Where Are the Whales? Where are the Salmon?

It’s painfully simple: between dams, climate change,  an over abundance of seals, and the fishing industry, there are basically no Chinook Salmon this year for the Southern Resident Pod of Orcas.

1d0cc-orca2bphoto   The highly-loved Southern Resident Pod of Orcas apparently may not be calling the Salish Sea (specifically the Puget Sound area) home anymore it seems. Their lack of prompt appearance last summer couldn’t be denied and caused some consternation. The whales showed up late and left quickly, spending most of their time on the outer coast of Vancouver Island. Instead, transient orcas from the northern reaches of the Inside Passage were more often seen. The transient pod dines more on seals which are plentiful in the area.

So what gives? It’s painfully simple: between dams, climate change,  an over abundance of seals, and the fishing industry, there are basically no Chinook Salmon this year, and Chinook are the Southern Resident Pod’s main, preferred, and greatly needed food.

If one wants to play the blame game, point first to the Lower Snake River dams  and Governor Inslee’s inability, and unwillingness, to take affirmative action in removing these dams despite that action being the most voted on as high priority by concerned citizens. The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, spearheaded by Joseph Bogaard, puts the removal of dams as an extremely high priority for saving wild salmon runs.

Indeed, even Oregon’s Bonneville Dam is a disaster for the salmon runs, which use to number in the thousands. Allowing a bit of extra water spill to “cool” the river doesn’t cut it.

Besides blaming the dams, there is no doubt that climate change has taken its toll on the Chinook, and no matter how one feels about it, climate change can no longer be denied. The Fraser River is very low (due to water withdrawal for agriculture) and it’s now too warm. The test fishery didn’t catch any Chinook in May, and only three in June. Hundreds used to be caught.

Finally, and not often considered, is the massive number of fish (including salmon) that seals and sea lions eat. Since these pinnipeds became “protected” some years ago, their numbers have exploded, and they all have healthy appetites.

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Of course there is the never-ending issue of plastic and chemical pollution and sewage spills that can sicken and kill all aquatic life, including whales.

Do not overlook the impact of sport and commercial fishing ventures. Ship strikes and a plethora of boaters may also be contributing factors to the whales’ demise.

The Southern Resident Pod has lived in the Puget Sound area for thousands of years. Their numbers diminished greatly decades ago, however, because of the rampant brutal  capture and sale of these magnificent creatures by uncaring, greedy, self-serving owners of  aquatic parks that tragically decimated their numbers. (Obviously, they did not believe in the Rights of Nature.) Few captured whales live beyond 30 years of age due to abuse and the stress of being held captive in a swimming pool. In their natural habitat these whales can live as long as 90 years.

One can only hope, and pray, that these much-loved whales, in their quest for food, will avoid the rapacious Japanese and Norwegian whale hunters.

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Wanton slaughter of whales

JUST ONE THING

It’s a minority of individuals who have any sense of stewardship about anything involving nature and animals. Some people are concerned with a specific animal – for example “Save the Whales” – which is perfectly fine. Some are concerned about all animals and nature – for example Green Peace. But we’re talking a very small number of people when it comes down to it.

One problem that those involved with saving animals or nature must dealoiled bird with is that  they’re regularly scoffed at as extremists, tree-huggers, radicals,  hippies,  environmentalists (heaven forbid) and other invectives, and often they must battle big business and corporations. I think it’s safe to say that a majority of people don’t give a thought to a species of any kind becoming extinct and might not even care if someone planted the thought.

whale-postcard3127275067734833074.jpgThis realization really hit home when I sent out an email to a group of 70 people, most of whom I know fairly well. Some I’ve known for years. I asked that they consider supporting the publication of Saving Our Oceans since the net proceeds from the sale of the book were being donated to several 501c3 organizations. Many of the 70 live in California, and California does have a healthy history of protecting their coastline and marine sanctuaries.

Get ready for the big response! Ready? One person out of 70 said they’d be delighted to buy the book. That is .02 per cent.

One woman asked me to remove her from my email list.

Well, it’s very possible it could simply be me.

However, I have found only one individual in the tiny town where I live who cares one whit about the health of the ocean, the captivity of orcas, Japanese whaling, or any similar environmental topic.

