Humpback whales resurging in Salish Sea – KING

More good news…

After traveling north for the summer, humpback whales have migrated back to the Salish Sea. The Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) said they’ve resurfaced in record numbers. “We’ve seen more humpbacks this year than ever, and they’re popping up now everywhere, in the San Juan Islands, Georgia Strait, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, Rosario Strait, Saanich Inlet – repopulating the areas where they were once abundant pre-whaling,” said Captain Mark Malleson, veteran whale watch captain for Prince of Whales Whale Watching. ” Very exciting time out there now.” Kate Clark reports. (KING)

Patrols keep US boaters in line, protect killer whales- AP

It’s been long overdue. Nice to see that the Feds are finally putting money into enforcement of the protection zone, rather than sitting back and hoping for good behavior. I would agree with the assessment that it’s likely recreational boaters (think of charters coming from all over) rather than locals or the whale watching industry. I’ve met a lot of whale watching businesspeople and they are smart enough to know that crowding the whales can lead to them losing their businesses.

Against a backdrop of rocky bluffs, a pod of orcas jumped out of the emerald waters of the Puget Sound before splashing their massive black-and-white bodies back into the water. Shadowing the whales on a recent afternoon were several recreational and commercial whale-watching boats that ferry people out to watch the orcas breach, one of nature’s most impressive spectacles. But the combination of boats and whales has state and federal authorities worried now that the Southern Resident pod of killer whales has four new calves. Manuel Valdes reports. (Associated Press)

Questions being raised about Navy’s possible implication in mass whale deaths in Alaska – KTUU TV

5 more dead whales found in Alaska waters since June; total 14 dead.

The highly unusual mass death of whales in Alaskan waters, happened during the time frame that Navy was conducting bombing training that they said, in their documents that they filed with their ESA, that would involve killing of sea mammals.

New concerns were raised for Alaskan whales as the Navy conducted a training exercise in the Gulf of Alaska for two weeks June. Researchers are monitoring for dead whale sightings after the exercise. Sonobuoys were used as part of the exercise – a technology that affects deep diving whale species like beaked whales and sperm whales most, researchers say.

Interestingly, once the Navy started monitoring the situation the whale deaths stopped.

Agency proposes lifting most humpback whales’ protections – Bellingham Herald

Hmmm. I’m waiting to hear more from the whale protection groups before calling this a good story. One person interviewed stated that it might be premature to do this. The fact that Alaska is pushing to get it done worries me. Their politics up there are distinctly anti-environmental in nature.

The federal government on Monday proposed removing most of the world’s humpback whale population from the endangered species list, saying they have rebounded after 45 years of protections. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries wants to reclassify humpbacks into 14 distinct populations, and remove 10 of those from the list…. Humpbacks were listed as endangered in 1970, four years after the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling. Caleb Jones reports. (Associated Press)

Sand shrimp may be unavailable due to whales – Everett Herald

The battle for ocean resources finds a new issue to add to the ever growing list.

Herring, sand shrimp, Power Bait, cured roe, nightcrawlers. Eliminate any of those baits and you’ve made a major portion of the western Washington sport fishing public very unhappy. So expect howls of outrage when the word gets around that sand shrimp may be unavailable — or at least hard to find — for anglers anticipating fishing that big run of pinks due this summer in our local rivers. Or steelhead, Dolly Varden, cutthroat, and several other species…. The problem stems from the fact that leases to harvest sand shrimp on public beaches along parts of Saratoga Passage were cancelled last summer by the Washington Department of Natural Resources…. But whales have entered the picture…. Recently, questions have been asked, often by folks in the Langley area, about whether or not commercial shrimp harvest is negatively impacting whale behavior. Wayne Kruse reports. (Everett Herald)

Court Rules Navy War Games Violate Law Protecting Whales and Dolphins

From the National Resources Defense Council. I for one, am glad I donate to their cause!
U.S. District Court deems that nearly 9.6 million underwater assaults on whales and dolphins were improperly assessed as “negligible”

LOS ANGELES (March 31, 2015) —A federal court today announced that the U.S. Navy’s training and testing activities off the coast of Southern California and Hawaii illegally harm more than 60 whale, dolphin, seal, and sea lion populations. The U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii, found that the National Marine Fisheries Service – the agency charged with protecting marine mammals – violated multiple requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act when agreeing to the Navy’s plan.

“Searching the administrative record’s reams of pages for some explanation as to why the Navy’s activities were authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service (‘NMFS’), this court feels like the sailor in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ who, trapped for days on a ship becalmed in the middle of the ocean, laments, ‘Water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink.’” the Court wrote in its 66-page opinion.

The case before the Court was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Cetacean Society International, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pacific Environment and Resources Center, and Michael Stocker.

In 2014, the case was consolidated for administrative purposes with another action (Conservation Council for Hawaii v. National Marine Fisheries Service) challenging the government’s authorizations of Navy activities in Hawaii and Southern California. Today, the Court also ruled against the government in that action.

Under its five-year plan for training and testing, the Navy is permitted to harm whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals nearly 9.6 million times while conducting high-intensity sonar exercises and underwater detonations. These harmful impacts include millions of instances of temporary hearing loss and significant disruptions in vital behaviors, such as habitat abandonment, as well as permanent hearing loss, permanent injury and more than 150 deaths.

Ocean noise is one of the biggest threats worldwide to the health and well-being of marine mammals, which rely on sound to ‘see’ their world. Navy sonar activities, shipping noise, and seismic exploration by oil and gas companies have made our oceans noisier in recent decades, resulting in widespread disruption to feeding, communication, mating, and more.

Following is a statement by Zak Smith, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, representing plaintiffs:

“Defenseless marine mammals are going deaf and hungry and may die at the hands of our Navy. And the laws we have that are meant to limit such harms have been misused by the government.

“Instead of downplaying the impacts on marine mammals – including endangered blue, fin and humpback whales – the government should be doing more to protect them from these harmful activities.

“The Navy has solutions at its disposal to ensure it limits the harm to these animals during its exercises.  It’s time to stop making excuses and embrace those safety measures.”

NOAA study could set stage for Makah whaling to resume- Seattle Times

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. A bad idea wrapped in an old tradition, that no longer makes sense. You can extrapolate a lot of things  like this that people could do, and shouldn’t. Let your imagination think about it.

There should be new ways to teach people the hunt, and the point of the hunt, without destroying these creatures that we now know are so much more than just meat for someone’s table, that is, if they even eat whale meat anymore at all. I don’t support his action on their part. I understand why some of the tribe thinks they should do it, but I hope that they don’t.

On Friday, NOAA Fisheries released a draft environmental study that could set the stage for the resumption of whaling off the Washington coast by the Makah Indian tribe. The draft proposes six options ranging from prohibiting an annual hunt for North Pacific gray whales to allowing up to 24 to be harvested within a six-year period. Hal Bernton reports. (Seattle Times)


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