Thursday, October 27, 2011

WMMSN and The Cove

Have you seen or heard of the 2010 Academy Award winner The Cove? It's about little coastal town in Japan called Taiji, and their dirty little secret: mass dolphin slaughter.

Well, that's the simplified version. It's actually a really complex issue complete with government coverups, serious health issues, dolphinariums, and captive dolphin issues. It's an amazing movie and I urge each and every one of you to watch it. Do not shy away from it simply because of the slaughter aspect, you can easily cover your eyes for the short clips, but the movie will open your eyes to so much you never knew. It will also, hopefully, inspire you to become active in helping to end the dolphins slaughter.

That's what it did for me. And now I'm writing to you from my hotel in Japan, just minutes away from the infamous cove. I have traveled here as a volunteer for Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project, Save Japan Dolphins, to help document and share this slaughter with the world.

Please follow along with my blog, which I will be updating daily. And please, if you haven't already, watch The Cove! It will change your life. Besides, if I can be here to witness it in person, surely you all can watch the movie and hide your face behind a pillow every now and then. :)


For the Dolphins!

Heather Hill
Education Director

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

'The Honeysuckle Story' to Play at Film Festival!

We are excited to announce that the WMMSN's own documentary 'The Honeysuckle Story' has been accepted into the Film Festival at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference held later this month in Vancouver, Canada! 

"The festival will showcase the best and most recent films, videos and multi-media presentations about regional habitats and inhabitants of the Salish Sea."

What an honor! If you haven't seen 'The Honeysuckle Story' yet, check it out!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Whale comes to Bellingham!

Have you heard the story of Luna (L98)?

Luna was a member of our Southern Resident Killer Whale Community, born to Splash (L67) in 1999. As a resident killer whale, Luna would have, and should have, spent his entire life in the company of his family. Resident killer whales have the tightest social bonds on Earth, never leaving their mother, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, great grandmothers, etc. But this was not the case for Luna. Somehow, one day, Luna became separated from his family. He was less than 2 years old. This is the true story of his life, all the friendship he made, and all lives he changed during his short time on our planet.

'The Whale' is a remake of the amazing film 'Saving Luna', done by Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit, this time with a little help from the new narrator, Ryan Renolds. It is currently playing in Bellingham at the Pickford Limelight on Cornwall Ave, through October 13th. Gather your friends and family to see this wonderful film about an amazing little whale. This is a must-see!

For showtimes and locations visit

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Squalicum Beach Seal Rescue

Today we received a call about a harbor seal at Squalicum Beach with injuries to its head. WMMSN responders arrived on scene to find that this seal not only had head injuries, but also appeared to be pinned in the water between rocks.

Given the small size of the seal (about 2.5 feet in length) we determined it was under a year in age, probably weaned only a month or so ago. When I first spotted the seal, it was hard to tell whether or not it was even alive. Given the predicament it was in, it wouldn't have been hard to imagine it had died. The waves washed in and out, but the seal did not move. It was an utterly heartbreaking sight. Then, it let out a few wheezing coughs, and the rest of the WMMSN responders arrived. It was time to get to work saving this seal!

We moved as many rocks as we could, but the seal still appeared pinned in place. We were all tempted to just grab it under its flipper pits and try to gently lift it out of there, but despite its injuries, this seal was quite alert and growling up a storm. We were definitely looking at the business end of those chompers! With a little bit of creative thinking, we were able to manipulate a net into a harness around its midsection. One responder lifted another rock, the seal started to scamper out of its hole, and with the net we were able to coax it into a pet carrier. Finally, it was ready for transport!

Next came the ordeal of HOW to transport it. San Juan Airlines is very generous, and allows us to put seal pups on their plane bound for San Juan Island, home of Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, free of charge. Unfortunately for us though, the last flight of the day had already gone out. Two of our responders volunteered to drive the seal down to Anacortes, and escort it on the ferry, as Wolf  Hollow volunteers were waited on the other side to receive it.

Our mission was a success. We were able to rescue and safely transport the seal to the rehab center, but it's not out of the woods yet. Now it is up to Wolf Hollow volunteers to nurse this little one back to health. Let's hope this little harbor seal has the strength and will to live, and will pull through and be released back into the wild!

Stay tuned for more updates about this little seal, as well as our soon-to-be-released rescued pups from this summer!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ski to Sea Fun!

Have some free time this Memorial Day Weekend?

Come out and say hi to us at our Ski to Sea booth! We will be located on the Fairhaven Green behind the Colophon Cafe, from 9am to 8pm on Sunday, May 29th. Our booth will be stocked full of whale bones, informative handouts, and of course, your friendly WMMSN volunteers! Learn more about the marine mammals of Whatcom County, sign up to volunteer, or donate to our cause. See you then!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wings Over Water

We all had a great time at Wings Over Water educating others about our wings under water! The biggest hit was by far our 'hands on' exhibit made up of a stuffed northern fur seal and harbor seal, a killer whale tooth, whale lice, skulls from a Steller sea lion, harbor seal, and northern fur seal, and various bones from an adult gray whale. Thanks to all those who came out to see us, and for those that couldn't make it, take a look at our pictures! 

