The Skokomish Tribe has filed a lawsuit against Washington state
over hunting rights protected by the 1855 Treaty of Point No Point.
This lawsuit launches what could be years of litigation dealing
with Native American access to natural commodities other than fish
The Skokomish Tribe filed this lawsuit by itself without the
involvement of other tribes. I’ve been told by several people that
a more coordinated effort was being planned by a large number of
tribes for some time in the future, but the Skokomish moved out
front without consulting other tribes.
This could be an important case for Indian and non-Indian
hunters across the state as well as for advocates of protecting the
natural environment. Needless to say, I’ll be watching this case
It looks like K-25 and his companions did a little zig-zagging
yesterday, also turning south and then north again. The
latest report from this morning shows them near Coos Bay.
UPDATE, Jan. 16, 2013
K pod crossed the Oregon border yesterday on their way back
north. The latest satellite data from this morning places the orcas
near Port Orford, Ore., according to an
update from Robin Baird of Cascadia Research, who is helping
with the tracking effort.
UPDATE, Jan. 15, 2013
After turning around at Point Reyes Friday night, K pod has
proceeded north. The latest satellite data from this morning showed
the whales at Crescent City, Calif., about 20 miles from the Oregon
border. The orcas are still traveling north, but will they come
back to Puget Sound?
Killer whale experts were anticipating yesterday that K pod
might make it to Monterey Bay and perhaps a little farther south,
as I described in a story in
this morning’s Kitsap Sun.
Everyone was wondering exactly where these whales would linger
and where they would eventually turn around and return north.
Robin Baird of Cascadia Research Collective reported this
morning that satellite data showed that the whales had turned
around last night after reaching Point Reyes, which is north of San
Francisco Bay. They continued rapidly north, reaching Bodega Bay
Where K pod will travel next is anyone’s guess. But, if we’ve
learned anything through the years about Southern Residents, we
know that they will remain unpredictable. I’ll keep reporting their
travels as long as they seem interesting.
Hood Canal Coordinating Council has voted to support Jefferson
County — one of its three member counties — in calling for a
moratorium on the deployment of new net pens for raising Atlantic
A resolution presented to the council yesterday asks Gov. Chris
Gregoire to impose and maintain the moratorium “until there is a
plan in place to ensure that there is no risk to native salmon
I’m not sure how much direct authority the governor has over
siting net pens, but she appoints the director of the Department of
Ecology — one of the agencies that permits aquaculture
Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown, chairman of the
coordinating council, said he supported the resolution as a way to
encourage the governor to increase research into the environmental
impacts of salmon farming. Brown said he does not intend for his
support to influence Kitsap County’s shoreline planning
“Aquaculture activities should be located, designed and
operated in a manner that supports long term beneficial use of the
shoreline and protects and maintains shoreline ecological functions
and processes and should not be permitted where it would result in
a net loss of shoreline ecological functions and processes…
“Aquaculture facilities should be designed and located with the
capacity to prevent: a) the spread of aquatic pathogens, b) the
establishment new non native species in the natural environment,
and c) significant impact to the aesthetic qualities of the
In contrast, Jefferson County’s proposed
Shoreline Master Program (PDF 2.7 mb) has proposed banning all
commercial net pen operations as well as “finfish aquaculture that
releases herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers,
pharmaceuticals, non-indigenous species, parasites, genetically
modified organisms, or feed into surrounding waters.”
The proposed ban has not been accepted by the Washington
Department of Ecology, which must sign off on the document before
it goes into effect. The standoff has kept Jefferson’s
otherwise-approved shorelines plan in limbo for the past year.
“Ecology considered whether there was enough discussion and
evidence of a science basis in the record to support a ban. We
concluded there was not a conclusive science basis on the record to
support such a ban.”
Ecology proposed changing the outright ban to a requirement that
“all significant impacts have been mitigated” before approval of
any aquaculture project.
resolution approved yesterday was brought to the Hood Canal
Coordinating Council by Jefferson County Commissioner Phil Johnson,
who cited concerns about the highly contagious virus that causes
Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) in wild fish. The ISA virus, he
said, has been found in juvenile sockeye in British Columbia, where
there are more than 100 salmon farms.