It’s NOT okay for 1,000,000 species of plants and animals to die off. It is NOT acceptable to be harpooning the smartest mammals in the ocean (possible smarter than people in some regards) or holding them prisoners in swimming pools for entertainment. It’s not acceptable for big business to rape, pillage, and pollute the earth. There seems to be a robust “leave it for others to fix” attitude. Or is the real reason behind inaction and ambivalence that the problems seem overwhelming and hopeless?

Seaworld's Orca Swimming Pool
Photo by change.org

Yes, for the most part we all have extremely busy, stressful lives, but the solution might be simpler than people realize. Imagine this: What if everyone, every single person, did something helpful. Just one thing. I think we can all afford to do JUST ONE THING.

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Start by saying NO to PLASTIC Bags, Bottles and Straws. One thing.

 

What’s Wrong with These People?

There are many Japanese citizens who disapprove of Japan’s whaling industry and the brutal slaying and sale of dolphins that is sanctioned by their government, but when it comes to oceanic mammal slaughter and abuse, few countries can outdo Japan. Their inhumane, barbaric slaughtering and treatment of whales and dolphins is a stunning, murderous orgy. It’s bad enough that this nation continued whale hunts for years after signing the International Whaling Commission’s agreement not to do so. They killed thousands of whales under the guise of “scientific research.” Australians frequently accused the Japanese of hunting in whale preserves in Antarctica. Of course, the “scientifically researched” slaughtered whales appeared on restaurant menus in Japan.

In December of 2018, the Japanese announced they would no longer remain members of the IWC (were they ever?) and would resume commercial whaling in July 2019. The London based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) estimates that the Japanese have killed over 1,000,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises in the last 70 years. One million.

The dolphin hunts in Taigi Bay are equally as disgraceful, cruel, and vicious as harpooning whales. The Japanese fishermen conduct huge roundups of schools of dolphin, driving them into Taigi Bay where they are brutally and painfully slaughtered or set aside for sale to aquariums. The bay literally turns red with blood. This behavior is simply aberrant and abnormal. According to the EIA, “The hunts in Japan’s coastal waters specifically target nine small cetacean species, eight of them with government-set catch limits which are clearly unsustainable.”

Most ocean advocates know that dolphins (and likely orcas) are the most intelligent mammals in the world – second only to humans, but obviously well beyond the intelligence of the people who hunt, murder, and sell them.

Despite international disapproval, I suspect that Japanese pride and ego keep them from bowing to world condemnation and pressure to desist in these moribund activities.

They slaughter whales because it’s a “cultural heritage” activity, so they say.                                     (Photo by Blue Planet Society)

The Japanese are not the only ones with a penchant for murdering non-aggressive mammals. This year the Faroe Islanders have also been on a rampage. 2019 is proving to be a bloody year. The Faroe Islanders have killed over 688 whales, with 50 whales being slaughtered yesterday alone. The reason? They claim it’s part of their history and culture. When will this madness end?

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So what can be done about this? Boycotting products from those countries is a good start. Support the efforts of groups working to combat these atrocities. Stop visiting and supporting aquariums, especially those (like SeaWorld) who hold orcas and dolphins in swimming pools for people’s entertainment and owners’ profit. Their abusive training methods have finally been exposed, so they should absolutely not be allowed to keep ANY whale or dolphin in captivity. Yet they do. Demand that orcas, dolphins and porpoises be set free. Swimming pools are not an appropriate place for these ocean traveling mammals.

Saving Our Oceans covers in detail the topic discussed here. Get free shipping with your order, and know that the proceeds from the sale of Saving Our Oceans is earmarked for the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition and the Friday Harbor Whale Museum. Click here to contact us to place your order.

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Day 3: Spotting Whales

After two long days of lectures we will now be out in the field for the next 3 days!

Today’s outing was to Lime Kiln State Park to look for whales passing by, take a hike, and two more classes…two outside and one inside.

It’s interesting that the Southern Resident pod is finally finding its preferred food on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and not so much here in the Salish Sea. Reports from the coast are that the whales are looking fatter and happier! Meanwhile, a transient group of orcas, Biggs transient pod, is now in this area more. The Southern Resident pod prefers to dine on Chinook, and the transients like seals, sea lions, etc. And there are plenty of those around here. Their population has exploded in the last 40 years since they were listed as an endangered species…so no more shooting them for stealing fish off your hook! The Southern Resident pod is still around some though, but this year they even hit up Monterey Bay for food. It’s been a spell since the Southern Resident pod has traveled that far for Chinook.

