Viewing of orcas ~ I15’s near the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve

IMG_8072 IMG_8074IMG_7998 IMG_7996 IMG_7995 IMG_8026 IMG_8004 IMG_8029 It was a beautiful day that began with a gorgeous clear view down Johnstone Strait but as we neared Weynton Passage, fog started swirling around us, and obscured us at one point completely. Before the fog and after we had beautiful viewings of hauled out harbour seals, and stellar sea lions who were swimming close along the shoreline, while numerous red-necked phalaropes, rhinoceros auklets and common murres and dall’s porpoise were in the near vicinity. Passing several humpback whales in Blackfish Sound and more sea lions, we carried on and just east of Cracroft Point we encountered orcas ahead of us. The I15’s were spread out, travelling slowly to the east, some we could see were further ahead and looked to be foraging in the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve in the vicinity of the estuary of the Tsitika River; the lighting today was beautiful and their blows looked very high,  seen at a distance away. The matriline group we observed were in a lovely resting line, moving east in the flooding current without any speed and it was beautiful to watch their synchronized surfacing and diving sequences in the soft lighting that appeared!

Todays penned comments: “What a lovely morning! Beautiful sailing following orcas, watching seals and humpback whales that we could count. It is a very long way from Dubai but totally worth it! ” Amalia & Miguel  They mentioned that the temperature today in Dubai was 44 c and a few days ago 47c, air conditioning absolutely is necessary!

“We are having a grand time. This is the way to see “Charismatic Megafauna.” Thanks!” Judi & Bill, Crofton, BC

“We thoroughly enjoyed our morning on the water. Numbers of Phalaropes very impressive, also Rhinoceros Auklets. Great scones! “Tony & Anne-Marie, Ottawa, ON

“Like the first trip with you last year, it was a wonderful experience. Our first Orcas and so much knowledge you shared with us. I will keep on telling everyone how great you are.”                             Elisabeth &  Darall, Austria and Ontario

” A great experience for the whole family. Seeing the orcas was unforgettable and made all the more interesting by hearing about their lives.” Family Lee, UK

Northern Resident Orca Update ~ A30’s matriline ~ since their arrival back!

It was on the afternoon of July 15th that some Northern Resident Orcas had been sighted in the far west but it was the A30 matriline that finally made their way as far as Bere Point on Malcolm Island around 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon. No other groups made it down to Bere Point and have likely headed back out of the area. The A30’s took their time and were off  Orcalab around 9:45 p.m. that evening. Having stalled at Cracroft Point for quite some time, they carried on into Johnstone Strait and were at the rubbing beaches in the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve by 1.00 a.m. on July 16th (yesterday early a.m.) and then continued to travel on further east in Johnstone Strait. Yesterday in the afternoon they were reported returning back from the east and headed back into the rubbing beaches at the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve at around 3.00 p.m..

This morning they were reported by Orcalab as heading back into Blackfish Sound on the fast ebbing current from Cracroft Point and currently, S.V. Tuan with her passengers and crew are sailing with them!

A fantastic day ~ mighty and majestic humpback whales!

Ojos Blancos/ White Eyes IMG_2128 IMG_2111 Juvenile Bald Eagles IMG_2100 IMG_2167 Guardian IMG_2158 Rhinoceros Auklet

What a wonderful day of sharing gorgeous sights and sounds with our guests. The sun was bright as we made our way through numerous island waterways this morning, all of them were sparkling with light and life, it was absolutely breathtaking! Our first sighting of a humpback whale was from a distance away but as we drew nearer and caught sight of the fluke disappearing beneath the water, everyone became very excited while waiting in anticipation its next dive sequence. Diving for some 4-6 minutes and taking 6-7 breathes before disappearing from our sight, its sheer beauty and wonder claimed our senses. The humpback whale we identified as being Ojos Blancos/ White Eyes. Another humpback whale we noticed was working an area off Blackney Passage in Johnstone Strait and soon both whales were in close proximity to one another. The second whale we had just identified as being Guardian from the catalogue Humpbacks of Northeastern Vancouver Island, by Jackie Hildering and Christie McMillian Marine Education Research Society .  When the whale fluked again and while most of us were looking at the catalogue, Guardian suddenly breached nearby at the bow of our boat. A few passengers saw the entire breach, some of us a partial breach, others the mighty splash!  It was a treat for us all, especially when Guardian appeared a few hundred metres away and fluked again, a parting memory for those who were treated to such a special showing. Also seen today: harbour seals including a mother and her pup, dalls porpoises, rhinoceros auklets, common murres, bald eagles +++, black oyster catchers, belted kingfishers, great blue herons and gull species.

