On June 6, Center for Whale Research (CWR) staff participated in the Orca Salmon Alliance’s Orca Action Month Kick-off Event hosted at CWR’s ORCA SURVEY Outreach & Education Center in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. The four-hour Zoom event featured presentations by CWR’s Ken Balcomb, Dr. Michael Weiss, Katie Jones, and Lode Gilbert Budwill, among others from the “orca world.” In this week’s BLOG, read and watch our CWR team members’ fascinating talks about the: History of ORCA SURVEY, the CWR-University of Exeter Aerial Observation Study, Who Are The Southern Resident Orcas? and witness a Legendary Superpod.
Watch the entire Orca Action Month Kick-off Event on Orca Network’s YouTube page.
Alan Budwill, former Seattle radio personality, co-hosted the Orca Action Month Kick-off Event. He interviewed the Center for Whale Research’s founder and senior scientist, Ken Balcomb, about the History of ORCA SURVEY. We've transcribed the final four minutes (1:40:46 - 1:45:03) of the interview, where, after watching and listening to Ken’s video narration of ORCA SURVEY ENCOUNTER #1 from April 8, 1976, Alan asks him: Can you compare what was happening then to where we are now?
KB: “Well, what was happening then was the Southern Resident killer whales that we had just named, along with Mike Bigg’s collaborative study, we're recovering from captures for the display industry. And there were about 70 [Southern Resident orcas] when we began. We confirmed that with Mike. And the population increased from 1976 through the 80s and then took a little dip, and then increased again to almost 100. We estimate there were 120 whales before the captures. They were on the road to recovery, and then boom, they started a big decline. And everybody wondered why.
“Currently, there are 75 whales counting the babies. The babies in the initial years weren’t counted because they have to survive one year before they got their count. Because we knew there was a high mortality. And it's gone even higher. We wondered: What is the cause of that? The cause is lack of food! The mother can afford to raise them. And this has happened in that period of our study where their food supply, the Chinook salmon, has basically been depleted in the Salish Sea and the Eastern North Pacific. They’re maintained right now on a sort of ICU basis with the hatcheries, and that's clearly not working. We need to recover wild salmon. So, that's why we're here in the Big Salmon Ranch, to celebrate recovery of wild salmon. It can be done. Fix the rivers, and they will come.”
CWR’s Ken Balcomb showing his handprinted logbook containing
Alan Budwill then asks Ken: So Ken, before I get tucked into bed here, did you have anything else that you would like to share here for Orca Month?
KB: “Well, yes, Alan. It occurs to me as we celebrate Orca Month and celebrate this recovery of salmon in the Elwha [River]; we’re looking at two icon species that we’re at serious risk of losing. And that’s bad enough, but what we’re most at risk of losing is our environmental compass. What direction do we want to go? Do we want to go toward this extension program, or do we want to go toward a recovery program? It really bothers me that our political leaders, I hate to get political here, but our leaders and even our bureaucracies are content to lose the needle. Where do we go? What’s our direction? I mean: in climate change, and in salmon restoration or recovery, and in orca viability. Where do we want to go? This is what, you know, we all have to take to heart and let our leaders know: Hey, this isn’t acceptable to just talk about it; you’ve got to do something.”
“We all have to take to heart and let our leaders know: Hey, this isn’t acceptable to just talk about it; you’ve got to do something.”
TAKE ACTION: Let our politicians and bureaucrats know that
they’ve got do something . . . NOW!
Watch the other educational and entertaining Orca Action Month Kick-off presentations by Center for Whale Research staff: Dr. Michael Weiss, Katie Jones, and Lodie Gilbert Budwill.
Best of 2019 Drone Video of Southern Resident Orcas narrated by Dr. Michael Weiss’ about the Center for Whale Research-University of Exeter Aerial Observation Study. Michael also participated in the Orca Action Month Kick-off Event Q&A (beginning at 2:33:45).
Are you a Center for Whale Research Member? Membership donations provide financial support to our organization, helping us continue our five decades of scientific studies while speaking out on behalf of the Southern Resident orcas.