Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Orca Awareness Month, BC

B.C. ORCAS' UPs and DOWNs -- 2024

       Many of the things we asked for when BC's Orca Awareness Month was first proclaimed in 2016 have come to pass. Boat speeds have been reduced and legal distances from whales increased. "Awareness" has certainly increased. The southern resident orca population however is still struggling, still stalled at 73 members.

       As we approach 2024's Orca Month (June) Canada is ready to match Washington State's limit on boat distances from whales to 1000 meters, and speeds to 7 or 10 knots. In selected areas there will be salmon fishing bans. These are crucial measures since lack of Chinook salmon, increased underwater noise, ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement remain the most lethal hazards facing whales.

       OrcamonthBC will continue to lobby for even stronger actions around these hazards, alongside groups like bewhalewise.org, and the Raincoast Society. Please join all  whale-defenders in lobbying your MP for continued reforms, as well as the Canadian Minister of Fisheries.

       Also, consider what creative actions, writings, illustrations and demos your own friends and family, neighbours and service groups might come up with. Send a photo to www.orcamonthbc.blogspot.com (via sbjulian410@gmail.com) -- thank you!


As we see out the year 2023, please take a look at this Orca link:    https://www.skaana.org/coextinction/

... and think about what our Salish Sea orcas are telling us, and how we could stop destroying their home. New baby born this week in J Pod! What is his/her future? 

A Happy New Year to all Orca Defenders, January 2024. 

Orca Month Display on boulevard during Oaklands Neighbourhood Yard Sale Day, June 17, 2023


WE FINALLY HAD REAL HOPES FOR LOLITA-TOKITAE & HER RELEASE ... BUT TRAGICALLY IT WAS NOT TO BE. The schedule of release certainly SHOULD have been "sped up" -- it should have started years ago. Let's hope that tragedy is not repeated with Corky and others.   R.I.P. Tokitae.

From Summer 2023:

The latest from Orca Network in Washington, about plans for Tokitae's retirement and return: https://www.orcanetwork.org/retire-lolita

Why the schedule should be sped up:



Orca Awareness Month supporters are spy-hopping with joy for Lolita/Tokitae! The announcement in March 2023 is  that Miami Seaquarium is willing to work with "Friends of Lolita" and other orca freedom groups, to release Lolita/Tokitae (now called Toki) back to safe sanctuary in her home waters of Puget Sound, Washington.

After over 50 years in captivity this is a huge longed-for breakthrough, but many bureaucratic hurdles need to be cleared -- and she's not free 'til she's free.

Permits, transport, site-selection are all to be done, which some think might take up to two years (although strangely aquariums are able to fly whales back and forth for breeding and display any time they wish to ...).

And then there are always the nay-sayers in the marine studies industry with ties to aquariums (such as UBC marine science researchers) who warn of "dangers" to Toki. The main danger is that she might die before she gets to taste freedom, as did poor Kiska recently at Marinelands, Ontario.

Speak to your MP and your MLA about it, and officials on the US side of the Salish Sea. Support the groups that are working for Toki's and other cetaceans' release to appropriate natural marine sanctuaries: www.animaljustice.ca,    www.orcanetwork.org  www.whalesanctuaryproject.org

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More on the sorry history of whale capture 

Here's an anniversary link to the case of "Moby Doll":


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A wonderful new audio-version of orca stories for kids has come out. Gayle Millbank wrote and illustrated a series of biographical tales about a family of west coast orcas, and has now recorded the tales in audio form. They show us the inside of orca society and reveal the characters' interactions with other species, bringing the marine environment alive. Sample the stories here:   www.audible.ca

NOTE: New podcast from "Skanna" about Whale #52 (the Lonely Whale of species unknown who calls across oceans on the Hertz frequency 52). Listen here: Skaana | Oceans, Eco-Ethics & The Environment: Director Josh Zeman on a Lonely Whale, Lonely People and the Search for 52 Blue on Apple Podcasts


An "orca-bike" display of whale literature at our picnic 
at Cadboro Bay, Saanich BC

Our work goes on every month:

To join our efforts to promote Whale Protection Zones around southern Vancouver Island and a moratorium on the Chinook fishery, and reduction in underwater noise, boat collisions and whale entanglement in fishing gear, contact sbjulian410@gmail.com.

