Orca Network

Orca Network - connecting whales and people in the Pacific Northwest Orca Network is dedicated to raising awareness of the whales of the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats. Orca Network finds ways for people to work together to protect the rich, beautiful, diverse habitats and inhabitants of Puget Sound. An extended clan of Orcinu...
Feb 22, 2015

Stranding Network funding slated for deep cuts

Harbor seal response chart 2014
Harbor seal response chart 2014

As we begin preparation for our busy spring and summer stranding season, we have been told that the NOAA Fisheries budget for the entire Marine Mammal Stranding Program nationwide is slated for even more substantial cuts again this year, including money for staffing of the Prescott Marine Mammal Stranding Program. Recent budget cuts have already hurt our program, and these proposed cuts will further impact our ability to respond/investigate many strandings as well as curtail our research project begun several years ago to determine comparative levels of certain toxins in our local marine mammals.

All told, we received a total of 17 harbor porpoise calls in 2014.

We were able to collect nine carcasses for necropsy.  The others were either too scavenged or decomposed to be of value or floated out to sea before they could be collected. Additional testing for the presence of cancer causing viruses in the harbor porpoise found to have lymphoma (reported to GlobalGiving last November) is being considered if funds can be found. The information gathered from Harbor porpoise necropsies not only provides up to date information on the health of our Harbor porpoise population, but also translates into how the ocean habitat is doing and what toxins are increasing, which is valuable information that also relates to our endangered Southern Resident orcas who share the same waters and eat a similar diet.

The attached chart “Harbor Seals - 2014” shows the number of harbor seals reported to our stranding network. July through September is our busiest season for birthing and weaning of pups.  We provide extensive education to the public on how to share our island with harbor seals and to make people aware of the necessity to avoid disturbing newborn pups and their nursing mothers. Nevertheless, harbor seals still suffer an approximately 50% mortality in their first year of life due mainly to human interference and predation by transient (meat-eating) orcas.  

Despite funding cuts to NOAA's Marine Mammal Stranding program, the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network continues to respond to stranded porpoise, seal pups, molting elephant seals (see photo), and the occasional Gray whale or sea lion stranding, thanks to supporters like YOU! And we continue to provide public education via our website and Orca Network's Langley Whale Center on Whidbey Island, WA, where many of our marine mammal specimens are on display.

We truly appreciate the donations received via GlobalGiving that enable us to support the work of our veterinarians and numerous volunteers investigating why our marine mammals are dying in the Salish Sea.

Our sincere thanks, we truly could not do it without your support!

Molting Elephant seal, Whidbey Island, WA
Molting Elephant seal, Whidbey Island, WA

Links:

Feb 20, 2015

Good News, Bad News for J pod and Southern Resident Orcas

J19 with calf J51, by Center for Whale Research
J19 with calf J51, by Center for Whale Research

These past few months have brought us two new orca calves for J pod, but J pod has also suffered the huge loss of a reproductive aged female, and her unborn calf (also female).

On December 4, we were saddened by this news:

"A deceased orca was found earlier today near Courtenay, BC in northwest Georgia Strait and was identified as 18-year old J32, known as Rhapsody. Photos sent by Canada's Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans were identified by Ken Balcomb at the Center for Whale Research. J pod last visited Puget Sound in late November, and J32 was last identified and photographed with her family November 26 east of Victoria BC by the Center for Whale Research.

J32 was thought by many to be in the late stages of pregnancy last summer due to her wide girth when she breached, as she often did. J32's mother was J20, who died in 1998 when Rhapsody was only 2 years old. She was raised by her aunt, J22 Oreo. She is survived by J22 and her cousins J34 Doublestuf and J38 Cookie, leaving only three survivors of the former J10 matriline, and only 77 members of the Southern Resident Community.

