June is Orca Awareness Month

Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed June 2017 the 11th Annual Orca Awareness Month to highlight the plight of our Southern Resident orcas (protected under The Endangered Species Act since 2005), and to urge all Washington State residents to do their part to support efforts to recover our local orca pod diminished by marine park captures, pollution, dwindling salmon runs, and increased marine vessel traffic.

Lolita, which can be watched through our Access Video, is a one-hour documentary tracing the heartbreaking events beginning 47 years ago when over 100 Southern Resident orcas were herded into Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, and seven young whales were captured and sold to marine parks all over the world (another five drowned in the roundup).

In her 2014 book Puget Sound Whales for Sale, marine naturalist Sandra Pollard traces the fates of other Southern Resident orcas captured between 1964-1976 from the Puget Sound area, when they lost nearly one-third of their population. The book includes interviews with those involved in the captures and other first-hand accounts as well as archival photographs.

Investigative reporter David Kirby's Death at SeaWorld is a compelling page turner about the captivity marine mammal industry told in a narrative style that reads like fiction, but is unfortunately all too real. He follows marine mammal biologist and activist Naomi Rose and her orca research over the years, while in alternate chapters following a parallel timeline of the captive whales, and the multiplying orca and human tragedies occurring at SeaWorld and other marine mammal parks.

Of Orcas and Men, by another investigative reporter--David A Neiwert, of Seattle--explores the history and science of orcas, researching these-intelligent, very social mammals through articles,movies.and interviews with scientists, trainers, environmentalists and whale-watching tour operators.  He looks at Native peoples' myths about the orca, their relationships with humans, and their role as an indicator species for the condition of our environment.

What documentation of orca tragedies would be complete without Blackfish, available on DVD and through hoopla (streaming movies, TV, music, comics--no waiting). An award-winning documentary, Blackfish focuses on SeaWorld's bull orca,Tilikum, captured in 1983 at the age of two off the coast of Iceland, and who over the years has killed three people. The movie highlights the cruelty of keeping in captivity these very social, highly-intelligent whales who, in the wild, live in very close-knit familial pods.

To learn more about the movement to free Lolita (name given her by Miami Seaquarium, where she is the last living orca of the seven captured in 1970) and for more information on the Pacific Northwest's whale population, visit the websites for these Washington-based non-profits: Orca NetworkCenter for Whale Research, and the Orca Salmon Alliance.

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