Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

Children’s Pool in La Jolla Closed for Pupping Season

Violators face misdemeanor charges that carry fines of up to $1,000.

NBC 7 San Diego

Children’s Pool in La Jolla Closed for Pupping Season

The annual closure of the Children’s Pool for harbor seal pupping season started on Sunday.

The beach area will remain closed through May 15, 2020.

Pupping Season Underway in La Jolla

NBC 7 San Diego

Children’s Pool in La Jolla now closed to the public for Pupping Season

The Children’s Pool was opened in 1932 after Ellen Browning Scripps paid for a seawall to built so that inexperienced swimmers can enjoy the beach. Seals started to use the relatively calm water of the beach to rear their pups in the 1990s.

The city started closing the beach in 2014 after environmentalists complained that people were disturbing the marine mammals. The California Coastal Commission issued a permit allowing the beach to close to protect the seals.

A group advocating for beach access called Friends of the Children’s Pool sued the city arguing that the closure violated the California Coastal Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

A lower court sided with the group but the issued was resolved in the city’s favor last year when an appeals court reversed the decision, allowing the city to close the beach for 5 1/2 months each year.

New drone, underwater footage of orcas stuns researchers, gives intimate look at killer whales’ family life

Who knew orcas were so playful, so full of affection, so constantly touching one another?

New footage taken by drone as well as underwater stunned researchers who spent two days with the southern resident orca J pod off the British Columbia coast, including with the newest baby, and more time with northern resident killer whales in B.C.’s Johnstone Strait. The footage taken during three weeks in August and early September was filmed in collaboration with the Hakai Institute, a science research nonprofit.

“It took our breath away,” said Andrew Trites, professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries Department of Zoology and director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Trites is co-lead researcher on a study that over five years is taking a close look at resident killer whales and their prey.

Researchers are comparing the hunting of northern resident orcas like these with the behavior of endangered southern residents. Footage of the whales shot by drone and underwater is opening new understanding of orcas’ lives in the wild. (University of British Columbia / Hakai Institute)
Researchers are comparing the hunting of northern resident orcas like these with the behavior of endangered southern residents. Footage of the whales shot by drone and underwater is opening new understanding of orcas’ lives in the wild…. More 

The drone footage was gathered non-invasively, with the camera hundreds of feet above the whales, who did not seem to even know it was there, Trites said. Combined with underwater microphones, tracking devices used to follow adult chinook, and underwater footage, a spectacular new look into orcas and their day-to-day life in the wild is emerging.

The big standout so far is just how much the orcas touch one another, something not as visible from a boat.

“We like to think we are hardened research scientists, but it tugged at our heart strings,” Trites said, “Especially the mum and calf.”

“These drones are opening up avenues of their lives we have never seen before,” Trites said. “The same way we hug our kids and hug our friends, touch furthers those bonds. That’s the power of touch, and here we have killer whales reminding us of that — who would have thought?”

J pod’s newest baby, here swimming with her mother, carried a salmon in her mouth for two days this summer near the Fraser River in British Columbia, even though she is 3 months old and feeding on her mother’s milk. Was she teething? Learning how to be a big killer whale some day? (Andrew Trites / University of British Columbia)
J pod’s newest baby, here swimming with her mother, carried a salmon in her mouth for two days this summer near the Fraser River in British Columbia, even though she is 3 months old and… (Andrew Trites / University of British Columbia) More 

J pod’s new baby whale, J56, also was seen near the mouth of the Fraser River toting a salmon around in her mouth for two days, even though she is only 3 months old and entirely feeding on her mother’s milk. Is she teething? Or learning how to how to act like a grown-up killer whale?

The core question the investigators are exploring is whether southern residents can get enough chinook salmon — their preferred prey — to eat in the Salish Sea. Data could help answer the question of why for the past three years the southern residents have not been coming back as usual to their core foraging areas in San Juan Island and B.C.

Hostile Waters: Orcas in Peril

ABOUT THIS SERIES “Hostile Waters” exposes the plight of Puget Sound’s southern resident killer whales, among our region’s most enduring symbols and most endangered animals. The Seattle Times examines the role humans have played in their decline, what can be done about it and why it matters.