Today’s penned comment: Our day started with many layers of clothing, it was a brisk morning indeed. Maureen and Dave picked us up at the marina and greeted us with smiles so warm. Rich in history, steeped in stories, biologists and marine ecologists would envy. No wind but no worries, we motored and saw more wildlife than we have in the past year. Warm muffins and tea, pictures of whales, sightings, gasp’s and shrieks of excitement, could this be any better? The smell of the sea, the touch of wind on our faces, the sights of seals and bald eagles, porpoises and humpbacks. The breach of the whale felt like a private showing. We recounted the story of sitting among all the tourists, ” where were you standing”? “what part of the breach did you see”? “did you see the splash”? We can only protect what we know and understand. Thank you for your sharing! We have learned so much from you. ~ Paula, Leonard, Declan and Ailish, Alberta, Canada

More time for comments to be sent in regarding the two Tidal Turbine applications ~ please view our previous blog for information ~

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This is a short blog to let those of you who were unable to place a comment to MFLNRO on the afternoon of April 9, 2015.  April 9 was the last day to submit but I had trouble in doing so. Having submitted my comment on the first application around 11.30 a.m., I was horrified at being unable to submit for the second application as the comment link had vanished! I spent time searching back and forth and finally found a way to submit via the history pages on my computer that I had opened the day before and morning of the 9th; I managed to submit around 12.30 p.m.. on April 9, 2015

The problem was reported by a wonderfully diligent person to the MFLNRO / Front Counter and Diana Watson at the Ministry has extended the deadline a few days more into next week if there are still comments to be sent in, please email: diana.watson@gov.bc.ca

Diana Watson is one of the Land Officers and is one of three final decision makers on these applications.

Please if you have not done so already, or found yourselves shut out around 12.00 noon on Thursday, April 9, please take an opportunity over the weekend and email Diana Watson your comments. Please include the file number for both applications and mention as well that you were unable to find the comment link on the afternoon of April 9, 2015.

The two applications: Please check our previous blog for any further information on this.

(1) Johnstone Strait between Hanson Island and Telegraph Cove (File: #1414321)

(2) Broughton Strait, western end of Malcolm Island (File: #1414325)

Saying NO to Tidal Turbines in Critical Whale Habitat ~The deadline for comment is April 9, 2015

Many of you may or may not be aware that two proposals by Weyl Power Ltd, and both using underwater turbines to generate power, have been put forward by application to the BC Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO). If these applications are successful, it will allow for the instalment of technical and investigative monitoring equipment into killer whale habitat which could then lead to turbines also being located in the acknowledged northern resident killer whale habitat.

The two applications:

(1) Johnstone Strait between Hanson Island and Telegraph Cove (File: #1414321)

http://www.arfd.gov.bc.ca/ApplicationPosting/viewpost.jsp?PostID=48578

(2) Broughton Strait, western end of Malcolm Island (File: #1414325) http://www.arfd.gov.bc.ca/ApplicationPosting/viewpost.jsp?PostID=48579

There are just two days left for people with concerns to make a comment expressing that these applications for tenure must not be granted. April 9, 2015 is the last day for acceptance of comments by MFLNRO.

Jackie Hildering of the Marine Detective website: http://www.marinedetective.com has considerable information on her blog that she has presented for anyone wanting information and or help in writing a comment against these two proposals.

Here is another link with information by David Kirby on the proposed turbines: http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/21/clean-energy-project-could-harm-endangered-killer-whales

We at Seasmoke Whale Watching have spent some 29 years+ in these local waters and especially in the vicinity of Weynton Passage and Johnstone Strait where so many marine species live and navigate through year round; we cannot consider for a moment the possibility of these tidal turbines being constructed. The tidal current surging through Weynton Passage and adjacent to Hanson Island and a portion on Vancouver Island just east of Telegraph Cove on a flood and ebb current is immense, and while observing, one cannot help but be overwhelmed by the abundance of species feeding in the surging current. It is sheer madness to even begin thinking of a Tidal Turbine being constructed in our backyard that is home to a myriad of species, we cannot ever let this happen!

