip...we stop for all bald eagles these days...it's the time of year they are leaving the area to go to the inland rivers where the spawning salmon are...we hope...
...now off to the whales!
...the whales were spread for miles and it appeared that maybe all the Community had come back in...
...we briefly saw some of Group B whales of J pod...and then there were several whales all spread out - one here, one there - Cali K-34, Nyssa L84, Sonata K-35 and from a different direction a whale was coming toward us...
...glad she showed me her saddle patch or I never would have figured out it was Samish J-14!...she has been showing up in some unusual places within the social groups these last two encounters...
...a few minutes later, as we moved on, Mega L-41 surfaced...
...up ahead of him was Ocean Sun L-25, and others...but we were on a mission to locate Mike J-26 and we heard from Dan, the owner and Captain of Eclipse Charters' Orcas Express boat, that Mike and others were near him...
...we had a young boy on the boat who wanted to see his adopted whale...
...mission accomplished! Thanks Dan!

...Tika K-33 and Indigo L-100 were having some fun...
...then Midnight L-110 surfaced in the mix of these two bigger boys...
...Coho L-108, Ino L-54, Keta L-117, and Finn L-116 were all nearby...I kept questioning that L-116 would be there, but then I saw his mom a few hundred yards off from this group...not sure who is in this mix...

...all afternoon the whales were spread out...some were over 2 miles from shore while others were close in...the most interesting thing is that they never went very far north, similar to the last time they were in...
...we watched as they all seemed to be heading south and west...I could see them for miles and every dorsal fin was aiming outward...then, not any whale could be seen on the surface...if you had just come along in a boat you would have had no idea that there were any whales in the area...
...we wait for them to surface and it seems like a really long time - probably just 45 seconds or so - and soon they were back on the surface but soon they were heading back in...
...there was some socializing as well as traveling but not much if any foraging did we see during the encounters today...
...and then...
...imagine you are out there...whales a few hundred yards away...you notice whales in the distance, maybe 3/4 of a mile, easy to see with calm seas...some up island from you and others down island - still spread a long distance...they are all heading up island and moving in towards the shore..."gee, maybe they are going to go to the Fraser River"...
...and then to your amazement you watch as they all turn around at about the same time!!...it was like synchronized swimming...
...we were bid a fond farewell by one of the whales...
..."until next time", they might be saying...and, "maybe you'll have some salmon available for us, please, when we return".