The southern residents also are thinner on average than the northern residents and have been steadily declining in population, to just 73 animals, while northern residents have been slowly growing in population to more than 300. Like the southern residents, the northerns eat only fish, preferable chinook, but their core habitat while far smaller has more abundant fish runs, and cleaner, quieter water.

By observing both populations and their prey, researchers hope to compare their foraging conditions and hunting behaviors and learn whether it is more difficult for the southern residents to capture prey. “One of the conclusions is, yes, there is a food problem,” Trites said. “But we have to be able to answer that with not just an impression or belief, but with data.”

A southern resident killer whale swims past a school of salmon last August at the Fraser River delta in British Columbia. Fraser chinook have been in decline and sightings of the southern residents in their traditional summer foraging grounds near the San Juan Islands also have become scarce. (Keith Holmes / Hakai Institute)
A southern resident killer whale swims past a school of salmon last August at the Fraser River delta in British Columbia. Fraser chinook have been in decline and sightings of the southern residents in… (Keith Holmes / Hakai Institute) More 

To learn more about the presence, abundance and quality of the orcas’ prey, co-lead Scott Hinch, director of the Pacific Salmon Ecology and Conservation Lab at the University of British Columbia, is capturing and tagging chinook, probing where the big fish are, and examining nutritional quality of the fish.

“We are putting all these pieces together to see what is going on,” Trites said.

The $1 million project is part of the federally funded Whale Science for Tomorrow initiative by the Canadian government, with additional funding and support from other sources.

Walrus sinks Russian Navy boat in the Arctic Ocean

The landing craft had been dispatched from the Russian rescue tug 'Altai', which is on the Northern Fleet's mission in the Arctic Ocean.

London & Moscow (CNN)walrus attacked and sunk a Russian Navy landing boat in the Arctic Ocean last week, with no one hurt in the incident.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the female animal was protecting its calves when it targeted the craft carrying researchers to the shore of Cape Geller in the Arctic.
Those on board were members of a joint expedition by the Northern Fleet — Russia’s naval fleet in the Arctic — and the Russian Geographical Society (RGO).
The ministry said: “Serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well-coordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemen, who were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them.”
The RGO explained in a statement that the boat had “sunk” but confirmed that everyone had reached shore safely.
The organization added: “Recently, we wrote about the risks that accompany expedition members. Wild animals, storms, low temperatures.
“The incident is another confirmation that no one is expecting humans in the Arctic.”
The joint mission is working around the Franz Josef Land archipelago to investigate the flora and fauna of the region, as well as making glaciological observations.
It is also mapping historical expeditions such as those of Austro-Hungarian military officer Julius von Payer in 1874, and American explorer Walter Wellman in 1898.

Fraser, Pitt river seal hunt proposed in Lower Mainland

First Nations say fishing affected, DFO reviewing

There is a growing call for First Nations communities to be able to harvest seals and sea lions along the Fraser and Pitt Rivers for profit.

Thomas Sewid, with the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society, believes that a pinniped harvest is needed in order to save salmon stocks that are being depleted by the animals. Seals, sea lions and walruses, with flippers, are considered pinnipeds.

“Since the 1980s, the seal and sea lion population in British Columbia have exploded,” said Sewid.

“They are just decimating our salmon stocks. And then you factor in the low returns we’re getting this year,” said Sewid, adding that it’s a disaster.

RELATED: Scientists warn of ecosystem consequences for proposed B.C. seal hunt

He would like to see Fisheries and Oceans Canada allow First Nations communities to harvest and sell seal and sea lion products, “to help protect their salmon, sturgeon, trout, steelhead and everything else they are decimating.”

Sewid said that while under the First Nations food, social, ceremonial fishery, many communities have the right to harvest seals and sea lions, they are not allowed to sell the meat, barter it or trade with it.

“What we need is to get licensed,” said Sewid.

Once licensed, Sewid wants to see bands get authorization to close down parts of the river to the public for a certain period to allow hunters in high-visibility vests to remove the seals, although the method by which the seals would be killed hasn’t been confirmed.

