Thursday, May 24, 2012

5/24 10th Anniversary of Orphan Whale Springer Rescue Celebrated in June and July in Vancouver, Seattle and Johnstone Strait

May 24, 2012

Brian Gorman, National Marine Fisheries Service, (206) 526-6613
Lara Sloan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, (250) 363-3749
Linda Nishida, Vancouver Aquarium, (604) 659-3777
Donna Sandstrom, The Whale Trail, (206) 919-5397
Mary Borrowman, (250) 928-3187


Springer, 2002 (Photo: Mark Sears)
Ten years ago, an orphaned killer whale from Canada brought scientists, government officials, tribes and concerned citizens together in a dramatic and successful rescue effort.

This summer, the rescue of Springer, also known as A73, of Canada’s Northern Resident killer whale population, will be celebrated in June and July with three events featuring first-hand accounts of Springer’s rescue and reunion with her pod, updates on the status of orca populations and scientific research, and how citizens can help in whale conservation and recovery efforts.

Events include an evening celebration open to the public (registration required) at the Vancouver Aquarium on Tuesday, June 12 at 7PM; an afternoon public program at Seattle’s Alki Beach Bathhouse on Saturday, June 23 at 11 AM; and a 10th anniversary reunion at Telegraph Cove, B.C., from July 12 to 15.

“We’ve come far in what we know about our killer whale neighbours since the rescue of Springer and her reunion with her family, but there’s so much more we have yet to learn,” said Lance Barrett-Lennard, marine mammal scientist at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Springer, a two-year old orphan, appeared 10 years ago in Puget Sound near Vashon Island after becoming separated from her family. Three hundred miles from home, the little orca captured international attention and galvanized community support for a relocation effort.

Concerned about her weakening health and increasing human interactions, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and Vancouver Aquarium mounted the first-ever orca relocation project.

Springer was rescued near Seattle on June 12, 2002, and was rehabilitated in a holding pen in Manchester, Washington.

“The decision to rescue Springer was not an easy one to make,” said Will Stelle, director of NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest regional office in Seattle. “There were risks and unknowns every step of the way. In the end, we were successful because we worked as a team. Community involvement and support were a key part of the project.”

On July 13, Springer was transported in a donated jet catamaran from Washington to a holding pen 250 miles to the north in Johnstone Strait.

After being lowered into her holding pen in Dong Chong Bay on Hanson Island, Springer was welcomed home by Chief Bill Cranmer and other members of the Namgis Band.

Less than 24 hours later, her pod swam by the release site, and she was returned to the wild on July 14, 2002.

“Many things came together to make the reunion a success,” said John Ford, DFO marine mammal scientist. “The donation of a jet catamaran allowed us to get her home quickly. Her family showed up much sooner than anyone expected. She eventually was able to keep up with them and, by the end of the summer, she was acting like a normal whale.”

Today, Springer is healthy and fully integrated with her extended family, and has returned each year to their summering grounds in Johnstone Strait where a 4-day reunion will be held in July.

 “There’s a lot of ‘magic’ in Springer’s story,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and organizer of the June 23 Seattle celebration event which will also feature unveiling of the latest Whale Trail signs in West Seattle.

“To get her home, we had to learn how to work together. Today, we have not just one whale to save but an entire population of Southern Resident orcas. We hope Springer’s success will inspire people to become engaged with issues facing orcas today,” said Sandstrom.

For more information on the Springer 10th anniversary events, go to The Whale Trail.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18, 1980

Some readers may not have been born; others might be suffering senior moments or worse trying to remember where they were the day Mount St. Helens erupted.

It was a Sunday morning and I was in the cabin on Lopez Island with wife and child. We’d moved to Seattle a few months earlier and I was publishing The Seattle Sun. We had returned for the weekend with friends Sarah and Charlie.

I heard the boom in bed early in the morning and thought it was the Whidbey Island Naval Air Base doing early morning sounds of freedom airborne exercises.

No TV, no internet at the cabin. Sure, there was NPR on KUOW but that was before Morning Edition and Will Shortz puzzles— so it wasn’t until we were driving back to Seattle and I turned on the radio did we learn about the eruption that morning.

Then, I was glued to the radio and the newspaper and the TV for the rest of the week.

That was 32 years ago. Where were you on May 18, 1980?

--Mike Sato 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Walking the Talk at Lake Padden

Logo designed by Kim Lund
A few months ago the Whatcom County Council rejected reinstating an urban growth area designation in the Lake Padden watershed.

Citizens had testified on behalf of postponing any action on the growth area until water quality studies could be completed in 2012 to guide responsible land use decisions. Citizens also encouraged greater stewardship in the watershed and for the lake’s health.