For ORCA AWARENESS MONTH 2022, we focused on the plight of captive orcas including Corky and Lolita-Tokitae seized from waters off BC and Washington. Please read:


Another welcome development: Nonhuman Rights Project is teaming up with 4 U.S. Members of Congress on presenting a Bill (2022) to end capture, transport and breeding of whales for aquarium display: Leading Force for Animal Rights in US Supports Federal Bill to End Capture and Breeding of Whales for Public Display | U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman (house.gov)

Listen to a heartening podcast / interview with Linda Mapes about her new book Orca: Shared Waters Shared Home (2022). In it she talks about orcas like Scarlet, Tahlequah (who carried her dead calf on her head for 17 days of grieving), as well as science, conservation, and the hopeful plus less hopeful signs ahead for marine life.

The Holly and the Orca -- Christmas garden. 
Please make an Orca Garden for summer! Use black-and-white-painted driftwood -- you'll find lots of whale shapes washed up on local beaches. Add bright fish, piles of shells … let your imagine swim …
It's a fun family outdoor project and garden art might help keep the plight and needs of BC's 
resident orca pods in the public mind.

Here's a "playlist" of video clips of orcas in the Salish Sea, summer 2021, from Gerald Graham @SalishSeaFuture:

Nature Canada, June 17 2020

It is not only whales for whom the ocean habitat has been made hazardous by human activity. Sharks, birds and sea mammals are plagued by fish hooks coming from the commercial, food and sports fisheries. Here is an inspiring site about the work of an amazing diver (Cristina Zenato) who not only removes hooks from the bodies of sharks but befriends them in the process. Who knew about the existence of the teddy-shark??

See People of the Water:  https://pownonprofit.org/education-3/

Take a moment to sign the International Fund For Animal Welfare petition against the Icelandic whale hunt, which is close to being terminated. It is not popular in Iceland, where the majority support the flourishing whale-watch industry instead and only a tiny minority still eat whale meat. Join the international campaign with a simple signature: https://www.ifaw.is/about-the-campaign/

A supporter brings an exciting new book to our attention:
Spirits of the Coast: Orcas in Science, Art and History.

Produced by the Royal British Columbia Museum, " … this collection brings together diverse voices, young and old, to explore the magic, myths, and ecology of orcas. A literary and visual journey through past and possibility, Spirits of the Coast illustrates how these enigmatic animals have shaped us as much as our actions have impacted them …"  -- KinzieThings
(Full review and cover image at https://kinziethings.com/2020/04/15/review-spirits-of-the-coast-orcas-in-science-art-and-history/

JUNE - Orca Awareness Month is celebrated with public displays of information and art --

From last year: "Superpod" by Natasha van Netten, in the Window Gallery of Ministry of Casual Living

Dana Markestein:

by Gayle Millbank (ending fishing gear entanglement is one of Orca Month's campaigns - see below):

Patricia Haley-Tsui, of Vancouver:

Janine Schroedter:

For fabulous photography (as well as detailed orca-data) go to Jan Cadieux's "Jolly Toad" site:  https://jollytoad.com/whats-killing-our-orcas/

This article from 2016 ("Black and White Lives Matter") is still unfortunately as current as ever:


Prime Minister Trudeau: Justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca
Washington State Governor J. Inslee: use the form at

Senator Patricia Bovey - a BC resident - congratulates Whale Sanctuary Project for securing this location for whales to be freed to in future:

Another possible sanctuary is available in waters closer to home, on Hanson Island:  https://orcalab.org/2019/12/11/corkys-50th-capture-anniversary/

A garden display for Orca Month (Victoria):

Part of our focus for ORCA MONTH 2022-2023 is the urgent matter of lost fishing gear which entangles whales off BC, as elsewhere in the world's oceans. Here is a response from the provincial government when OrcaMonthBC asked them what efforts were being made to solve this problem:

Thank you for your email of November 9, 2019, addressed to the Honourable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, regarding the use of longline fishing equipment in B.C. Minister Heyman has asked that I respond on his behalf and I apologize for the delay in doing so.