“We want people with high-vis vests and radios and cellphone communication to cordon off the area, because First Nations are going to go in and remove the seals and sea lions,” said Sewid.

On Wednesday, hereditary Chief Roy Jones Jr. from the Haida First Nation approached the DFO to demand that they be allowed to sell seal products.

Sewid says there is plenty of interest from industries for seal or sea lion meat, oil, blubber and fur. The oil, he says, can be used in the pharmaceutical industry for lotions and pills for the high Omega 3 content, furs can be used for art and tourism industries, the meat can be used in the pet food industry and, he believes the high-end restaurant market would be interested in the meat as well.

He says it will be a sustainable and viable industry for communities lining the rivers.

Katzie Chief Grace Cunningham says there is an issue with seals impacting the harvest.

“I believe the largest population of seals are obviously in the ocean but when they are in our river they certainly affect our fishing endeavours,” she said.

She says the band has noticed it more in years like this year because of the depleted salmon run.

“We’re not able to get out as often as we would like or need to harvest our own and our fishers have to battle the seals to salvage their catch. The seals literally pull fish out of our nets, half eaten and or simply ruin the flesh,” she continued.

Katzie fisheries manager and councillor Rick Bailey said the issue is how to harvest the animals safely.

“Back in my grandfather’s day they used to just go out with a .22 and shoot them because there was nobody around. They used to get $5 per nose and they would just turn it into the Department of Fisheries in New Westminster and they would pay them in cash and they would go and buy groceries,” he said.

Now, added Bailey, there is too much activity on the river so that shooting the animals is not an option.

He has been trying to design a harpoon that can be safely used like a crossbow.

“Something to do it in a safe and humane way,” he said.

RELATED: Seal attacks kayakers off northern Vancouver Island

Bailey agrees with Sewid that the seal population has exploded.

“When we’re out fishing, we run our boats slow now because of the cost of fuel. You look out the window and the seals are swimming right beside you. Then as soon as you throw your net out they are just patrolling back and forth along the net picking out anything that they can get,” he said.

He compares the situation to a habituated bear. They are not feeding them but whenever they go fishing the seals and sea lions are out there robbing their nets.

Leri Davies with Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirmed that the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society submitted a proposal to commercially hunt pinnipeds under the New and Emerging Fisheries Policy.

Davies said the DFO takes an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries and oceans management to ensure that the best science is reflected, in consideration of the role seals play in a healthy aquatic ecosystem.

Seals and sea lions are an important food source for transient killer whales, also known as Biggs killer whales, Davies said by e-mail. This population of killer whale has been listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act since 2003, she said.

She did say the DFO is reviewing the Pinniped Society’s proposal that has already resulted in several rounds of feedback. And consultations with academic experts in Canada and the U.S. will be ongoing.

Danny Gerak who runs the Pitt River Lodge, says seals are not the problem for declining salmon populations.

“They have been feeding on the salmon for thousands of years. Before we got here and there were lots of salmon,” said Gerak by email from the lodge.

He says the problem is people who are destroying salmon habitat, over fishing, polluting the rivers and streams, killing the spawning grounds with jet boats, allowing disease from fish farms and sea lice and allowing the Japanese and other countries to fish B.C. sockeye on the high seas.

“They’re the least of our problem,” he said.

Sewid says if the government doesn’t back a seal or sea lion harvest they are going to announce a First Nations cull on the entire coast.

“To hell with government. We’ll let them drag us off to court and we’ll prove, like we always do in Supreme Court that we win the dice roll with a 96 per cent success ratio,” he said.

Russia to release whales from ‘jail’ in far east after outcry

Experts of the Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) begin an operation to release the first two orcasImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionExperts released two orcas from the so-called “whale jail” on Thursday

Russia has started to release a group of nearly 100 captive whales which have been kept in small pens in the far east of the country.

It comes after the so-called “whale jail” provoked an international outcry, with marine scientists and celebrities calling for the mammals to be released.

In total, 11 killer whales (orcas) and 87 belugas are being kept in cramped enclosures on the Sea of Japan.

They will be released in stages and the process will take several months.

