Summer break may be finished, but Ocean Camp memories gust thicker than my Oklahoma accent. As I plug away behind my computer reconciling administrative tasks and reacquainting myself with current events, I can easily become discouraged with the empty nest syndrome of a quieter classroom and the multitude of unjust issues impacting our precious marine life. Yet every climb down the stairs in our office confronts me with the reason why I do what I do. Tacked on an otherwise barren, white wall is a sign that speaks volumes above the noisy staircase it decorates. The artistically rendered petition reads, “Save Lolita” referring to a captive orca. This project is a representation of the many efforts that result from our educational program Ocean Camp.
We ended June and entered July with our “Wild About Whales” week at Ocean Camp. Although the fastest recorded migration for Hawaii’s humpback whales is 39 days, campers covered this approximate 3,000 mile journey in only four days! Participating in a variety of activities, campers explored humpback whale feeding and calving grounds and learned about the respective whale behaviors occurring in these locations such as bubble net feeding and nursing.
By understanding whale anatomy and research techniques, campers also learned how to identify individual whales from their fluke which is unique to each individual whale similar to how every human has a different fingerprint! We even experienced a behind-the-scenes tour of our research lab where we received tips from the experts while being surrounded by a collection of humpback whale data recorded over the last 30 years.
Today is World Orca Day! On July 14th, we celebrate and focus on campaigns, films, awards, conservation efforts, and everything else about orca, also known as killer whales. This specific date was chosen to commemorate the successful release of an orca named Springer back in the wild, in British Columbia (BC), Canada, in 2002.
Springer, officially named A73, is a member of the northern resident orca community that frequents the waters off the northern part of Vancouver Island, BC, every summer. In 2002, Springer’s mother died and she was discovered alone and emaciated off the waters of Seattle, Washington, some 250 miles south. Luckily, orca populations along the eastern North Pacific coastline have been extensively studied since the pioneering work of Michael Bigg in the early 1970s.
Orcas can be found in all oceans and belong to regional ecological groups called “ecotypes”. Each ecotype can be told apart as they have distinct color patterns, morphology, behavior, diet, ranges, and genetics. Springer belongs to the “resident” ecotype. These orcas are larger than the “transient” or “offshore” ecotypes also found in the eastern North Pacific. The tip of residents’ dorsal fin is also rounded and curves backward in females. Their dorsal saddle may also contain some black. Thanks to photographs of her eye and saddle patch, as well as her distinctive vocal calls, experts were able to determine which pod Springer belonged to and that her mother was Sutlej (A45).
As SeaWorld celebrates its 50th anniversary, Hawaii hosts its annual 50th State Fair. The theme—”Go Wild!” The paradox—the display of captive animals, such as a sea lion performance, to “promote” this.
Last week at Pacific Whale Foundation Discovery Center, we completed the first week of our yearly summer Ocean Camp where keiki (Hawaiian for “children”) ages 5-12 learned about pinnipeds. The program allowed campers to distinguish the difference between seals and sea lions as well as identify their various natural behaviors like molting and hauling-out. After these fun-filled educational experiences and reading about the sea lion performances advertised on the E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc. website, campers were determined to make their voice heard on behalf of the creatures they very much came to respect and appreciate without viewing or participating in a sea lion show. They eagerly wrote letters like the one below to express their concern.
You, too, can join the plea of our future generation by directly expressing your concern about these marine mammals that were transported from Florida under the guise of education by E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc. who “strive to provide exciting entertainment and attractions” and Sea Lion Splash who are the only traveling sea lion exhibit in the United States. To use your voice:
- Submit a personal comment to E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc.
- Share this post on your social media networks and voice your concerns.
- Email Broadcast Journalist Ramsay Warton at [email protected] politely suggesting she reevaluate her position towards captivity.
- Contact Sea Lion Splash who offer this traveling exhibit to fairs nationwide.
- Participate in the below poll.