Isla de la Plata

The Ecuador research team had a special trip to Isla de la Plata last week, on a very sunny day with calm winds. Most days the team spent searching for humpback whales within Puerto Lopez. However, when calm weather allowed, they traveled to Isla de la Plata, allowing them to see other species besides the humpback whale.

On the way to the island the team saw nazca and blue-footed boobies in a feeding frenzy together with pantropical spotted dolphins. Once the team arrived at the island they were delighted to see a beautiful male orca. Although this sighting is not uncommon for the island, this is the first time they documented a male orca. A group of humpback whales was also observed close by and it is not uncommon to see orcas attacks humpback whales in waters around Isla de la Plata.

On the return trip from the island several groups of active humpback whales were observed traveling south, potentially beginning their migration route. The whales are always inspiring the team to move forward, bringing out the best in them, and research should always serve to protect them, to speak for them, and above all to create new life opportunities for people. A change that is well echoed in the town of Puerto Lopez, which owes its transformation to the whales.

World Orca Day!

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).

In June 2012, a decision was made by the United States National Fisheries Service or NMFS, after months of public debate, to capture Springer and attempt to reunite her with her pod. After being treated for medical conditions and given extra food, she was released near her relatives in July. The following year, she was sighted in July returning to Johnstone Strait with the A-clan orcas (her close relatives).

As of 2013, Springer has been sighted with her pod in Johnstone Strait. In July 2013, she was also observed with a new calf, which is very exciting. The release of Springer in the wild after human intervention is a real success story. Being able to see orcas, and other marine mammals in the wild, is priceless. Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) believes that cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are highly intelligent animals and should not be kept in captivity for the purpose of entertainment. Click here to find out more about PWF campaign to keep dolphins free in the wild.

A73, or Springer, was spotted on July 4, 2013 with a new calf. Photo by: EverettRobotman

A73, or Springer, was spotted on July 4, 2013 with a new calf. Photo by: EverettRobotman