“We have taken the only sensible decision at the recommendation of scientists to release the animals to their natural habitat where they were caught,” Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Gordeyev told reporters on Thursday.

“This operation will take about four months,” he added. Eight whales will reportedly be freed in the first stage of the process.

President Vladimir Putin praised the decision during his annual televised phone-in in which he fields questions from members of the public.

“The killer whales alone – as far as I know – are worth around 100 million dollars,” he said. “When it’s big money, problems are always hard to solve. Thank God things have started moving.”

What was the “whale jail”?

The juvenile whales were caught last year in the Sea of Okhotsk. They were then transported more than 1,300km (800 miles) south and kept in cramped pens near the port town of Nakhodka.

Although Russia allows the capture of whales for scientific purposes, experts feared the animals were bound for theme parks or aquariums in China.

Individual orcas, often caught illegally, can fetch millions of dollars. Belugas are sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

Belugas at Srednyaya Bay, 1 Mar 19Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe belugas are in cramped pens which are taking a toll on their health

Greenpeace Russia, an environmental group, raised the alarm about the animals last October. They believe at least four of the whales died while in captivity.

Many are known to be in poor health and some have shown signs of hypothermia. In the wild whales swim tens of kilometres every day – and that keeps them warm – but in small pens they get cold.

In January, Greenpeace also reported that some of the whales were showing skin lesions and flipper deterioration. Some of those injuries may have been caused by bumping into the sea ice.

Who campaigned for their release?

The confined whales scandalised scientists, politicians and activists around the world.

Environmental groups demanded the release of the mammals and celebrities have also campaigned to rescue them.

Whale pens, 1 Mar 19Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe whale pens are at a remote site by the Sea of Japan

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio urged his social media followers to sign a petition – and more than 1.5m people have done so.

Pamela Anderson, the former model and Baywatch TV star, wrote to President Vladimir Putin, urging action to release the whales. She is active in the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Earlier this month, the companies that caught the whales were fined for breaking fishing rules. One company – White Whale – was fined 28.1 million rubles ($433,000; £430,000).

Charles Vinick, executive director of the Whale Sanctuary Project, said the release should be conducted “as humanely as possible”.

“We have provided extensive recommendations [about how to do this],” he told the BBC. “While they are not able to follow all of our recommendations, we hope they can follow as many as possible.”

“It’s all about the welfare of the animals,” he added.



Along the coast of the Bering and Chukchi seas in the American state of Alaska discovered a large number of dead seals. Killing at least 60 animals of the three species – ringed seals, the spotted and sea hares. While the cause of death of these marine mammals is not established, according to the National oceanic and atmospheric administration (NOAA).

Carcasses of seals were found in cities Kotlik, Kotzebue, Kivalina, and the Islands of Stuart and the St. Lawrence. While scientists analyze samples.

Some of the dead animal was without hair. Experts are trying to figure out whether it happened in the decomposition of, or was caused by an abnormal shedding that was observed during another mass death of seals in the 2011-2016 years. Then failed to install by the deaths of 657 individuals.

The problem is serious for the region, as the seals are an important food resource for Alaska natives. Some people believe that it could happen because of pollution. Others reported that this year the seal is unusually thin, which tells about the availability of their prey.

Mass deaths of seals in recent years were also found in other regions of the world. So, in 2014, victims of a bird flu outbreak became 4.5 thousand animals in Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Then it was noted that the real tragedy is impossible to know. In reality, could have been dead tens of thousands of seals.

And in 2017, was killed 132 ringed seals in lake Baikal. Then dozens of carcasses were found on three sites of Baikal coast near the village of Novyy enkheluk in Buryatia, near the village of Murino of the Irkutsk region and along the Circum-Baikal railway, between the villages of Port Baikal and Kultuk in the Irkutsk region. The cause of death of animals at the deepest freshwater lake in the world was hunger. As explained by the then experts, the lack of fodder could be caused by the fact that the population of Baikal seals in recent years has increased significantly.

No ‘Free Willy’ moment: captive whales, dolphins exempted under Canada ban

WATCH: The Vancouver Aquarium started planning for a future without whales and dolphins in early 2018.

