Wild at the Point: Wildlife Past and Future
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< Orcas off Lighthouse Marine Park. Photo by Peter Hamilton/Lifeforce
It was more than 25 years ago when Lifeforce helped stop the now defunct “Sealand” in Victoria, BC from capturing local resident orcas. In 1982 these orcas were saved but the battles continued. As fate and donated boat would have it the orca protection campaign came to Point Roberts in 1993. From education displays in the Orca Center to Orca Trails land-based whale watching to monitoring boat traffic the work continued out of the Point Roberts Marina and Lighthouse Marine Park.
Orcas were faced with numerous threats including harassment from whale watch companies and dwindling food sources. Lifeforce started our research with hopes of convincing the governments that a population of less than 85 orcas is a major threat to their survival. At that time the media attention was focused on 300 Right whales in the Atlantic and 500 belugas in the St. Lawrence River but no outcry for the orcas families who passed Point Roberts. Lifeforce’s hard hitting criticisms finally prodded others into taking action. That resulted in the Southern Community finally being listed as endangered in 2005.
In 1993 Point locals and visitors started seeing a lone “whale”. This was a rare opportunity to view the first lone False killer whale worldwide. Information was gleaned from the frequent boat followings to fulfill her behavioural and social needs. It gave Lifeforce insights into how to help reunite other lone dolphins with their families. Wilma or Willy left in 2005 never to be seen again in our waters.
Fishing is now somewhat restricted with shorter openings to commercial fishing. In the late 70s I watched from the bluffs the commercial boats as far as the eye could see. Their navigation lights appeared to be as infinite as the stars above. It was 1993 when I saw the last days of salmon returns so massive that it was said that you could walk on across the water on them.
The days of duck, pheasant and deer hunting are part of the past history. However, talk remains about present day coyote and deer shootings even though it is illegal to discharge firearms on the Point.
Opposition to the massive Delta Port Container expansion will hopefully continue. The Canadian environmental review stated that it would destroy precious ecosystems and Canada would be embarrassed internationally. So why was the permission eventually granted?
The constant black clouds with the coal dust from Westshore Terminals must be resolved. Costly to cover it but what is the cost to our health? And the coal is shipped away and returns as “acid rain” pollution. Perhaps the Global Warming movement will cap coal production and put an end to it.
We may have come full circle back to the whale threats with countries attempting to lift the worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling. So it may well be “Save the Whales Again!”
We also continue with the plight of captive orcas. The orcas acquired by Sealand in 1983 included Tillikum and two females who killed a trainer in 1991. As Lifeforce predicted it happened again in 1999 and now this year at Sea World Florida. Finally after dozen of orca attacks on trainers there will be a Congressional hearing, investigations and public opposition that may stop any further exploitation of dolphins in captivity. It is now “Save the Whales and People Too!”
New regulations to stop boats from harassing orcas will need public support. Whale watch companies claimed that they will go broke if they can’t get close. As a result the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service (NOAA) review was extended and new orca protection rules has been delayed until 2011. NOAA recommendations include increasing boat distances from 100 yards to a mere 200 yards.
Boat traffic has a negative impact on the lifestyles of orcas. The continuous boat presence interrupts their lifestyles that include foraging. Starved orcas rely on their fat reserves that contain toxic pollutants. This ongoing stress can make them sick and more susceptible to illnesses.
More enforcement is needed so existing and any improved laws are adhered to. Please email Gary Locke, US Secretary of Commerce, (TheSec@doc.gov) to increase orca protection by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2010. In Canada contact Minister Shea (Shea.G@parl.gc.ca). Lifeforce is organizing a new petition on our web site under, “Stop! Orca Cruelty” www.lifeforcefoundation.org.
Donations are greatly appreciated and can be sent to Lifeforce, Box 121, Point Roberts, 98281 or Box 3117, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6. Thank you.