With a mixture of history, science and irony, Jackie delivered a powerful talk indeed.
I was astounded to learn, for example, that the U.S. Navy sent pilots out to attack orcas with depth charges and gunfire in 1955, austensibly to aid the local Icelandic fishermen. Nor was I aware that both “transient” and “resident” descriptors are misnomers; the terms “inshore mammal-eating” and “inshore chinookaholics” more accurately reflect what these populations actually eat and how they behave. The “offshore” orcas with their ground-down teeth are a different matter – they eat sharks.
Much of Jackie’s talk was disheartening. Orcas are in big trouble, and as with so many other ecological problems, it’s not just one thing. Persistent chemicals, noise pollution, declining food resources, tourism, and other factors. In short, Orcinus orca is suffering a “perfect storm” of issues. So while there’s some good news – human attitudes have changed swiftly and dramatically over the course of only a few decades – the question remains:
Susan spoke to us about the various species of whales that frequent our local waters, and included some fascinating videos and hydrophone recordings. She brought things clearly into focus by describing the incredible krill-based food chain, the basis of much of our marine ecosystem. She also emphasized the value in reporting whale observations, which allow both researchers and the public to better understand whales and their hunting behaviors.
As always, Susan spoke with an in-depth knowledge that only comes from spending many, many hours on the water with these fantastic leviathons!
Daniel Francis – “Orcas”
by Andrew Bryant, 26 February 2009
Daniel Francis, together with co-author and long-time Vancouver Aquarium staff member Gil Hewlett, wrote Operation Orca: Springer, Luna and the Struggle to Save West Coast Killer Whales. This book was awarded “Best Nature Non-Fiction Award” by Forward Magazine, and has been excerpted in The Tyee, which you can find here.
Daniel described how and why he came to write this book, and his passion for telling their story. It is remarkable that these graceful and majestic creatures have gone from being perceived as fearsome, man-eating monsters that should be systematically killed – to a powerful symbol of the wild BC coast, indeed a true poster child for the need to protect our marine environment.