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Canada’s ban on captive whales and dolphins will not affect those already in captivity, meaning nearly 60 animals will likely live out their natural lives at Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium.

The so-called ‘Free Willy’ bill passed in the Senate Monday will make it illegal to possess whales or dolphins — collectively known as cetaceans — for anything other than research or rehabilitation purposes. Offenders can be fined up to $200,000 under the Criminal Code of Canada, although whales and dolphins currently held in captivity are exempt. The bill also outlaws breeding cetaceans in captivity.

READ MORE: Whale and dolphin captivity banned by law in Canada

The bill’s grandfather clause will allow Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont., to keep its nearly five dozen cetaceans until they all die. Among those cetaceans are five young beluga whales that could live up to 50 years — the expected lifespan of a beluga in the wild.

WATCH: Feds introduce measures to save endangered orcas

Marineland owns the vast majority of living whales and dolphins in Canada, according to the whale-tracking site Cetabase. The park has an estimated 51 beluga whales, five bottlenose dolphins and a 40-year-old killer whale at its facility in Niagara Falls, according to Cetabase data and media reports. The park has not confirmed those exact numbers.

Marineland says it remains confident that it complies with all aspects of the new bill, which is awaiting royal assent. The park claims the exemption for its whales “acknowledged Marineland’s role as a custodian for the cetacean populations that call Marineland home, and specifically acknowledged that Marineland Canada’s actions are not inherently animal cruelty.”

The bill passed by the Senate does not explicitly mention Marineland or animal cruelty.

WATCH: Crown drops animal cruelty charges against Marineland in 2017

“Marineland Canada continues to be a facility where children can learn about and be inspired by cetaceans without invading their natural habitats or disturbing cetacean populations that live in the ocean,” the park said in a statement on Monday. Marineland says it started evolving its operations “some time ago,” and it’s confident that evolution will keep it compliant with all aspects of the new bill.

Marineland did not provide Global News with the exact number of whales and dolphins in its care, nor did it say whether it will release any into the wild.

“Marineland will continue to provide world-class care to all marine mammals that call Marineland home,” the park said in a statement to Global News.

“With our current mammal population, we will be able to operate decades into the future uninterrupted.”

READ MORE: Ships must keep 400 metres away as part of new rules to protect killer whales on B.C. coast

Many aquariums around the world have faced intense criticism for housing cetaceans since 2013, when the documentary film Blackfish depicted the allegedly poor treatment of killer whales in captivity at SeaWorld in Florida. SeaWorld has described the film as inaccurate, misleading and exploitative.

Activists have been pushing for aquariums to divest themselves of their whales and dolphins ever since the film’s release.

The federal Green Party and its leader, MP Elizabeth May, applauded the ban as a ‘Free Willy’ law on Monday.

“These intelligent, social mammals will now get to live where they belong — in the ocean,” the party wrote on Twitter.

May sponsored the bill in the House of Commons, while Sen. Murray Sinclair sponsored it in the Senate.

The bill also leaves room for the Vancouver Aquarium to hold onto its only cetacean, a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen.

The Vancouver Aquarium started phasing out its whale and dolphin displays last year following public pressure over the deaths of two belugas. It sent another pair of its belugas to Spain in May, one month before the bill was passed. Those belugas had been living at Marineland Canada.

WATCH: Vancouver Aquarium says ‘toxin’ killed belugas in 2017

“The decision to move them was made in their best interest, not because of politics,” the Vancouver Aquarium said in a statement at the time.

Activists celebrated the law on Monday under the hashtag #EmptytheTanks.

The bill will come into effect once it receives royal assent.

Ottawa passes legislation that bans whale and dolphin captivity in Canada

Keeping whales and dolphins in captivity will no longer be allowed across Canada under legislation that passed Monday, drawing celebrations from activists and politicians who called it a significant development for animal rights.

The federal bill, which now only requires royal assent to become law, will phase out the practice of holding cetaceans — such as whales, dolphins and porpoises — in captivity, but grandfathers in those that are already being kept at two facilities in the country.

