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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Big fines coming for encroaching on orcas

MARINE WILDLIFE — A boater who was caught by the Coast Guard too close to Puget Sound killer whales on Wednesday won’t be penalized, but next summer violators could be fined thousands of dollars, the Associated Press reports.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working with the Coast Guard and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to educate boaters about a 2011 requirement to stay at least 200 yards away from orcas, spokesman Brian Gorman said. Previously it was just a guideline.

“Our intention is to depend on education and warning rather than coming on like gangbusters,” Gorman said.

They’ll make a decision before next summer’s boating season on issuing fines, Gorman said. Civil penalties under the Marine Mammal Protection Act could reach $11,000, and fines under the Endangered Species Act could be as high as $32,500, Gorman said.

Gulp.

Read on for more details from the AP.

Baby orca born, photographed near Puget Sound

WHALE WATCHING — An orca calf, born to the famous J Pod that roams into Puget Sound, was photographed Monday shortly after it was born to an 11-year-old mother.

The killer whales were swimming near the San Juan Islands. See a detailed report here.

See other photos — including some really sweet ones — chronicling the pod's baby whales in recent years.

The photo and whale alerts come from the Center for Whale Research and the Orca Network.

Sea Kayak Adventures offers discount for orca trips at Johnstone Strait

ADVENTURE TRAVEL  – $200 discounts are being offered for guided six-day sea kayaking trips geared to paddling with orcas off Vancouver Island.

Nancy Mertz, co-owner of Couer-d Alene-based Sea Kayak Adventures, said they have a few slots they’re trying to fill for camping excursions in the famous killer whale waters of Johnstone Strait.

Info: 800-616-1943 or www.seakayakadventures.com.

My wife and I joined one of these groups a few years ago and the exprience of paddling with orcas ranks among the most exciting in our repertoie.

See my short narrated video presentation on the sea kayaking trip to Johnstone Strait above.

New calf swimming with orcas in Puget Sound

MARINE MAMMALS — A newborn calf has been spotted among one of the pods of killer whales returning to the Puget Sound.

The Kitsap Sun reports the baby orca was seen Wednesday, when a majority of the three pods of killer whales returned to the San Juan Islands, as they do each year.

Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research says all the adult orcas in the three pods seem to be accounted for, including one whale that had not been seen since February.

Balcomb says the newborn calf is male and still had his umbilical cord attached on Wednesday. That means he is only days old. His birth brings the total Puget Sound or Southern Resident orca population to 88. The whales are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Angler shares salmon with orca

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FISHING — When a pod of killer whales zeroes in on the same school of fish as the British Columbia sportfishing fleet, it’s a head-to-head competition to see who’s the best fisherman.

This video  has been going around for a while, but it’s cool to watch.

Be ready for a bit of coarse language from the loser in the competition.

What did we learn from killer whales?

Good morning, Netizens…


In this photo taken on Dec. 30, 2005, Dawn Brancheau, a whale trainer at SeaWorld Adventure Park, is shown while performing. Brancheau was killed in an accident with Tilikum, a killer whale at the SeaWorld Shamu Stadium Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 24, 2010.

(AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Julie Fletcher)



There have been multiple instances of “trained” killer whales assaulting and/or killing their trainers in the past. The orca, Tilikum, was also involved in the death of a female trainer in Canada in 1991, reports said. There were various other reports of orcas attacking trainers at SeaWorld parks in 2006 and 2004.


Having seen orca pods in the past, sedately moving through the water, I am as in awe of their beauty and their majestic intelligence as I am of dolphins. However, I have also witnessed orcas being fed in captivity. There is no way you could ever get me to feed an orca, despite all the warm-fuzzy pictures of them being fed at Sea World and other places. Tipping the scales at over 4,000 pounds, they are still dangerous creatures. Speaking for myself, climbing into the water with one of these majestic creatures is out of the question.


Even worse, what would motivate people to come by the hundreds of thousands each year to watch humans sitting inches from orcas or, in some instances, climbing into pools of water with them?


Several sources have suggested we need to study the killer whales to better understand them. It seems more to me that the predominate use, as applied by Sea World and others, is to exploit their strange beauty and majesty for profit, and be damned the cost.


Would this not make the death of Dawn Brancheau, the trainer killed by Tilikum for naught? Please tell me what we learned.


Dave