We cannot express how tragic this loss is for this struggling, precariously small, family of resident orcas of the Salish Sea. This loss brings the overall number of Southern Resident orcas below their number in 2005 when they were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The loss of J32 marks the fourth death of a Southern Resident orca in 2014. The last surviving Southern Resident baby was born in August of 2012." (from Orca Network news release)

Then we finally received some GOOD news at the end of December - on December 30th:

"This afternoon Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research confirmed seeing and photographing 42-year old J16 (Slick) with her newborn baby - now known as J50!  This good news brought the Southern Resident orca population back up to 78 members, and J50 was soon determined to be female, also good news, as the more reproductive aged females in the community, the better their chances for increasing their population.

Then February 12, 2015, more good news from the Center for Whale Research - another new J pod calf had been sighted with mom J19.  "This brings us to twenty-six whales in J pod, the most viable pod in the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population of the US and Canada Pacific Northwest. K pod has 19 individuals, and L pod has34 individuals for a totalpopulation of 79 SRKW’s as of today."

Orca Network continues to work on educating and advocating for the need for increased Chinook salmon runs throughout the Southern Resident orcas' habitat, which includes the Salish Sea in the Pacific NW, as well as the Pacific coast from Monterey, CA northward to SE Alaska.

And our Whale Sighting Network continues to grow, involving citizens who help track the whales and collect data for researchers and agencies working to help the Southern Resident orcas, while at the same time educating the public and creating advocates for orca and salmon restoration efforts.

To find out more about our Southern Resident orcas and other whales, visit our website, and follow our Facebook page to find out where the whales are, and to read the latest news and action items.Thank you for your support, which enables us to continue our work on behalf of the whales of the Salish Sea ~ 

 

 

 

J16 and calf J50, by Center for Whale Research
J16 and calf J50, by Center for Whale Research
Nov 25, 2014

Porpoise continue to strand in the Salish Sea; Changes in our Stranding Network Team

Fisheries Interaction - net marks on Porpoise
Fisheries Interaction - net marks on Porpoise

The Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network has continued to respond to a higher number of Harbor Porpoise strandings than we have experienced at any time in our past - as of November, we have had 13 dead Harbor porpoise strand in Island and Skagit counties, four in the quarter since our last project report.

We conducted two necropsies in September, one of which was confirmed to be a fisheries interaction. Net markings were detected on the face and rostrum of the porpoise, and the necropsy found no sign of disease or ill health, though when we cut into the skull, hemorrhaging was found at the base of the skull and top vertebrae, likely from the porpoise's struggle when it became entangled in the net. Besides being able to document a fisheries interaction, this rare healthy specimen will enable us to do testing on different tissues and organs to compare to the usual diseased porpoise that we necropsy. We are awaiting results of tests on additional necropsies performed this past month, and have two more porpoise in freezer storage awaiting necropsy by our team.

And speaking of our team - we have had some changes this year, as we say farewell to Matt Klope who has been one of our CPSMMSN’s principle investigators for many many years. Regretfully, Matt has resigned that position to make more time for his family and growing taxidermy business, and will no longer be involved with most of our strandings/necropsies - however will come and help out as his schedule allows when we have whales or large pinnipeds on the beach. 
THANK YOU MATT—for all you have done with CPSMMSN!

To replace Matt on our necropsy and stranding team, we have been very lucky to find Dr. Barry Rickman VMD, PhD, DACVP. Barry is a veterinary pathology (Sound Vet Path) specialist and has recently joined our team. He resides in Edmonds—and has a home pet care and euthanasia business, and is a great part of our necropsy and pathology team — we’re very happy to have him on board. Barry has put together a great poster about our porpoise with B-cell Lymphoma,which was presented at the regional Marine Mammal Stranding workshop, and he and Stephanie Norman are working on publication of a paper on this case.

It is only through the help of YOUR donations that the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network can continue to keep up with stranding response and investigation in the Salish Sea, and we truly appreciate your support.
 

Dr
Dr's Norman & Rickman - porpoise necropsy
B-cell Lymphoma Porpoise scientific poster
B-cell Lymphoma Porpoise scientific poster

Links:

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