Before the vote, Councilmember Sam Crawford threw a hissy fit and accused neighbors living near the lake of being NIMBYs and derided their water quality study efforts.

Since the Council’s vote, volunteers and partners of People for Lake Padden have continued their land use analysis and water quality surveys.

This weekend, at the Junior Ski to Sea event at Lake Padden, volunteer Julie Goebel and home school parents and students will be reaching out to folks at the lake with information about the lake studies and engaging people to take a pledge to help keep Lake Padden healthy.

The display they will be using and the materials that have been produced are the result of volunteer labor, donations and City of Bellingham partnership. Volunteers will be ‘manning’ tables at the lake during summer events, culminating in a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Lake Padden Park on September 8.

Details on the study progress and event schedule are found at People for Lake Padden.

How about that, Councilman Crawford? Come by this Saturday and say hello. Might learn a thing or two about walking the talk at Lake Padden.

--Mike Sato

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What’s An Island Beach Without Sand?

(Photo:Star Advertiser)
A few months ago, I wrote about the big $2.5 million project to replenish 1,730 feet of beach at Waikiki with sand pumped from the sea bed offshore. (What’s a Beach Worth Without Sand?)

After three months of work, the project is still being finished up. Initially, workers loaded sand sucked from offshore into an air-conveyance machine designed to blow it down the beach through an underground pipeline. Due to mechanical problems the pipeline method failed to work so they’re doing it the old fashion way: truck the sand on the beach to spots in need of widening.

That’s tourist-centric Waikiki Beach.

Yesterday, the US Geological Survey reported that about 70 percent of the beaches on Oahu, Kauai and Maui are being lost to long-term erosion. The 10-year study found 85 percent of beaches are eroding on Maui, 71 percent are eroding on Kauai and 60 percent of Oahu's beaches are eroding, according to a news report in the Star Advertiser, Erosion taking a big bite out of isle beaches

The study attributed accelerated loss due to human activity. Of the 9 percent of beaches lost on Oahu, Maui and Kauai totaling 13.3 miles in the past century, nearly all of them have been lost due to the building of sea walls.    The shoreline changes will be further accelerated by sea level rise, estimated by be close to 3 feet by the end of the century.

The study's lead author said that, with the new information about coastal erosion, government agencies have the ability to develop new policies to establish building "setbacks" based on erosion rates of a specific property.

Hard to imagine the government doing that in development-frenzied Hawaii. But what’s an island to do with beaches without sand?

--Mike Sato

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Travel Notes: Orthodontists, Golden Week and a Part of Town Called Kaimuki

Last week the Waikiki hotels were running at near capacity, thanks to a convention of orthodontists and a horde of visitors from Japan. The doctors were easily recognized by the wads of money they’d collected from parents falling out of their pockets and their perfect smiles.

The visitors from Japan were celebrating “Golden Week,” an annual conjunction of holidays that allows more extended travel.  Last year Golden Week wasn’t golden for hotels and merchants because the Japanese stayed home out of respect for Fukushima disaster victims.

In the last few weeks I’ve been a tourist in Brussels and in Baltmore. In Honolulu I tried to put my eye and mind in the same traveler framework when walking around where I grew up.

That’s hard to do in a place like Waikiki which has been redeveloped and fashioned in a way that —save for its incredible beach and water — retains little history or sense of local culture that might draw the eye with any interest.

The ‘visitor from another planet’ exercise is easier in a local neighborhood like Kaimuki, a ‘locals only’ area not be design but more by default because the neighborhood isn’t anchored by any major stores or shopping mall. The marquee of the old Queen Theatre still stands above the closed theater on busy Waialae Avenue. I am fascinated by an old neon sign announcing the past glory of the Vanity Beauty Salon.

The area isn’t depressed, it isn’t gentrified. Small storefronts: a bank branch, Cosmo Prof Salon, Okata Bento (closed with a happy face and the ‘n’ missing), Asuka Restaurant (New Style “Japanese” NABE + SHABUSHABU Coming Soon!), Aloha Crepes, Kaimuki Camera, Saigon’s Vietnamese Restaurant (Grand Opening), and Toys n Joys (in the old Ben Franklin storefont). Upstairs from the BBQ CafĂ©, the Himalayan Restaurant. And more restaurants because people here eat a lot.

Not Brussels, not Baltimore, not Bellingham. Real Honolulu, real businesses, real people.

--Mike Sato

Monday, May 7, 2012

Travel Notes: Where the GOP Sounds Like Teddy Roosevelt

The Hawaii Legislature adjourned in a last minute frenzy at the end of last week.

As with most legislatures, the budget, jobs and the economy were top agenda items for the heavily Democratic-controlled chambers and governor. The Democrats and the governor’s approach to jobs and economic stimulus this session was to push for relaxing environmental reviews and making exemptions.

