Ocean Organization Spotlight: Orca Network

Written by on August 27, 2009 in Marine Life, Other News, Policy & Ocean Law, Spotlight


Orca Network Logo

Marine Science Today would like to introduce the Orca Network (ON), a non-profit organization, based in Greenbank, Washington and dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats. Their projects include the Whale Sighting Network, Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Education Programs, Free Lolita Campaign, salmon habitat restoration, restoration of Puget Sound and surrounding watersheds from toxic pollution.

Orca Network was founded in 1995 as the Tokitae Foundation (the captive orca Lolita was originally known as Tokitae), to publicize the plight of a member of the Southern Resident orca community kept on display in a marine park in Miami, and to campaign for her retirement in her native waters, which continues today.

In 2001 ON was reorganized with an expanded mission to connect people with orcas and other whales in the Pacific Northwest and to advocate for environmental protection and restoration of the orca habitat.  They have partnered with other groups to focus on salmon habitat restoration, as studies have shown that 80 percent of the Southern Resident orcas diet consists of chinook salmon and chum salmon.  Also, in a paper published in the June 2009 edition of the Journal of Applied Ecology, scientists Eric Ward, Elizabeth Holmes and Ken Balcom have found a correlation between the abundance of Chinook salmon and the fecundity (reproductive success) of killer whales.

Orcas in Boundary Pass, north of San Juan Island, WA - Photographer Howard Garrett - Orca Network

Orcas in Boundary Pass, north of San Juan Island, WA – Photographer Howard Garrett – Orca Network

Orca Network’s best known program is the Whale Sighting Reports, sent out almost every day to over 3700 subscribers with sightings and photos of orcas, gray whales, minkes and humpbacks in the Pacific Northwest, along with notices of whale-related events and current issues that impact the whales or their habitat (subscribe here).  The resulting data are useful to NOAA researchers to help determine critical habitat and ecosystem needs to help restore the Southern Resident orcas.

The ON website includes current issues, publications and events concerning the orcas and a listing of scientific articles and papers on recent studies related to orca natural history.  A major element in ON’s overall mission is to describe in everyday language the emerging view of orcas as living according to traditional cultures that determine diets, mating patterns, social systems and vocalizations in closed, genetically separate communities.

Orca Network also maintains the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network to respond to reports of marine mammal strandings in the region.

Although the orca is not considered to be an internationally endangered species, some local populations are considered threatened or endangered due to depletion of prey species, habitat loss, pollution, captures for marine mammal parks, and conflicts with fisheries.  In late 2007, the orcas known as the “southern resident killer whales,” were placed on the U.S. Endangered Species list.

As a reader of Marine Science Today, you are obviously interested in marine life.  Surf the Orca Network website to educate yourself further and check out what opportunities they have for you to get involved.

Killer whale spy-hopping in the ice  -  NOAA's Ark, Animal Collection

Killer whale spy-hopping in the ice – NOAA’s Ark, Animal Collection

Copyright ©  2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Celia is Director of Business Operations for OceanLines LLC and is a frequent contributor to both OceanLines and Marine Science Today. She is a certified diver and her favorite topic is marine biology, especially stories about whales. .

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