'Bag it Bellingham'

A spinner dolphin with an abandoned plastic bag wrapped around
it's torso, dangerously close to covering it's blowhole.
Photo courtesy of the Wild Dolphin Foundation

Local citizens concerned with the environment have started an effort to ban one time use plastic bags from Bellingham stores, and implement a 5 cent fee on paper bags. This will greatly reduce our plastic waste and encourage members of the community to use reusable bags. Approximately 100,000 marine animals are killed every year by plastic debris that has either been blown or carelessly tossed into our waterways. This spans all ocean creatures including whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, birds, turtles, sharks, etc., etc. Please join us on Monday, March 28th at 7pm at the Bellingham City Council Meeting and take a stand against plastic!

Council Chambers, City Hall
210 Lottie Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

For more information visit:

Friday, March 18, 2011

WMMSN @ Wings Over Water

Tomorrow is the annual Wings Over Water Festival in Blaine, and the WMMSN will be there to teach everyone all about the wings UNDER water! Stop by our booth and get the rare change to hold a killer whale tooth, pet a soft seal pelt, see the gigantic skull of a Steller sea lion and marvel at the enormous vertebrae of a gray whale! We'll have a face painting table and coloring station for kids (and those young at heart) and some faux blubber and arctic water to see just how our marine mammals stay insulated in their freezing environment. 
We also have brand new whale and dolphin & porpoise t-shirts that will be for sale, a 'guess how many shells are in the jar to win a seal print' game, and we'll be debuting an awesome mini documentary of the rescue, rehab and release of one lucky seal pup name Honeysuckle!
So come say hi, and learn all about the marine mammals of the Salish Sea; our wings under water!

Details and Directions:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

J1 Ruffles Officially Missing

 J1 Ruffles swimming alongside J2 Granny
Photo by Sandy Buckley

After several recent encounters with J pod the Center for Whale Research, charged with keeping the Southern Resident Killer Whale population census, has officially listed J1 aka Ruffles as missing. The last time he was photographed was on November 21st, causing concern that he may not have survived the winter.

 Ruffles was the first Southern Resident to receive a photo-identification letter (J, meaning he is a member of J pod) and number (1, the first J pod whale to be documented). His name is an attribute to his immediately recognizable dorsal fin; tall and wavy like a Ruffles potato chip.

Born in 1951 (est.) Ruffles is the oldest and most recognizable male of this endangered orca community. His closest companion is J2 Granny, a 100 year old female who is believed to be his mother. The two were often seen traveling together. Granny, along with almost all other J pod whales have been photographed back in the Salish Sea in 2011, but the absence of the massive dorsal fin normally alongside of Granny has been hard to ignore. 

Ruffles has many offspring from K,  L, and even his own J pod. Preliminary paternity testing suggests that he is the most active male breeder, and has fathered more calves than any other male in the community. Perhaps the females of his community chose to mate with him time and time again because of his mature age and massive size, an indicator of 'good genes'. Or maybe it had to do with another reason entirely, a reason we humans may never understand. What is known however, is how much he will be missed if he is truly gone.

Within the next few months the entire community will likely return to the Salish Sea, and the whales unaccounted for will be declared 'missing and presumed dead' by the Center for Whale Research. Until then all we can do is hope that Ruffles is out there somewhere, alive and well, and finding plentiful schools of salmon.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sighting of Our Local L Pod in Monterey Bay

 Southern Resident Killer Whales in Monterey Bay, Jan. 27th 2008
Photo by Nancy Black

About 10,000 years ago the Vashon Glacier that covered our area was melting and retreating, exposing the deep channels it had carved. The water from the Pacific Ocean flooded in and created the inland sea now known as the Salish Sea. These waters became thick with salmon, and a group of killer whales living on the outer coast followed the salmon runs in and made a new home in the Salish Sea. Three pods made up this killer whale community; J, K, and L pod. Together they lived, played, and feasted almost year round in the channels and straits.

Then, the salmon they so heavily depended upon began to steeply decline as a result of continuous commercial fishing and heavy damming of rivers. With no food, the killer whales had to expand their winter range. Their search for food also split the group; smaller groups needed fewer salmon. Up until 2000, the furthest south the 3 pods were seen was near the Columbia River along the outer Washington Coast. Then in January 2000 there was an unexpected sighting of K and L pod in Monterey Bay California! This amazed researhers, as they were not typically seen in the winter months and no one knew where they were traveling. Members of L were sighted in Monterey Bay again in March 2003, January 2008, and were just sighted again on February 10, 2011. This time, Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb was there, and was able to record the encounter himself. Meanwhile, parts of J pod are being seen near Whidbey Island, Washington, about a thousand miles away from the rest of their community.

Researchers are still looking for answers behind the long distance travels, but there's one thing we can likely be sure of: until and unless the salmon populations drastically increase in the Salish Sea, we can expect to see our local resident killer whales few and far between in the winter, making long treks in search of something to eat.

Read about the Monterey Bay sightings here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Furthering Our Education and Making Connections!

Several WMMSN will be attending this year's "Ways of Whales" workshop put on by Orca Network. There are many presentations we're looking forward to, one of which will provide particularly useful information to us as a stranding network. John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research Collective will be discussing unusual cetacean sightings in the Salish Sea, such as the 34'5" Bryde's whale seen in December (necropsy complete and awaiting results, though cause of death appeared to be massive injuries obtained from a collision with a ship) and the lone bottlenose dolphin currently swimming around Puget Sound which may or may not be a member of the U.S. Navy's security program. The Navy announced it's plans to use both sea lions and bottlenose dolphins in the Puget Sound by the end of 2010, however they will not say whether this dolphin is from such program.

If you're interested in learning more about this workshop, visit the link below. Feel free to join us, it looks like it will be a fun and informative day!