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“Today’s a really good day for animals in Canada,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who sponsored the private member’s bill that began its journey in the Senate in 2015 before moving on to the House of Commons.

“Many scientists testified to why it was critical that we stop keeping cetaceans in captivity. We understand why because they are obviously not akin to other animals, for instance, livestock. Cetaceans require the ocean, they require the space, they require acoustic communication over long distances.”

Gord Johns, the NDP critic for fisheries and oceans said the bill’s passage marked “a celebration for cetaeans, for animals rights, the planet and our oceans.”

The legislation, which had its third and final reading Monday, received support from the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois, with some Conservatives opposed.

It bans the capture of wild cetaceans, but does allow for the rehabilitation and rescue of the aquatic mammals. The bill also changes the Criminal Code, creating new animal cruelty offences related to the captivity of cetaceans. Breeding is also banned.

Imports and exports of cetaceans will also be banned under the bill, with exceptions only for scientific research or “if it is in the best interest” of the animal, with discretion left up to the minister, thereby clamping down on the marine mammal trade.

“This is a watershed moment for whales and dolphins, and powerful recognition that our country no longer accepts imprisoning smart, sensitive animals in tiny tanks for entertainment,” said Camille Labchuk, executive director of advocacy group Animal Justice.

Animal rights group PETA said it was “popping the champagne corks today as Canada makes history.”

“We look forward to a day when confining sensitive, complex marine mammals to tiny tanks is outlawed in every country around the world,” Tracy Reiman, the group’s executive vice-president, said in a statement.

Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont., and the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia are the only two facilities in Canada that currently keep captive cetaceans.

The Vancouver Aquarium announced last year that it would no longer house cetaceans and has one dolphin left at its facility. That came after Vancouver’s board of parks and recreation passed a bylaw amendment in 2017 banning cetaceans being brought to or kept in city parks after two beluga whales held at the aquarium died.

Marineland, meanwhile, has told the government it has more than 50 belugas at its facility.

It recently received approval to export two belugas, both owned by the Vancouver Aquarium, to a park in Spain. It also applied to move five more belugas to facilities in the United States, but hasn’t received those approvals yet, a Fisheries spokeswoman said late last week.

The facility told the government it had problems with the way the whale and dolphin captivity bill was written, noting that it would be in violation of the Criminal Code when the law comes into effect since some of its belugas are pregnant and set to give birth this summer.

On Monday, it said it will comply with “all animal welfare legislation in Canada.”

“Marineland began an evolution in our operation some time ago, and as that evolution continues we are confident that our operations remain compliant with all aspects of (the bill),” it said in a statement.

The head of Humane Canada, an animal welfare group, said the legislation was needed.

“If the bill didn’t do something to end captive breeding, we could have ended up with a beluga farm in Marineland,” said Barbara Cartwright.

Phil Demers, a former whale trainer at Marineland who testified at hearings on the bill, said he was “elated” at it passing.

“Marineland could never be again, if it wanted to start today,” said Demers, a longtime critic of Marieland who is engaged in a legal battle with the facility.

Marineland, for its part, has long said it treats its animals well.

“Marineland Canada continues to be a facility where children can learn about and be inspired by cetaceans without invading their natural habitats or disturbing cetacean populations that live in the ocean,” it said Monday. “We’re proud of our work, and our contribution to research, education, and conservation.”

Maa-nulth request seal hunt

David Wiwchar

May 28, 2019 07:58 am

Some Nuu-chah-nulth leaders are blaming federal mismanagement of seals and
sea lions for the chinook salmon crisis affecting much of BC’s coast.

Larry Johnson, chair of the Maa-nulth Treaty Society’s fisheries committee,
told Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper that they are looking to develop a plan that
brings back a controlled harvest of seals and sea lions.

Johnson said meat from the marine mammals was part of the Nuu-chah-nulth
diet for thousands of years.

He said the pinniped population has exploded since the federal government
prohibited hunting them more than 50 years ago.

First Nations, recreational anglers, and commercial fishers have all urged
DFO to look beyond simple fishing closures, and take a wider ecosystem
approach to restoring dwindling Fraser River chinook stocks.