“The virus discovered tested positive to the European strain of
ISA and therefore almost certain to have originated from Atlantic
salmon farms,” according to Johnson’s resolution, which adds, “No
country has gotten rid of the ISA virus once the virus
A letter supporting the resolution was approved unanimously by
the coordinating council, which includes the county commissioners
from Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties along with tribal
chairmen from the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Skokomish tribes.
Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental and native groups last
week petitioned an international tribunal to investigate Canada’s
salmon-farming industry and its effects on wild salmon.
Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity stated in a
“Industrial salmon feedlots function as disease-breeding
factories, allowing parasites and diseases to reproduce at
unnaturally high rates. Marine feedlot waste flows directly,
untreated, into contact with wild salmon. Putting feedlots hosting
a toxic soup of bacteria, parasites, viruses and sea lice on wild
fish migration routes is the height of biological insanity.”
Biologist Alexandra Morton of the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon
“The Canadian inquiry into the collapse of Fraser River sockeye,
the largest salmon-producing river in the world, suggests the
primarily Norwegian-owned British Columbia salmon-farming industry
exerts trade pressures that exceed Canada’s political will to
protect wild salmon
“Releasing viruses into native ecosystems is an irrevocable
threat to biodiversity, yet Canada seems to have no mechanism to
prevent salmon-farm diseases from afflicting wild salmon throughout
the entire North Pacific.”
53-page petition (PDF 1.8 mb) was submitted to the Commission
for Environmental Cooperation, a group working under the North
American Free Trade Agreement. The petition describes sea lice and
four specific bacterial and viral diseases alleged to be related to
salmon pens. It also describes problems related to toxic chemicals
and concentrated waste.
Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans maintains that it is
conducting research and acting on problems as they are identified.
The agency proclaims on its website:
“Environmental effects of aquaculture operations can be
controlled to meet rigorous domestic and international
“State-of-Knowledge” review papers summarize current thinking
on aquaculture, according to the agency.
I wanted to share this great photo by Candice Emmons of the new
baby orca in J pod. She and Brad Hanson spotted the new calf
between Kingston and Edmonds on Saturday. Thanks to Candi for the
shot and to Brad for the nice description of the encounter, which I
reported in a story to be published in
tomorrow’s Kitsap Sun.
By Christopher Dunagan
KINGSTON — A newborn killer whale has been spotted and confirmed
in J pod, one of the three pods of orcas that frequent Puget
The new calf, designated J-48, was observed Saturday between
Kingston and Edmonds by Brad Hanson and Candice Emmons of the
Northwest Fisheries Science Center. J and K pods arrived in
Admiralty Inlet west of Whidbey Island on Friday and stayed off the
northeast corner of the Kitsap Peninsula for most of Saturday.
“Normally when they are traveling, they are spread out,” Hanson
said, “but this time they were fairly grouped up. Our first thought
was that they couldn’t make up their minds where they wanted to
As Hanson and Emmons identified one whale after another from
their markings, they noted one group of orcas off by itself. Among
the group was a 39-year-old female, J-16 or “Slick,” along with
several of the offspring she has had since 1991. And right in the
middle of the group was what appeared to be a newborn orca.
“The calf was pretty young and still had its fetal folds,”
Hanson said. “I would say it had been born in the last 24 hours or
The whales kept milling about and swimming in circles just north
of the Kingston-Edmonds ferry lanes.
“They were probably waiting around for the calf to figure things
out and get with the program,” Hanson said. “It takes a little time
for the mom and her calf to get their footing. The young calves
sort of throw themselves up in the air. They are learning to breath
and to clear the water.”
Hanson said he noticed that kind of milling behavior when
another killer whale was born several years ago.
This was the fifth calf for Slick, named after rock singer Grace
Slick, according to Howard Garrett of Orca Network, an organization
that keeps track of whale sightings throughout the region.
