Wild At The Point - Help Stop Orca Cruelty!
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The US NOAA Fisheries has started a public comment period to implement new laws to restrict boat traffic in the vicinity of orcas. Their recommendations include increasing boat distances from 100 yards to 200 yards and creating a “No Go” zone along the west side of San Juan Island.
Whale watch companies claim that they must get close with orcas or else they will go broke. However, financial profits must not take priority over stopping orca cruelty. For years the innocent orcas tried to cope with all the boats all day long. The whale watch business is not about education to protect endangered species. It’s all about making money at the expense of these endangered orcas.
I have studied the behaviour and travel patterns of orcas for 15 years. Some of that work was done under a Canadian research permit. It is a fact that boat traffic has a negative impact on the lifestyles of orcas. Industry people want to hide behind any gap in “science” when it just makes common sense to respect orcas and let them be!
The continuous boat pressure interrupts their lives and feeding. This ongoing stress can make them sick and more susceptible to illnesses. Starved orcas rely on their fat reserves that contains toxic pollutants.
1. Both Canada and the US must implement the same stricter laws to protect transboundary orcas.
2. The 200 yards should be 400 yards as recommended when companies are watching nursing orcas.
3. There must be no whale watch zones, such as Active Pass, in high boat traffic locations.
4. There can be whale watch zones where designated locations are defined to stop companies from continuously following them all day long.
5. In addition to the San Juan Islands, no go zones should include the Point Roberts, WA shoreline where orcas forage.
6. Time limits of maximum 30 minutes must be implemented. Presently companies can be on the orcas for two hours or longer.
7. Weather restrictions must include no whale watching during fog and stormy conditions. Commercial boats can’t see the orcas and could hit them!
8. There should be government licensing of whale watch companies. This would include a restriction on the number of licenses issued.
9. There should be training of whale watch operators and ECO Certification of those in good standing.
10. Governments should promote land-based whale watching such as Lifeforce’s Orca Trails.
Lifeforce’s 2008 report “Contact: In Pursuit of Orcas” provides many, many examples of whale watch companies’ non-compliance with rules and legislation (see http://www.lifeforcefoundation.org/files/INPURSUITORCASJAN2009_sm.pdf)
For 15 years the Lifeforce’s Boater Awareness Program has advised boaters of the rules and, most importantly, respect when operating in the vicinity of endangered orcas. We found that the pleasure boaters usually say they are just doing what the companies are doing because they thought at they knew what to do. When not watched by government enforcement agencies whale watch companies get far to close and repeatedly block the path ways.
More enforcement is needed so existing and any improved laws are adhered to. Lifeforce urges all to also email US Commerce Gary Locke to increase orca protection by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (Email TheSec@doc.gov). In Canada contact Minister Shea (Email Shea.G@parl.gc.ca).
One of the most important actions to protect orcas is to promote land-based whale watching that is popular worldwide. Lifeforce’s Orca Trails was created in the 90s. We would report to Park Managers when the orcas will pass by marine parks. One such location is Lighthouse Marine Park in Point Roberts where orcas will pass by as close as 50 feet off the beach. From August 14 to August 21 orcas were present seven out of the eight days during some mornings, afternoons and sunsets. One anxious group of kids had unforgettable memories watching approx 25 orcas. Some were breaching and some just 25 feet off the beach.
Orcas stay longer when they are not chased by boats. If it is quiet they will socialize and if there is salmon they will also feed. More orca time brings both nonintrusive public enjoyment of these magnificent creatures and also could bring more tourism to Point Roberts.
Over the past decade the whale watch industry has drastically grown. The lack of proper government actions has led to the chaos on the water. The victims are the endangered orcas. It is time that government provide the orcas with more peaceful and natural lives.
See the new lifeforce video about the whale watch industry – “stop the orca cruelty!”
More Wildlife at the Point
Other wildlife of interest includes deer reports, raccoons, Ring-necked Pheasants, and Cooper’s Hawk. And they weren’t wolves but some hot dogs were chilling out in a convertible.
Locals have said that there has been a buck, a doe and two young deer spotted in various areas of the Point. Raccoons are also found on the Point. “Coons” are native to North America. Escapes and introductions during the mid-20th century spread their range across Europe and Japan. Fortunately for Point pheasants it is not pheasant under glass but they are under shrubs, trees and storage sheds. A male flew into the new storage business on Gulf Road and a female was on Marine Drive at the campground. BC populations have declined by 90% in the last 30 thirty years. An immature Cooper’s Hawk has been seen by the camp ground. They ambush prey from hidden perch and also search in flight. During the heat wave some cool dogs were seen at TJ’s restaurant in a red VW convertible. The dog is descended from the wolf. They were probably the first animal to be domesticated around 15,000 years ago. Perhaps these canines trained their driver to fetch dinner?
Respect and Enjoy Wildlife
Point Roberts is a bit of paradise. While we marvel at the wonders of wildlife please don’t approach, feed or try to touch. They may look cute but they can cause severe injuries. Junk food can kill them. So respect and enjoy them from a distance.
Lifeforce Wildlife Reports, Nature Moments videos, and Wildpeace photographs are available at www.lifeforcefoundation.org.
Note: This is the fourth article about wildlife on and around the Point in 2009. The other stories are at http://www.allpointbulletin.com/archives/archives.html
Donations are greatly appreciated and can be sent to Lifeforce, Box 121, Point Roberts, 98281 or Box 3117, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6. Thank you.