The day, incidentally, was great! Weather was accommodating, the speakers were knowledgeable and interesting.

The question is growing in my mind, though, can I be a Marine Naturalist in Arizona? How’s that going to work? I will have to give this A LOT of thought. I signed up for this course thinking we’d be relocating back to the Pacific Northwest. This may not come true if our house in AZ doesn’t sell. Bummer.

Could I be a naturalist in Arizona? I just don’t see the culture there embracing this. We’ll find out soon enough.

Oh…we saw no whales.

Another Day in Paradise

Mmm…Maybe not paradise, but a far site better than broiling in Arizona.

Somehow I’ve managed to load the boat with too many pairs of shoes, socks, shirts, shorts and food, and we actually still have a waterline showing.

Add to this a case of Saving Our Oceans, another box of books I plan to read, and a well-stocked bar, and I rarely even drink.

I have beautiful new wooden scoop oars this year for rowing and a paddle board tied to the top of my shade gizmo.

In July I’ll be in Friday Harbor for my Marine Naturalist Training Program and also house hunting, but I need enough acreage for our two mules also. All this on a budget…it could be tough.

Currently we’re still dock bound in Anacortes getting the boat ready for its summer travels. I’m more than a bit concerned about the number of dead whales showing up on beaches along the West coast, but it seems that the Southern Resident pod of orcas is maintaining its status quo and hopefully things will improve since Canada put the brakes on sport and commercial salmon fishing this year. Washington also cut salmon fishing back and also made stringent rules regarding tour boats’ proximity to whales. ABOUT TIME!!

My goal this summer is to hike 200 miles and to row 200 miles. Oh…and sell my box of books.

Whaling Nations Slaughtering Again

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I’d like to think that the whaling nations of the past slaughtered species of whales into extinction because they didn’t know what we now know about whales. What do we know? Far more than this article can cover, but we know that whales communicate, have sophisticated navigation abilities, feel pain, are social animals, and we now recognize that dolphins and (highly likely) killer whales are the second smartest mammals on earth…yes, smarter than chimpanzees even…but unfortunately not quite as smart as humans even though their brains are shaped and formed like human brains.

For example, only a very few mammals can recognize their own faces when looking in a mirror: humans, great apes, Asian elephants, and dolphins and killer whales can do so. And what have we done to these self-aware mammals? Kill, capture, and captivity. They have then been put on display for entertainment purposes and financial gain for the captors. (Humans have even done this to other humans.)

Unfortunately, due to the persistence of whaling nations who refuse to participate in the whaling ban that over 80 other nations adhere to (and these whaling nations are Norway, Iceland, Japan, the Faroe Islands, and Russia) endangered whale species are again threatened. (In all fairness, however, it seems the Norwegians primarily only  hunt minke whales which seem to have sufficient numbers at this time.) But for the others,  will the responsibility for causing extinction be put in the history books of these countries? Why do humans always presume to have the right to kill, main, pillage, plunder, and destroy other living creatures and environments? Isn’t it enough that people kill each other?

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Mounted whale harpoon

On July 1, 2019, Japan will resume commercial whaling again…not that they ever stopped even though they signed the International Whaling Commission’s treaty banning commercial whaling. They claim the whaling they did was for “scientific research,” asking the world to accept that all 333 minke whales slaughtered last year (many said to be in ocean preserves) were slaughtered for research purposes. They insist they will only whale in certain areas, but can they really be trusted when they signed the IWC, an international treaty, and then ignored it?

The slaughter of dolphins continues unabated also in the bloody Taigi Bay – a sinful. vicious act considering the intelligence of the dolphin who many say is the smartest mammal in the world – likely smarter than people, just not as deceitful, rapacious, or conniving.

While Japan’s history and culture claim a rich heritage, their actions belie them.

There are many Japanese people who object to the whaling and dolphin slaughter. The resumption of whaling is instead a dismal reflection on Japan’s leadership. But then, it seems all nations have problematic leadership issues from time to time, don’t they?  Public outcry and boycotting is one way to stop this savagery.

Read more about whales in Saving Our Oceans.