Most legislation got pulled except for some environmental exemptions expediting state construction projects. House leadership expects to bring more pro-development bills forth next session.

So who stood with environmentalists in opposing these assaults on the environment and its protections?

"In keeping with the legacy of Republican president and staunch environmentalist Theodore Roosevelt, Republicans in the state House successfully led the way in opposing a series of bills that would have resulted in lasting damage to our environment," said Rep. Gene Ward, House GOP leader.

Republicans only hold eight out of the 51 House seats so that’s lo-lo (crazy) talk but it’s a breath of fresh air to hear Republicans speak to the ‘conservative’ principles they supposedly stand for.

--Mike Sato

Friday, May 4, 2012

Travel Notes: Tropic Living Below Nature’s Chirping

There are seven, some say eight, types of geckos living in Hawaii. Since being introduced in the 1940s, the Common House Gecko ( Hemidactylus frenatus ) has pretty much taken over.

Two fat ones are living in the fluorescent light fixture over my mother’s dining room table. When the lights are on, we can see them through the opaque glass, their fat pink bellies and slender tails and lizard feet— along with their poop and remains of insects they’ve fed on.

My mother understandably wants them out and the fixture cleaned out.

“Most homes in Hawaii welcome geckos,” writes Linda Pascatore in The Gecko, "because they eat insects like ants, mosquitos and roaches. Geckos are very vocal creatures. They make a clicking sound that sounds almost like a person saying, “Tsk, tsk, tsk”, which can be heard at night. They also make repeated chirping sounds at times. Another sound heard is the tapping as the gecko holds its prey in its mouth and hits it against the wall, window, or ceiling to kill it. Here in Hawaii, the occasional gecko poop, eggs found stuck inside printers, and strange night sounds are all well worth the service the gecko performs by eating household insects. Geckos also eat fruit, nectar, and pollen. They will lick up juice with their long tongues.”

My mother wants them out of her house. It is unnerving to hear the “tsk, tsk, tsk” called out overhead during dinner.

According to Explore Biodiversity, “Geckos are one of the few reptiles or amphibians that are notorious for colonizing islands. Part of the reason for this is that some geckos have the amazing ability of parthenogenesis. In essence, this means that one gecko, who successfully made it do an island can produce unfertilized eggs that later become a whole clan of female clones!”

These Common House Geckos aren’t, however, parthenogenetic. There are males and females and the males are territorial; they will also eat juvenile geckos of their own species and other species.
The difficulty with getting them out of the house is that there are two of them and they will no doubt leap out of the fixture in opposite directions when I remove the glass . If we’re lucky, maybe they would scurry up a wall, using those special toepads with thousands of tiny spatula-tipped setae which allow them to climb walls and hang from the ceiling.

 On a wall or on the window, there would be half the chance to capture them.

If we’re unlucky (which would most likely be the case), they’d scurry under the furniture or into the kitchen under the refrigerator or into the bedrooms.

My mother wants them out of the house. It’s tough living with Nature chirping overhead.

--Mike Sato

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Travel Notes: Back To The Little “B”--Bellingham

Mikey's Big Adventure
Brussels, Baltimore— now back in Bellingham.

There’s no point in writing about Baltimore crab cakes; you have to experience them yourself.

Now that the Seattle Viaduct is finally being torn down, I wonder if Baltimore is still the model for how to redevelop a waterfront. Baltimore’s is impressive and people-friendly once you get across the heavy traffic of Light and Pratt streets. I liked the presence of “guides” who answer questions but also carry radios no doubt for security purposes. Nobody’s panhandling down on the waterfront and nobody’s sleeping in the bushes. But one can only walk around the waterfront once, maybe twice, without wondering what the rest of the town is like. For that, Baltimore runs three routes on its “Charm City Circulator,” free bus rides, two of which take you through the downtown waterfront core and out into the ‘hoods, the Orange and the Purple Routes. Great way to see the real city, real people.

One day in Washington DC as tourist. I think about being in Brussels and in Washington, D.C., both national capitals. I agree with the Lonely Planet Brussels guidebook that the massive architectural style of the palaces and halls of justice is meant to convey a sense of power over people.  Our Rotunda and Washington Monument stand in stark contrast with Brussels’ official buildings; you walk up to and enter the Lincoln Memorial. The museums and galleries look imposing— but they are people places, ride free zones, welcoming, edifying.

Here in the small “B”, the Georgia-Pacific site is a big chunk of bay waterfront being redeveloped. Maybe we’ll have Dungeness crab cakes to eat and guides to share the lore. Maybe people’s museums and galleries, even free transit links instead of car parking lots.

--Mike Sato