Our time on the water yesterday was breathtaking with calm waters, sunshine and nobody else but harbour seals, stellar sealions and numerous seabirds to observe our passing and not forgetting, the T101s and the T124A’s, the biggs transient orcas who would have passed earlier in the morning and directly in front of where the turbine just east of Telegraph Cove if allowed, would be constructed. Orcas are on the move throughout this area year-round!

The overwhelming beauty that we looked out on yesterday, through Weynton Passage and down Johnstone Strait has compelled me to write this blog. We do not need a tidal turbine hydro energy grab in these waters! Alternate clean energy is good, but not in these pristine waters where nature provides for the livelihood of so many species year-round.  We humans first need to wake up and consider the colossal amount of hydro energy that is wasted every single minute around the globe and especially in cities, big and small, where the lights are never dimmed. How wasteful is this and how stupid are we humans in allowing this to happen! And now, that a company has the idea to generate energy by tidal turbines and that it be constructed in a wilderness area that is absolutely critical to marine habitat, to make up for the shortfall and wastefulness of humans, is absurd! We humans have got it badly wrong and change is badly needed in the way in which we treat our precious planet earth.

Please check and carefully read the information posted by Jackie and if you do not have time to read through it all, simply write from your heart with your passion and tell it the way it is from your perspective no matter from where you live in the world. Your perspective as a previous passenger on board the S.V. Tuan or from another vessel, perhaps a kayak, by writing your comment and saying NO now, it will help to keep intact the integrity of a pristine habitat and wilderness area for a myriad of species including whales, dolphins and humans in the years to come.

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Held Captive In Concrete Tanks Around The World!

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This photo explains without question what happened to resident orcas from the Pacific Northwest Coast in the 1960s and 1970s. Of the 45 delivered to Marine Parks only two are still alive today surviving in their concrete tanks ~ Lolita and Corky remain captive because of us their audience!

~ photo credit: Boycott SEA WORLD ~ urging Cetacean Advocacy

https://www.facebook.com/CetaceanAdvocacy?fref=photo&sk=photos

Captivity of animals of any kind has always bothered me and when we first began our whale watching tours and later created our first web-site, the Captivity of Orcas (aka Killer Whales and Blackfish) has always been a huge source of concern for us and we will often talk about and discuss the topic with our guests on board during our tours.

We fully understand that not everyone can afford to take themselves and their children on a whale watching tour to see whales and dolphins in the wild but we do know that most people if they so desire they can watch them on television in documentaries and video’s so designed today to make us feel that we are there with the whales and dolphins as we watch.

As a child growing up in New Zealand I well remember watching the black and white movie ‘Born Free’ and sitting cross-legged on a mat in the teachers staff room with all the curtains drawn as the film reel played onto a rolled down screen in front of my class of 30 children. I so well remember sitting spellbound through the entire movie with the images showing Elsa’s return back into the wild. Those images resonated deep within me at the time and have remained there throughout my life.

I have never forgotten either when my parents took my siblings and I to the Auckland Zoo. What was to have been a treat for us all became a nightmare for me with the sight of seeing an elephant in a small concrete enclosure, a polar bear also in a concrete enclosure and lions pacing back and forth in cages etc……..I will never forget those images and while I have always dreamed of seeing lions and elephants and all the other animals that one can see roaming wild and free in Africa, I quite possibly never will but seeing them in so many documentaries over the years I feel that I have and it has enriched my understanding of the animal kingdom far more than an aquarium or zoo ever could.

Captivity is not the way to educate ourselves or children about wildlife, not in this modern age with easy accessibility to well made narrated video’s and documentaries that most of us can view from the comfort of our own living rooms.

Born Free is a 1966 Technicolor British drama film starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers as Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lion cub, to adulthood, and released her into the wilderness of Kenya. The movie was based upon Joy Adamson’s 1960 non-fiction book Born Free.

In my poem below I use the words dolphins and orcas interchanging. With orcas being the largest members of the dolphin family both species are being held in captivity in concrete tanks.

 Held Captive In Concrete Tanks

Round and round they go, the largest
dolphins of their kind. Depressed and
lethargic they circle, from years of abuse
by confinement and isolation, separated
from their families, often solitary and living
their lives as prisoners in concrete tanks.

