Thursday, August 9, 2018

8/9 Garter snake, J35 & J50, SRKW task force report, killing sea lions, orca research, EPA water rule, fish smell, Kauai fish

Garter snake [Wikipedia]
Garter snakes
The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is found from coastal and mountain forests to sagebrush deserts, usually close to water or wet meadows or your garden. Next to the Northwestern garter snake, this species is the most frequently encountered snake. It has brightly colored stripes (yellow, green, blue) that run lengthwise along its body, and a grayish-blue underside. It grows to 2 to 3 feet. The Western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans) occurs in a wide variety of habitats and, despite its name, it spends a lot of time in water. This garter snake is usually gray-brown or black, with a dark, checkered pattern between yellow stripes. Identification difficult because there are four subspecies, all varying in coloration. Nearly black forms occur in some areas. It can grow to a length of 40 inches. The Northwestern garter snake (Thamnophis ordinoides) is somewhat less widespread than its two cousins, preferring coastal and mountain forest habitats. However, it is commonly found in suburban areas and city parks. It’s more slender than other garter snakes, reaching 2 feet at maturity. It is dark above and has stripes of varying colors, often red and orange. (WDFW)

‘I am sobbing’: Mother orca still carrying her dead calf — 16 days later 
Tahlequah, the mother orca also known as J35, was spotted Wednesday afternoon, still carrying her dead infant calf for the 16th straight day. “I am absolutely shocked and heartbroken,’’ said Deborah Giles, research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca. “I am sobbing. I can’t believe she is still carrying her calf around,” Giles said, adding, “I am gravely concerned for the health and mental well being of J35.... Michael Milstein, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said Tahlequah was spotted at about 1:30 p.m. by researchers at Fisheries Oceans Canada. Tahlequah was seen along with her entire family off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula. J50, the ailing 3 1/2-year-old orca in the same family also was seen, along with her mother, J16. NOAA has mounted an emergency rescue plan for the young whale, J50, who is emaciated and may also have an infection. The agency was submitting paperwork by Wednesday afternoon to allow medical intervention for the whale in Canadian waters if need be, including an injection of antibiotics. All permits are already in hand to intervene in Washington waters, including with a possible emergency feeding plan. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times) See also: Canada not ready to treat endangered young killer whale under U.S. plan  Lisa Johnson reports. (CBC)

Summary of Task Force Meeting #3 in Wenatchee
Monika Wieland in Orca Watcher reports on Tuesday's meeting of the governor's Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force in Wenatchee. "It was a jam-packed day, with constant activity from 9 AM to 5 PM, where members of the public were allowed to observe and then give brief 2-minute comments if desired at the end. In addition to the task force there have been three working groups, one for each of the three risk factors: prey, toxins, and vessel effects. These working groups have been charged with coming up with potential actions for the task force to recommend and today was the day they reported back to get feedback from the larger task force...." (read more)

Being Frank: Tribes Support Sea Lion Removal Legislation
Federal legislation allowing lethal removal of more sea lions in the lower Columbia River is a good step toward reining in out-of-control populations that are hurting salmon and orca recovery efforts throughout the region. Treaty tribes in western Washington support U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s bipartisan legislation to allow the annual lethal removal of about 900 of the animals on the lower Columbia River where dams slow migrating salmon and create an all-you-can-eat buffet for sea lions. The bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and a companion bill is being considered by the U.S. Senate. Sea lion populations on the West Coast have more than tripled to about 275,000 since the Marine Mammal Protection Act was created in 1972. Regional salmon managers are concerned about impacts from sea lions and harbor seals on threatened chinook salmon, especially young salmon just leaving their native streams. Adult chinook are the favorite food of southern resident killer whales, the endangered orcas that are the focus of a recovery task force in Washington state. (Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)