93.3 The PEAK 3296 Third Ave., Port Alberni BC V9Y4E1

5 animals you may see at the beach, thanks to Endangered Species Act

5 animals you may see at the beach, thanks to Endangered Species Act
© Getty Images

Beach season is here. It’s time to frolic in the surf or lie in the sand, contemplating the vast ocean. But as you enjoy your time in the sun, take a moment to appreciate the wildlife that’s still swimming or scampering past you thanks to the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

It’s easy to get discouraged by environmental news these days. Our oil addiction is fueling a climate crisis and killing our coral reefs. Plastic pollution is accumulating in our oceans. And the biggest mass extinctionin human history is underway — being actively worsened by the Trump administration’s reckless policies.

Of the 31 populations studied, just two species declined after being protected under this landmark law: Hawaiian monk seals and Southern Resident killer whales. Not only were all sea turtle species recovering, but their median population increased a whopping 980 percent, reversing the path to extinction that many species were on.

Our oceans are still struggling to recover from decades of destructive fishing practices and industrial pollution. And we have yet to really grapple with the ocean warming and acidification driven by burning fossil fuels.

But as we visit our beautiful beaches, let’s feel hope and gratitude for the natural bounty surrounding us — and pledge to protect it.

Here are five endangered animals you may spot on a visit to the coast.

Sea otters

The world offers few more adorable sights than a sea otter’s furry face popping out of the ocean. Maybe you’ll even see it float onto its back and crack a clam open on its belly with a rock.

California sea otters were almost wiped out by coastal development, pollution and oil spills, but conservation efforts helped the population off California’s coast rebound to around 3,000 — well below their historic numbers, but still an exciting improvement. Sea otters are particularly vulnerable to oil pollution, so they’re threatened by current proposals to expand offshore drilling in the Pacific and restart ExxonMobil’s dormant offshore platforms.

Snowy plovers

As you walk along the water’s edge, you’ll probably see shorebirds skittering in and out with the tide, snacking on crustaceans, insects and worms. Some of the smallest and cutest are the snowy plovers, which generally have a white chest and face and a brown and grey cloak of feathers. But they’ve been disappearing from beaches on the West Coast and in the Caribbean as humans and their pets trample their fragile eggs. Active conservation measures are helping; please look out for plover warning signs and keep your dog on a leash if you see any.

Sea Turtles

Endangered sea turtles’ recovery has been an amazing Endangered Species Act success story, but it’s still being written. The act has protected nesting beaches from development and lighting that disorients baby turtles. It’s also required most shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico to include turtle excluder devices to prevent these ancient creatures from being caught and killed in the nets.

But threats remain. Ocean plastic pollution chokes turtles and interferes with their reproduction. Industrial fishing practices like longline fishing decimated Pacific leatherbacks and other endangered turtles. Longline fishing was banned off California’s coast, but the Trump administration and fishing industry are now trying to reintroduce and expand it — so appreciate sea turtles and support a happy ending to their success story.

Monk seals

Hawaiian monk seals are among the world’s most endangered marine mammals, hovering perilously close to extinction with less than 1,000 remaining. They’re native to all the Hawaiian islands, but they’ve been harmed by predation, a lack of food and habitat loss. Climate change and sea-level rise are looming threats that lend urgency to efforts to stabilize the monk seal population now.

Federal and state conservation agencies have taken steps to protect their habitat and reintroduce them to the main Hawaiian islands they’ve disappeared from. If you see one on a visit to Hawaii, please keep your distance.

Humpback whales

These are the whales you see breaching and jumping in fantastic displays. After humpbacks were hunted nearly to extinction, the Endangered Species Act helped pull them back from the brink and put them on the road to recovery. To protect these amazing animals from deadly entanglements, commercial fishing gear has recently been better regulated along the California coast. For example, the commercial California Dungeness crab season ended early to avoid harming whales during their spring migration.

Whales are the largest animals on Earth, and it’s humbling to watch them swim along our coast. Once seen only as food or fuel, they’re a powerful testament to the enduring possibilities of conservation. If you spot one this summer, enjoy — and let the memory inspire you to protect our oceans.