How can men, women and parents today find
any joy in this heartless captive industry when
technology brings to us for free the sights and
sounds from oceans vast via hydrophones
and wildlife web cams. There is no excuse, not
one today for this captive industry to stay alive!

How can you take yourselves and children to see
a depressed and floating orca that has been stolen
from the wild and from its family? In a pool you
do not see their playfulness and awesome wonder
that delights the rest of us who rejoice in seeing
them swimming free on camera and in the wild! 

Dolphins travel in all oceans that divide our earth
and yet in knowing this you people still go forth
to see them imprisoned in a tiny concrete pool!
How can you? Surely you know better by now
after endless protests for change and powerful
documentaries like the last one ~ Blackfish.

Do you not see that the tanks are inappropriate
to house their enormous size? Compare it to
locking yourselves or your child inside a closet
or bathroom for a lifetime but so much worse
for in the wild orcas can travel a distance of
some 100 miles each day with their families.

Yet still you go! And your children guided by you
they go too, because you tell them it is okay and
that they will love the orcas so much more because
they will see them black and white, up close while
you allow for them to peer on down into the concrete 
pools and through glass walls, shame on you!

~ written by Maureen Towers ~ October 31, 2014

A new documentary:

“A Day in the Life of Lolita” is all about 44 years of misery in a concrete tank!

~ by filmmaker Daniel Azarian:
It’s not easy to cram 44 years of animal misery into one nine-minute documentary, but filmmaker Daniel Azarian has done just that.

Azarian’s documentary short, “A Day in the Life of Lolita,” tells the story of one of the loneliest killer whales in the world, who lives in the smallest orca tank in America, at the Miami Seaquarium.

So why such a short film to tell such a long story?

“The intention was to keep it under 10 minutes so it could be spread via social media and a good amount of information could be disseminated in a fairly short amount of time,” Azarian told The Dodo.

Azarian first heard about Lolita shortly after the 2010 death of SeaWorld Orlando orca trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. “I never really had given orcas much thought, but the story hit the news and made me curious, so I searched online and learned the plight of Lolita, which simply broke my heart.”

Lolita’s story has broken many hearts.

In August 1970, at just four years of age, Lolita, who was initially named Tokitae, which means “nice day” in the Coastal Salish Indian language, was captured during the infamous Penn Cove roundup. Some 80 whales, comprising nearly every member of the Southern Resident orca community, were ensnared. Most were released, but seven youngsters, including Tokitae, were sold to aquariums around the world. She is the only living captive who survived that roundup.

Tokitae was sent to Miami, renamed Lolita and put in the Seaquarium’s small pool as a playmate for a young orca named Hugo, who was taken from Puget Sound in 1968. Hugo would often send high-pitched shrieks across the aquarium grounds, and repeatedly banged his head on the tank wall. One time he broke a viewing window and sliced off the tip of his rostrum on a glass shard.

The two whales performed together for ten years, until March 1980, when Hugo slammed his head into the wall for the last time. A bottlenose dolphin then became Lolita’s only animal companion.
 Not long after hearing about her story, Azarian met Dr. Ingrid Visser, a killer whale scientist who heads New Zealand’s Orca Research Trust and is a world-renowned anti-captivity advocate.

“I’d never met her in person — I had never seen an orca for that matter — and she graciously asked if I would join her on her trip,” Azarian said. “We decided to film her visit, simply to document and have a record of it.”

One noteworthy aspect of their footage was clear evidence that Seaquarium was in violation of OSHA regulations regarding trainers and their proximity to orca tanks — the film shows one trainer in the water and “riding” Lolita for performance. Last July, OSHA ordered the Seaquarium to prevent its trainers from “wet work and dry work performances” in the pool and the facility had to pay a fine of $7,000.

About a month after filming, Azarian reviewed the footage of Lolita floating alone in her pool. “I didn’t feel sadness. I didn’t feel emotion. I felt dead,” he said. “Lolita was just bobbing there, and appeared to be so out of it. I realized we had something potentially very powerful and at the same time very simple on our hands.”

The film follows Visser as she visits the Seaquarium. “It’s not just a mission of passion, it’s a mission of compassion,” she says to the camera. “It’s a tragically small tank.”

Given a chance to speak with the Seaquarium’s owner, Visser adds, “I’d say, ‘What where you thinking? You wouldn’t treat your children that way. You wouldn’t treat your dog that way.”

