Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Great News!!

Everybody knows I love orcas. Sometimes I think if I had a do over of my life, I would have gone to grad school to study marine mammal biology. But, otherwise, I wouldn't change a thing and this is a great hobby anyway.

There is this car commercial on TV where this woman is looking out with binoculars and she says, "ORCA!" My children laugh and laugh at that--"There's MOM!" Geez! She is even dressed like me.

Yesterday, the federal government actually did something right. Wow! These days I rarely make a comment like that. Of course, I knew about this news hours before it hit the media because of my Orca Sighting Network membership. The big front page headlines in all three of my papers today and the lead story on the local TV stations last night was "Feds Make Dramatic Move to Save Orcas" or "Local Orcas Listed as Endangered".


With the above link you can see how important the news is to us that our local orca pods are now officially listed as "Endangered Species" under the Endangered Species Act. Another endangered species around here called the "republican" would not dare speak out against this and in all fairness, they are supportive as well. You see, such designation helps us protect the pods which have essentially become the wild pets of the Seattle area to keep them from dying off and to help them increase their numbers. The designation is limited to our local pods of which there are a total of 88 individual whales--yes, that is all we have left. Worldwide, they are not doing so badly which has kept our local pods from being listed as endangered. Some good lawyering and sciencing managed to convince the feds that our local residents are not genetically related to the ocean going transients worldwide. As such, they need to be considered a group all unto themselves.

So what does this mean? It means we can tell Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) to go take a hike and forget about opening up Puget Sound to more oil tanker traffic which has been illegal since 1977. It means we can continue efforts to preserve and nurture our wild salmon which is orca food. It means we can limit development and logging that affects salmon runs. It means we can stop deep water projects such as a proposed natural gas pipeline under Puget Sound. It means we can keep the Navy from doing sonar tests around here. The bottom line is we can keep our beautiful Puget Sound like it is now and improve it where we do have some pollution issues.

Orca vital stats
Size: Males average 27 feet long; females average 24 feet.
Weight: Males average 9,000 pounds; females, 7,000 pounds.
Vital orca stats Maximum age: Males live into their 60s; females live into their 90s.
Birth rate: Beginning between ages 12 and 16, a female can have about five calves in 25 years.
Primary food: Salmon
Population, local pods: 88
Range: Georgia Strait to Puget Sound
Local orcas taken for aquariums: At least 47, in the 1960s and 1970s


To me this is good stewardship of our earth and all of the inhabitants including us. Keeping Puget Sound healthy for orcas and salmon not only benefits the non-humans, we humans benefit as well. But who are we to say we are better than the orcas anyway; we know so little about them? For example, in my Whale Museum newsletter there was a story about the K-pod. K-31, also known as Tatoosh, was separated from his pod for several days last July. L-pod was nearby but failed to acknowledge him. After reuniting with his K-pod a few days later, he remained a half mile behind for several more days before being "allowed" back in.

Whoa!! I have explained before that orca pods are matriarchal even though the females are much smaller. What in the world did Tatoosh do to be ostracized like that; I'd like to know?! His Mom and sisters and aunts and wife must have been really mad at him for some good reason.

Yep, human beings have a lot to learn from these fascinating wonderful creatures. And now, we can protect them to the fullest extent of the law. Yes! Indeed!