Every whale counts, he said, because the three Southern Resident
pods are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and
considered at risk of extinction. J-48 brings the number of orcas
in J pod to 27 and the total for all three pods to 89. Researchers
believe the pods may have totaled about 200 whales in the past.
The new baby is only the second orca born to the three pods in
2011, compared to six for 2010. Of those born last year, four were
in L pod, with one each in J and K pods.
Orca Network’s Susan Berta said Saturday’s encounter was the
result of shore observers in the area reporting their
“This is one of the times when the public information really
helped us,” Berta said. “People told us the whales were coming in,
and we were able to get the call to NOAA Fisheries, and Brad and
Candi were able to get with them right away.”
The whales have not stayed in Puget Sound much this year
compared to previous years, Hanson said.
“Every time the whales do come in, we try to get out,” he said.
“We are still monitoring their foraging activity in the sound. We
hadn’t been out with them in quite a while.”
Hanson and other researchers have shown that the orcas eat
mainly chinook salmon in the summer and chum salmon in early fall.
But what they eat the rest of the year — especially from January
through May — remains largely a mystery.
Besides identifying the animals on Saturday, Hanson and Emmons
were able to collect fish scales and samples of fecal material to
help identify what they are eating.
Shortly after the two researchers visited the whales Saturday,
the animals headed back out of Puget Sound, and no further reports
have come in, Berta said.
“Some years we have a lot of whales coming in and other years we
don’t,” she noted. “It brings up many questions about what makes a
good year for whales. I’m hoping they come back for Christmas.”
This year’s Windemere Sand Sculpture Contest, held a couple
weeks ago in Port Angeles, featured the theme “Wonderful World of
I especially liked a piece called “Evolution of Sport” (right),
which features a man throwing a discus while a boy maneuvers a game
controller. The sculpture, by Sue McGrew of Tacoma, took second
place in the contest and tied for the “Sculptor’s Choice”
By the way, I just noticed that
today’s News Tribune in Tacoma included a story about McGrew
and her travels around the country pursuing this unique art
First place in the Port Angeles contest went to Sandis Kondrats
of Latvia, who shaped a sand sculpture he called “Ice Hockey:
Energy on Ice” (bottom of page).
The list of winners is available from a
story July 24 in the Peninsula Daily News, which also produced
a nice video
showing the artists at work and featuring brief interviews with
some of them.
I want to thank Kristy Martin for providing these photos, some
of which are posted on her thoughtful and amusing blog, “Port Angeles Daily
The ninth annual sand sculpture contest in Port Angeles has
become part of a new qualifying process for the World
Championship of Sand Sculpting to be held in Federal Way Aug.
18 to Sept. 5. Five contests in North America and four in Europe
have been chosen as
qualifying contests for the World Championship. Organizers hope
to eventually have about 15 qualifying contests around the
I have a few random observations and tidbits of news to share
since I last wrote about the Southern Resident killer whales, who
recently arrived in the San Juan Islands — a little behind schedule
but showing off a newborn calf. See the July 7 story in the
Kitsap Sun and related entry in
The Southern Residents have settled down somewhat in their
summer waters in and around the San Juans. One can follow their
travels by joining Orca Network’s
Sightings List or by checking the website for reports by
I was interested in a comment made a week ago by Ken Balcomb of
for Whale Research following his observations of the new calf
and his mother, along with the mom’s brother, who were all joined
later by the calf’s grandmother. Here’s Ken’s comment:
“It would be fascinating to eavesdrop on the whale
communications at this time, especially those of matriarchs J2 and
K13. There is a mixing of incomplete subgroups and matrilines this
year, and much less of a pattern to their distributional movements.
But they all appear to be in good body condition. We are getting
good documentation of the condition of the new calf frequently for
“Orcas in Our Midst”
Howard Garrett of Orca Network has updated his 33-page book
“Orcas in Our Midst.” Volume 3 is dedicated to J-1, known as
Ruffles, by far the oldest male among the Salish Sea killer whales
when he went missing last fall.