That pain you feel about orcas? The Lummi know it well
Helping our relatives. That’s what Darrell Hillaire calls the project to offer salmon to the young whale known as J50. Hillaire is a member of the Lummi Nation and uses the word relatives to talk about members of the natural world like whales and salmon. “We have relations with them, don't we?” Hillaire said. “We harvest them. We have them at the middle of our table and at our gatherings. They're with us. The spirit of what they do is celebrated in our song and our ceremony. We give thanks to them. That's a relationship.” The plight of orcas in an endangered pod has brought an outpouring of emotion around Puget Sound in recent weeks. That connection to these whales is something the people of the Lummi tribe know well. Anna Boiko-Weyrauch reports/. (KUOW)

Daphne Bramham: Rewriting the book on killer whales ... again
There are mysterious and puzzling things happening in the Salish Sea. They may be new, but maybe they’re not. Maybe we’re to blame or, perhaps, what we are witnessing is Nature at its most complicated and brutal. Attention has focused on this because of the recent unusual behaviour of a female orca carrying along her dead calf for days. It has triggered an overwhelming global predisposition to anthropomorphize and call it grieving. The truth is that no one knows what that particular mother is feeling or why she is acting this way. No one knows whether what she is doing is unique or whether it’s that humans are only witnessing it for the first time — even though the southern residents known as J-pod have been studied for years as they range from California in the winter to the Salish Sea in the summer. (Vancouver Sun)

EPA reconsiders Washington state’s contentious water rules
The Environmental Protection Agency is reconsidering water quality standards it approved for Washington state two years ago, taking up a review requested by industry groups. In November 2016, the EPA finalized water quality standards for the state tied partly to how much fish people eat. The EPA approved some aspects of the state’s plan but decided in many cases to set stricter limits than the state had wanted. The EPA said at the time that the combination of its own federal rules and parts of the state’s plan would protect residents from exposure to toxic pollutants. In a letter Friday, EPA assistant administrator David Ross told one of the petitioners, Utility Water Act Group, that his agency would reconsider its actions. Phuong Le reports. (Associated Press)

Acidifying oceans killing fish’s sense of smell, say scientists
Fish rely on their noses to guide them to food, escape predators, and find mates. Now, scientists believe increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the ocean are harmful to fish’s ability to pick up scents. The researchers worry about the potential impacts a diminished sense of smell could have on fish populations.Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater, forming carbonic acid. About a third of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans is taken up by the ocean in this fashion, causing the pH of the ocean to go down and making it more acidic. Ocean acidification is known to be harmful to shellfish and corals, but the effects on marine fish are less well-studied. In a new study, juvenile European Sea Bass were held in tanks with seawater that simulated the ocean 50 and 100 years in the future. The fish’s sense of smell was tested by placing them in a tank and injecting monkfish bile into the water to simulate a predator. The researchers found that the fish who had been raised in the acidified ocean swam, on average, 42 percent closer to the “predator” than the control, or untreated, group of fish. Giuliana Viglione reports. (KING)

Holy Mackerel, With No Tourists In Sight The Fish Are Returning To Kauai’s North Shore
If the sunscreen-slicked bodies swarming Hawaii’s most popular beaches vanished, would near-shore fish stocks swell? On Kauai, where a disastrous springtime flood quashed the average daily visitor count at Haena’s celebrated end-of-the-road lagoon from a couple thousand to virtually none, residents report a summer season characterized by something not seen here since the 1950s: tourist-free waters teeming with fish. Not only do species like kala, or bluespine unicornfish, seem more plentiful than normal, but they are swimming in waters so shallow that their tails breach the surface. These observations come from the area’s longtime fishermen, who practice traditional sustainable fishing techniques to protect the ocean resources that feed these rural neighborhoods.  Brittany Lyte reports. (Honolulu Civil Beat)

Now, your tug weather--
West Entrance U.S. Waters Strait Of Juan De Fuca-  232 AM PDT Thu Aug 9 2018   

TODAY  NW wind to 10 kt rising to 10 to 20 kt in the afternoon.  Wind waves 1 ft or less building to 1 to 3 ft in the afternoon. W  swell 3 ft at 12 seconds. 

TONIGHT  W wind 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 2 ft or less. W swell  3 ft at 11 seconds.

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