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Now available

 

War of the Whales

  john boyd photoWar of the Whales (Joshua Horwitz) is a superb account of the hellish situation in our oceans. The book often feels like a nail-biting suspense. Other times the information is so depressing it’s hard to continue reading.

This book has its share of villains and heroes. Probably a highlight was reading about the incredibly dedicated people, like Ken Balcomb and Joel Reynolds and others, who have literally devoted their lives and careers to defending whales, dolphins and marine species of all kinds. Without their commitment and perseverance, there likely wouldn’t be a whale left that hadn’t died by stranding due to military sonar bombardment and bomb detonation. Other organizations discussed in the book also wreaked havoc for marine life blasting away during oil exploration.

As Jane Goodall so aptly stated, “Each and every animal on earth has as much right to be here as you and me.” To totally disregard the safety of an entire species, like whales, is abhorrent. And that’s the one problem with this book – it leaves one with very little respect for the U.S. Navy and their utter disregard for the oceans and the creatures they should be stewards of – not destroyers of. It’s my understanding that their methods and approach to dealing with these matters have changed somewhat, but it will remain to be seen if they actually walk their talk.

Yes, having grown up and lived most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, I am particularly fond of whales, marine life in general, and water. I am horrified at the tons of toxic debris the Navy has dumped into the ocean and the fact that they used to use orcas for target practice. It’s almost unbelievable, quite frankly, that any civilized person with a brain and a heart would do such things. But apparently they had neither. Do they now? I can see that the Navy has an extremely difficult job, but when marine animals and oceans are destroyed for the sake of of “war practice,” there’s seriously bad judgment.

Unfortunately, it appears as though we currently have a president who has little to no interest in environmental issues. This appears to have been true during the Bush presidency also. Trump did sign the Save Our Seas document, however…so who knows.

Finally, Ken Balcomb was/and is a very dedicated, unswerving individual and is a legendary scholar of the beaked whale and the orca. IMO, however,  the author revealed more about Ken’s personal life than was necessary. Maybe Ken was okay with this. Maybe not.

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It Shouldn’t Take a Rocket Scientist…

00dca-orca2Bphoto“In response to its criticism of its treatment of killer whales, Sea World said it will build them a larger habitat. When asked for comment, killer whales said, “Hey, you know what’s a larger habitat? The ocean.”    Conan O’Brien.

It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why orcas die in captivity at a relatively young age. It only takes people suffering from money-addiction to ignore the facts and not care one whit for the mammal they are tormenting and degrading.

According to National Geographic’s “Orcas don’t do well in captivity. Here’s why,” of the 70 orcas born in captivity around the world since 1977, 37 of them are dead. This number does not include the 30 that were stillborn or died in utero. Tragically, only a small handful of wild-caught orcas live past 30-years-of age. Not one captive born orca yet has lived that long. In the wild these mammals sometimes can live to 80 and beyond.

But this fact seems to escape the jailers – that they are cutting the animals’ lives short by about 50 years. It’s all about the money.

There’s plenty of evidence, and proof, that whales, dolphins, and porpoises are highly intelligent, social animals. Orcas are meant to swim great distances – often up to 40 miles a day – where they frequently dive to great depths to feed several times a day, every day. A super-sized swimming pool just doesn’t cut it. And even though some orcas are born into captivity, they are still genetically driven to do the same things that wild orcas do.

According to Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, “a primary indicator for whether a mammal will do well in captivity is how wide their range is in the wild. The broader their natural range, the less likely they are to thrive in confinement. This is the same reason some zoos have been phasing out elephant exhibits.”

An orca’s life in captivity could not have been devised to be more horrific. Orcas’ brains are highly developed when it comes to social intelligence, language (yes, language) and self-awareness. In the wild, they live most of their lives in tight-knit groups (pods). Often the males stay with their mothers for their entire lives. In captivity this social bond is ripped apart. In captivity they don’t have the opportunity to escape conflict with others or to engage in natural swimming behaviors. The animals are kept in captivity simply for people’s entertainment and other people’s bank accounts. This is wrong on so many fronts.

There’s hope that things are beginning to change, but certainly not fast enough. In 2017 California made it illegal to breed orcas. Shortly after this, Sea World announced it would be ending its captive orca breeding program. Unfortunately, a number of these animals are still kept for entertainment and continue to be treated like their personal lives have no value.

“At the federal level, Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, has repeatedly introduced a bill to phase out captive orca displays across the U.S.” I urge people to support this effort, whether Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist or Independent.

