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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Southern Resident Update

The Southern Residents came back into the area on the evening of September 29th and made their first fall trip down into Puget Sound. They did make their way up to the San Juans, and last night just before dusk I saw them slowly traveling way offshore looking like they were heading back out to the ocean again. It was a peaceful, chilly fall evening with the yellow and purple colors of the sunset just breaking through the solid gray clouds over the horizon. It was quiet enough that I could hear the blows, even from the whales that were too far away to see in the dimming light.

Now that it's October, the Southern Residents will probably start spending more and more time away from the inland waters, so moments like last night are to be treasured even more. The beauty of the experience was overshadowed a bit for me, however, with a rumor I heard the other day. We already know that we lost four whales this year - calf J43 that was born last November, Southern Resident matriarch K7 estimated to be in her late 90s, as well as older female L21 and youngster L101. But the other day I heard that we may have lost three more whales in the last month, with several others looking emaciated when, as the summer salmon runs come to a close, they should probably be robust and ready for the winter.

So much attention is focused on the boater traffic around the whales. Just last night I went to Kari's Soundwatch lecture at The Whale Museum, where she talked in depth about boater trends and the new regulations. It's important that vessel traffic doesn't add an additional stress to the lives of these endangered mammals, and Soundwatch does incredibly important work out there, but I wish some of the energy the public invests in their constant outcry against boats being around the whales could be redirected into the issue that I see as being the most critical to the survival of these orcas: the salmon runs that they depend on for food on a daily basis. I don't like seeing boats drive over the whales anymore than the next person, but I think many people end up getting up in arms over the minor threat they see on the surface instead of realizing the gravity of the major threat that lurks below it.

I literally begin to feel sick to my stomach when I think that we may have lost as many as 7 whales this year, and the reality of the situation is that the salmon declines probably play a major role in that statistic. Two of the orca scientists I admire the most - Alexandra Morton and Rich Osborne - have both rerouted their careers to focus on salmon issues. As I try to figure out my place in the grand scheme of things, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I shouldn't do the same.

5 comments:

Vickie said...

I have really enjoyed my visit. Your love for the area and the whales is heart warming. A wonderful collection of photos.
Thanks.

Monika Wieland said...

Vickie, Thanks for stopping by! By leaving a comment you allowed me to find your amazing blog as well! I love the stories and photos you post.

Michele Wassell said...

So sad....

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

We don't have anything as exciting as these fantastic creatures here on the west coast of the UK but very sad to learn that they are suffering the same threat of overfishing as our marine wildlife.

Keep the news coming fascinating reading - hope to visit this part of the world one day!

Thanks

D

Monika Wieland said...

Michele - I know! I'm holding my breath that it doesn't get worse.

D - thanks for stopping by! I love your local wildlife blog - I'll be checking back often!