Howie explains the natural history of killer whales in the
Pacific Northwest and their evolution from land-dwelling creatures,
as he delves into the cultural aspects of killer whale society. A
special focus in this edition are the differences between resident
and transient killer whales.
Howie and I recently discussed our mutual curiosity about killer
whale culture and what researchers are discovering. As he
“We’re seeing a new global awareness, an understanding that
there is not just one orca. There are many, many forms around the
world. How did that come about? How do they get their own identity,
and how do they maintain that?”
At just 33 pages, one might consider this a basic book about
killer whales — and it is — but Garrett has a knack for taking side
trips that give you a sense of the complexity of this topic while
hinting at the questions yet to be answered. To order the book, go
Network’s Web Shop.
Who’s the daddy?
You may have read one of the recent news stories about how
Southern Resident killer whales occasionally mate within their own
pods, unlike Northern Residents of Upper British Columbia, which
almost always breed outside their own pods.
We’ve always known the moms, because their offspring stay with
them for life. But the dads are another matter.
It was previously believed, for example, that males in J pod
would mate with females in K and L pods, but not those in J pod.
The latest findings conflict with that view and bring up many
Because of the small population size of the Southern Residents,
the new study raises concerns about inbreeding and the extent of
the genetic bottleneck. At least, the researchers found, Southern
Residents do not mate with close relatives, as might be the case
with a few bottlenose dolphin groups.
Michael Ford, who led the study for the National Marine
Fisheries Service, told reporter Craig Welch of the
Seattle Times that since the whales occasionally breed outside
their pods, the population does take advantage of the larger gene
“In terms of how bad it is … that depends on how long the
population size stays small. Brief bottlenecks don’t necessarily
have to have a long-term impact. But as a general rule, we should
be concerned about small population sizes because genetic diversity
is the raw material for adaptation and evolution.”
Of the 12 identified paternities, five involve mating between
J-1 and a female in J pod. J-1, who disappeared last fall, was the
oldest male around. The evidence suggests that older males are more
successful reproductively, and J-1 may have been the most
successful of all. The researchers could not conclude whether the
apparent success of older males is the result of dominance over
younger males, a selection by their female partners or a
combination of factors.
With J-1 out of the picture, it will be interesting to see
whether the frequency of intrapod mating declines.
I’m on vacation this week, so I thought I might re-run an
“Amusing Monday” entry you may have seen before. I couldn’t
remember the first entries I submitted for Amusing Monday, so I
went back and looked.
I actually offered what I hoped were several funny entries
before July 14, 2008, but this was the date I officially launched
the weekly feature. The item below was the first “Amusing Monday”
entry ever posted.
Conditions have remained pretty much the same the last couple of
days, although the intrusion of dense higher-oxygen water from the
ocean is beginning to create a thicker layer at the bottom of Hood
Canal. The middle layer of low-oxygen water remains fairly thick,
but the upper layer with higher oxygen concentrations is still
providing fish some relief. South winds remain a threat, as I’ve
explained for the last few weeks.
One can observe the three layers in the upper graph. The lower
graph shows changes over the past week or so. Notice how oxygen
concentrations are rising in the deep layer. Continue reading →
The EPA is “seeking public input on how the agency can better
protect and improve the health of our waters…” according to a
news release. “The feedback received on the online forum will
help shape the discussion at EPA’s upcoming conference in April,
‘Coming Together for Clean Water,’ where we will engage
approximately 100 executive and local level water leads on the
agency’s clean water agenda.”
Three topics are mentioned: “The Watershed Approach,” “Managing
Pollutants from Nutrients,” and “Stormwater Pollution.”
It is interesting to see how people in various parts of the
country are responding to these topics and how local issues play
into the national overview. Some folks seem fairly alarmed and are
demanding that the EPA take firm actions. Others have responded by
spelling out technical solutions or offering case studies about how
the EPA has failed in the past.