Hopefully, and it’s a wild hope, the whales remaining in captivity will be released (before they die prematurely) to a whale sanctuary project. Of course, Sea World opposes this effort, and considers the sanctuaries to be nothing but “sea cages,” as if their over-sized swimming pools were preferential. If the whales do not survive or make it in a whale sanctuary, at least they’ll have had a chance – more than Sea World can offer them.

(An even worse thought is these poor creatures being sold by Russia, who is currently holding 100 orcas and beluga whales in a “whale jail” for sale to the Chinese for their aquariums. Likely the freezing temperatures in Siberia will end up killing the mammals who are kept in tanks so small they can hardly move. It had been hoped that Vladimir Putin would have the mammals released, but this has not yet happened. It may be too late.)

Material from:

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Coffield, R.L. Saving Our Oceans. Wickenburg: Moonlight Mesa Associates, Inc. May 2019. Print

Daly, Natasha. “Orcas don’t do well in captivity. Here’s why.” National Geographic,  25, March, 2019, https://www.natgeo.com/animals/2019/03/orcas-captivity-welfare/

 

Grouping Westerns, Whales and Oceans Together is not Weird!

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Release date: May 2019

We are fervently hoping that Saving Our Oceans is close to the final editing stages. Due to our involvement with the annual mule ride we sponsor, we’re grossly behind schedule, but we  plan to pull some long days…and nights…very soon.

There are those who say that our new direction (grouping westerns, whales and oceans together)  isn’t going to work. That’s it’s weird. Makes no sense. I’m too busy to argue with them and will let time be the determiner of that. I admit that the new website (westernswhalesandoceans.com) isn’t yet exactly brimming with visitors and that we closed down our new blog temporarily due to lack of visitors, but our sales have picked up and are ahead of sales a year ago – thank goodness.

This decision to add “whales and oceans” to our “western culture” is not a business decision. It’s a moral decision. We are now part of the Ocean Foundation and have been formally accepted to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. We strongly support the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition and the Orca Conservancy. We also love westerns, but westerns are mostly a greatly romanticized history of the past. Whales and oceans are a predictor of the future, which looks pretty grim right now.

I won’t get on my soapbox about the immorality of mercilessly harpooning intelligent, social mammals at this time because I’ve been on that soapbox most of the winter.

As for our western situation…an amazing number of people have been asking if our popular, reclusive author Jere D. James is ever going to write another western. We didn’t hold out much hope for quite a spell, but it looks very promising that Jere will be making a return. Whew. We need that since we’ve decided to keep our main operations in Arizona. Despite our intense interest in orcas and oceans, westerns still rate pretty high with us and most of our readers.

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Dwight Beard – A Western Icon

 

 

A New Species of Orcas? Don’t tell the Whale Killers!

(Photo by J.P. Sylvestre/NOAA)

By now most orca-addicts know that the recent rare sighting of orcas in the subantarctic area of the ocean could signify a new species. Some have heard of this mysterious orca, but very few have ever seen one of these fabled mammals.

There are photos of these orcas that date back to 1955.  A few other photos surfaced in 2005 confirming that these orcas were still alive and hadn’t been made extinct by the Japanese whale slaughter in the southern ocean.

Although an actual orca, these whales do have a different appearance than the orcas most are familiar with. For starters, they’re smaller and have a more rounded head. Most interesting, however, is the very small eye patch they have (compared to the orca eye patch most are familiar with).

Scientists are currently studying bits of whale skin nipped off by darts fired from a crossbow. The dart does no “critical” damage to the whale, and both the dart and the skin can then be retrieved from the water. A genetic analysis will determine how this new orca compares to other killer whales. (I wonder why this is necessary.)

It’s been reported that these smaller orcas are often chased off by the larger ones when both are grabbing fish from fishermen’s nets. If these new whales don’t socialize or breed with the other orcas, that could account for their differing structure and size.

There likely won’t be many whale-watching trips to see these orcas, however, since they live in the 40-50 degree area of the southern ocean. This “Roaring 40s” area is the most violent, storm-prone area in the world since there are no land masses to break up the waves…or the weather. Maybe this distant, formidable habitat will enable them to stand a chance of survival now that they’ve been found!

Can we assure them the right to continue to live harpoon free?