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Founded 1977
Save The Whales' purpose is to educate children
and adults about marine mammals, their
environment and their preservation.

What Happened to the Orca, L95?
By Rebecca Segal 

What happened to L95, a 20-year-old male orca, may not be known with any certainty. He was discovered dead weeks after being tagged. The orca was swimming in the Olympic Peninsula area in Washington State at the time of tagging.  
One theory, raised by scientists, is that the tag wasn't properly

 Photo by NOAA  L95 swimming in his home territory

sterilized before it was inserted into L95's fin, which caused an infection. What happened, according to an incident report and internal review, is a small but consequential misstep in procedure. When the dart was retrieved from the water after it failed to make contact, scientists wrestling with the wind and the waves, sterilized it with alcohol but neglected to further disinfect it with bleach before taking the second shot. The usual protocol before tagging orcas is to clean the tag with both alcohol and bleach.
Another possibility is that he died of something unrelated, such as an illness or an injury or his immune system may have been compromised. L95's body revealed a high pollutant load in his body tissue. When orcas feed, whether it's fish or mammals, they ingest persistent toxic chemicals caused by human activity on land. These toxic chemicals build up in long-living animals and are stored in body fat (blubber), organs and tissues.Orcas' bodies are often filled with an accumulation of persistent toxic chemicals. Because L95's body was so heavily decomposed when he washed onto shore, the results of the autopsy remain inconclusive. 
The tagging program has been suspended while experts review the benefits and drawbacks of tagging orcas in the wild. Furthermore, they will monitor other orcas that have been tagged in the past to make sure they remain in good health. 
There are only 84 Southern Resident killer whales today in the United States. They are made up of three different pods: J - which has 29 members, K - which has 19 members, and L - which has 36 members. These whales are commonly seen in and around the Salish Sea*, where they are protected by environmental legislation.
Because orcas are endangered, scientists believe it is imperative that they learn everything that they can about them. One way they can keep track of the animals and find out where they go is by using satellite tags. 
To date, the kind of tag that L95 was tagged with has been used on 19 different species and 530 animals. Of those 530 animals, 56 have been used on orcas. No other incidences like what happened to L95 have been reported.

 *The Salish Sea is the unified bi-national ecosystem that includes Washington State's Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands as well as British Columbia's Gulf Islands and the Strait of Georgia. 

VAQUITA - Can It be Saved? 
In the Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico, there lives the smallest porpoise in the world and the most endangered marine mammal on the planet. With a population of about 60, the vaquita is in a very precarious position. Of the 60 individuals, only 25 are estimated to be females that are in their reproductive years.
Drawing by Julia Drennan
Done when she was 12
There is a permanent ban on fishing nets in the area that the vaquita live in (the upper Gulf of California). In addition, CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) announced in September 2016, a plan to end totoaba poaching in order to save the vaquita. It is an agreement between 183 nations with a goal of eliminating the threat of international wildlife trade. The convention urged Mexico, the United States and China to cooperate to end the totoaba trade and thereby save the vaquita. 
The vaquita population has declined largely due to the vaquita becoming incidental bycatch by fisherman fishing for shrimp. 
But a more menacing action has brought them to their current state, namely the fishing for the totoaba, a large endangered fish of the croaker family. It is the illegal trade in the swim bladders of totoaba, which is used as a Chinese aphrodisiac. The vaquita die by drowning in the illegally set nets. Each swim bladder sells for thousands of dollars on the Chinese market. 
Shrimp is the main industry in this area of northern Baja and the complete gillnet ban is a hardship on the fishermen that make their living off the shrimp industry. However, this ban does not deter the illegal totoaba fishers, who continue to illegally set gillnets in the protected area.
The current Mexican government and several nonprofit organizations have been working hard to save the vaquita. Saving the species will require cooperation between scientists, the government, civilians and fishermen, as well as massive changes to the economic infrastructure in the Gulf. 


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Maris  Sidenstecker I 
Executive Director, Save The Whales 
501(c)(3) nonprofit organization  
      Voted Top-Rated NonProfit 2016  

Imagine You Are a 
Sea Turtle

In one jar are plastic bags; in the other are jellyfish. Now imagine you're a sea turtle   hungry for lunch.
Which would you choose?

L-95 After
 Being Tagged 

The white mark above
shows where he was tagged.

She's Coming -
"Dee, The 
Beautiful Whale"

The inflatable whale "Dee, the Beautiful Whale," is nearing completion. It is printed and cut and it will be sewed next week.  It will be finished on or before November 10th.
We are very excited anticipating her arrival here at Save The Whales!

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