During summer 2019, I travelled the coast of British Columbia meeting with local governments and community groups to hear about their experiences with the issues of abandoned vesselsmarine debris and marine-sourced plastics. During these conversations, I heard about the need for additional ways of preventing ghost fishing gear. Our Fall Progress Report was posted in September, and on February 5, 2020, we published the full What We Heard summary. The next step will be submitting my final report with recommendations to Minister Heyman. To stay informed of progress on this initiative, I invite you to visit http://gov.bc.ca/MarineDebrisProtection

Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced $8.3 million for retrieval of harmful ghost fishing gear and ensuring its proper disposal, and earlier this month they hosted a Gear Innovation Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Because it is the federal government that has jurisdiction over navigation, fishing and marine mammals, they will lead on solutions, and I suggest you work directly with them.

Thank you again for taking the time to write. 
Sheila Malcolmson
MLA, Nanaimo
Parliamentary Secretary for Environment

Please join us in this campaign by continuing to write to your own MP to urge effective action. 

If you see a whale or other marine mammal caught in fishing gear, 
rope or plastic, please call:  1 800 465 4336.

Orca Awareness 2019 display at Qualicum Branch 
Vancouver Island Regional Library:

There are many ways of thinking and communicating about our cetacean neighbours in the Salish Sea, and one way to communicate their plight is through theatre. TOOKS ON COOK READERS' THEATRE hosted a performance at 1175 Cook St, Victoria, of:

Included was a poem about Orca J35 by Linda Rogers -- "A Lighter Blue"
"Seance" -- a comedy by Gary Johnson
"Orca Seance" -- a tragi-comedy by "Orcas"

Orca Month joined the Georgia Strait Alliance to display whale and marine information at the Oak Bay Green Committee's 
See piles of plastic collected here on but ONE morning in ONE municipality. No wonder the oceans contain almost more plastic than living things, and that marine animals are choking on it. The world needs to curb that industry. It is the worst product of the fossil fuel industry, and Orca Month is glad that the current Government of Canada has introduced a plan to cut back on production and use. WE the consumers need to start now however: reject plastic products and packaging. Also, consider gathering friends for a BEACH CLEAN-UP at a beach near you.

We may be staying home during the COVID epidemic but that doesn't mean we can't keep writing letters to MPs and the Minister of Fisheries & Oceans (address below)requesting stronger protections for orcas (as required by law under the Species At Risk Act -- although Canadians have yet to demand that those requirements are enforced). See orca needs listed below. 

Are you an artist? Do you have a favourite cafe that might put up some whale art? An Orca Month MARINE ART SHOW was held at Caffe Misto in Victoria 
2865 Foul Bay Road

Caffe Misto, Victoria BC

The Georgia Strait Alliance, David Suzuki Foundation, EcoJustice, Raincoast Foundation and other whale-defence groups, asked Parliament to pass an emergency order giving Salish Sea orcas dedicated feeding refuges in their hunting corridors -- a few have been set aside in 2019 south of Sooke, at the mouth of the Fraser River and near Saturna Island, but the returns of salmon to spawn in BC's rivers is abysmal this year. Nevertheless, the fishing industry continues to oppose non-fishing refuges for whales. To support salmon conservation and to ask the politicians to extend quiet zones for orcas, please write to your MP, the Minister of Fisheries (min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca), and the Prime Minister (pm@pm.gc.ca, or in print to: Justin Trudeau House of Commons Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6.

Fighting noise in the ocean: further underwater shipping noise will guarantee extinction for southern residents, marine scientists tell the federal government:

Ask the Navy to avoid using sonar in whale feeding areas off Vancouver Island. Engine noise as well as underwater sonar disorients them and drives them insane. Write to: 

-- and to your MP



Jan. 2022 -- 0NLY ABOUT 73 SRKWs LEFT  (J, K, & L pods) 
+ one new calf born last spring - we hope s/he will survive long enough to be counted a thriving new member of the pods


 Shrine For Dead and Captive Orcas, January at Oak Bay Marina 

 Shrine for Tilikum at site of former Sealand of the Pacific aquarium at Oak Bay Marina

The ORCA AWARENESS MONTH team asks Premier Horgan of BC to join Washington and Canada in designating WHALE PROTECTION ZONES in the straits around Vancouver Island. 
Please echo our request:


Office of the Premier, Legislative Bldgs, 501 Belleville St., Victoria V8V 1X4.  Ask the politicians if they think 73 Southern Resident Killer Whales are enough.