As the film notes, the federal Animal Welfare Act mandates that orca tanks must be at least 48 feet in each direction. Lolita’s tank is just 35 feet wide. Her story was also told in the 2003 feature documentary, “Lolita: Slave to Entertainment.”

Lolita’s tragic circumstances have inspired a worldwide movement to return her to her native waters. For years, the Orca Network has promoted a plan to retire the whale to a bay on San Juan Island and, perhaps, eventually reunite her with her family. 
Last year, the Orca Network, Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA and others petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to include Lolita with her Southern Resident Killer Whale community on the Endangered Species List, meaning she could not be kept in captivity. In January NMFS agreed, opening a 60-day public comment period, after which it has up to 18 months to make a decision.

“The time has come for us to evolve and realize it is no longer ethical to keep these sentient creatures in what basically amounts to a sea circus,” Azarian said. “Hopefully, we are in for a change, but it is still a long road ahead.”

Visser, in the film, makes the point in a more poignant fashion. “The only way Lolita is going to retire otherwise,” Visser says, “is if she dies.”

The story above was written by David Kirby ~ It was featured on The Dodo Facebook ~ October 31, 2014

https://www.thedodo.com/lolita-the-lonely-orca-is-stil-792299619.html

David Kirby, a regular contributor to the Huffington Post since 2005 and TakePart since 2012, has been a professional journalist for nearly 30 years, and was a contracted writer for The New York Times for four years. He is the author of “Animal Factory,” a highly acclaimed investigation into the environmental impact of factory farms, and “Death at SeaWorld.” Kirby was nominated for four LA Press Club/Southern California Journalism Awards, and won for Best Environmental Reporting of 2013. 

Other links:

http://o.canada.com/entertainment/movies/blackfish-director-undaunted-by-seaworlds-toothy-attack

ORCA NET WORK http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/

THE CORKY PROJECT     http://orca-live.co
LOLITA   http://www.slavetoentertainment.com

 

 

Superb viewing of numerous Orcas + Humpback Whales ~ a fabulous day!

It was a truly beautiful and sunny day for watching whales in Johnstone Strait, beginning this morning with the sighting of two humpback whales en route to seeing orcas. One humpback was a distance away, the other, Argonaut, we were able to observe and identify by its fluke prior to it diving. It was very exciting to watch this big whale moving about in Weynton Passage, especially for those onboard today who had never seen a humpback whale before! The orcas were well spread out across Johnstone Strait, mostly following along the Vancouver Island shoreline but not all of them, some large males were mid Strait and foraging, A46 was one of them. They were taking their time swimming against the flooding current and we so enjoyed watching tail and pectoral slapping as well spyhopping and some breaching. The A42’s, A23’s and A25’s were among the orcas seen, we also believe that there was some G-Clan orcas present, we heard some G-Clan calls briefly via our hydrophone, possibly the I12’s, an I12 like fin was seen (by binoculars) but it was not then possible to obtain a photo because of the angle and direction that the orca was taking! It was a fabulous day to be out on the water and the experience was one of breathtaking beauty and wonder! Also seen today: harbour seals, dall’s porpoises, bald eagles, fork-tailed storm petrels, rhinoceros auklets, common murres, black turnstones and gull species.

Today’s penned comments: “Wonderful tour. The scenery is breathtaking. We were very lucky to see orcas. Especially flattered that we were able to see slapping and tail shows. Love the muffins and scones. ”               ~Rich & Sandi, California

“What an awesome trip, beautiful day, lovely whales and great scones and tea. Thank you very much!!                  ~ Peter, Franke, Fabian & Miriam, Comox Valley, BC

“Wonderful trip, lots of orcas! Interesting behaviour (spyhops!!). Great hosts and tea and scones and muffins. ”        ~ Wendy, Montreal and Judy, Vancouver

“We’re from Germany, first time in Canada and the biggest wish was to see Orca’s. Today we saw so many of them….it just took our breath! Amazing!!! And the scones are sooo good!”                                                                 ~ Katharina, Frantiska and Sylvana, GermanyIMG_2446 IMG_2448 IMG_2451 IMG_2454 IMG_2459 IMG_2464 IMG_2532 IMG_2540 IMG_2545 IMG_2577 IMG_2585 IMG_2627 IMG_2638 IMG_2644 IMG_2646 IMG_2647 IMG_2649