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Orca’s death enters the realm of law enforcement

April 4th, 2012 by cdunagan

UPDATE: May 7, 2012

Orca Network is reporting that researchers at the Center for Whale Research have determined that L-112s family is alive and well. The identification used photos taken by Greg Schorr and Erin Falcone of Cascadia Research when the two spotted members of K and L pods off Westport on April 29.

Because of the trauma sustained by L-112, there had been speculation that other members of her family may have been killed or injured.
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Federal law-enforcement officers have launched an investigation into the death of the orca L-112, with an emphasis on looking for those who may have been involved in her fatal injuries.

“We received a complaint that the death was not due to natural causes, so we are looking into that to see if we can make a determination,” said Vicki Nomura, special agent in charge at NOAA’s Northwest Office of Law Enforcement.

The decision follows a suggestion by Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. Ken believes that law enforcement officers will be more successful in getting information from the U.S. and Canadian navies, who, he says, may know more than they’re letting on.

I posted the above earlier today as a comment on a previous Water Ways entry called “Mystery of orca’s death only deepens with new info.”

Since then, I have received a brief progress report on the overall investigation from the Northwest Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Dyanna Lambourn of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife told me that the document was prepared jointly by the necropsy team to clear up some misunderstandings that people had.

Most of the information has been available for awhile, but I found a couple paragraphs worth noting:

Environmental Conditions
“Based on the approximate date of death, NOAA Fisheries and the NOAA Hazardous Materials Response Division reviewed environmental data from early February and found that prevailing wind and currents, between February 1 and February 11 were predominantly from the south. In addition, local current conditions are largely influenced by eddies flowing northward from the mouth of the Columbia River. This indicates that the animal likely died near the Columbia River or to the south and could have drifted a substantial distance before being cast ashore on Long Beach. Other environmental factors that are being researched include; earthquakes and if they could cause trauma or disorientation and sea surface temperature. Diet studies are underway to further investigate winter feeding habits.”

Human Activities
“We are seeking information from a variety of sources in an attempt to identify whether human activities may have contributed to the injuries we observed. Communication with the United States Navy, Canadian Navy, United States Coast Guard, United States Air Force, and fisheries managers is on-going or being initiated. NOAA Fisheries has reviewed reports received by the Marine Mammal Authorization Program from commercial fishing vessels between January and February 2012 and found that no incidental mortality or injuries involving killer whale(s) was reported anywhere on the west coast during this timeframe.”

Read the full update: “Southern Resident Killer Whale L112 Stranding Progress Report”

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3 Responses to “Orca’s death enters the realm of law enforcement”

  1. fletc3her Says:

    We need Monk Seal to crack this case!

  2. cdunagan Says:

    A story by reporter Terri Theodore of The Canadian Press summarizes the information we know to date about the death of L-112. The story essentially takes the issue to a national level in Canada and could spread awareness in the United States via newspaper, radio and TV.

    The basic information contained in the story has been posted on Water Ways already, but new comments are added by Robin Baird, a marine mammal biologist with Cascadia Research in Olympia, and by Joe Olson, president of Cetacean Research Technology of Seattle. Some versions of the story have excluded the comments by Baird and Olson, but The Globe and Mail appears to have the full thing.

  3. cdunagan Says:

    UPDATE: May 7, 2012

    Orca Network is reporting that researchers at the Center for Whale Research have determined that L-112s family is alive and well. The identification used photos taken by Greg Schorr and Erin Falcone of Cascadia Research when the two spotted members of K and L pods off Westport on April 29.

    Because of the trauma sustained by L-112, there had been speculation that other members of her family may have been killed or injured.

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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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