I Remember…


This article on the decline of Orcas is close to home and painful.


Orcas of the Pacific Northwest Are Starving and Disappearing

For the last three years, not one calf has been born to the dwindling pods of black-and-white killer whales spouting geysers of mist off the coast in the Pacific Northwest.

Normally four or five calves would be born each year among this fairly unique urban population of whales — pods named J, K and L. But most recently, the number of orcas here has dwindled to just 75, a 30-year-low in what seems to be an inexorable, perplexing decline.

The biggest contributing factor may be the disappearance of big king salmon — fish more than 40 inches long. “They are Chinook salmon specialists,” said Brad Hanson, team leader for research at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center here, part of NOAA. “If they could, they would eat Chinook salmon 24/7.” Orcas gobble 30 a day. Hunting enough smaller prey requires a lot more energy.


I live on a beach with a reef at Kye Bay on the east coast of Vancouver Island. I began regular visits here as a child in 1960 and have witnessed a steady decline of its ecosystem.

I remember abundant kelp, seagrass, barnacles, oysters, clams, geoducks, dungeness crabs, kelp crabs, hermit crabs, shore crabs, shrimp, sand dollars, sand collars, snails, starfish, flatfish, bullheads, dogfish, and more. Every single species on that list is mostly gone. Like a desert, sand and rocks remain.

I remember many small fish and crabs being trapped in pools waiting for the tide to come back in. Now there is only sand.

I remember after a summer storm seaweed and kelp would wash in and fill the bay to a depth of several feet, then rot and stink keeping the damn tourists away for a few weeks. Now it is uncommon to see a few inches of seaweed washing in.

I remember picking oysters from the reef with everyone else which no doubt contributed to their decline.

I remember large flocks of shorebirds. For several years I assisted someone who has conducted shorebird counts here for over 40 years. She showed me her notebooks with clear evidence that almost every species of shorebird is in severe decline.

I remember sitting out at dusk and watching the bats fly overhead. The bats are gone.

I remember abundant grasshoppers, June beetles, butterflies, moths, sand wasps, and other insects. Most are gone.

I remember when the dwellings that line the bay were small summer cabins set in amongst large fir trees. Now most of the trees have been felled and the cabins razed to build large year-round homes.

I remember my hometown Campbell River 50km north of here being called the salmon capital of the world because anyone with a boat could easily catch their limit of salmon. And they did until they couldn’t. Now fisherman must drive 2 hours and boat another 1 hour to the west coast of Vancouver Island for fishing that is still decent but in rapid decline.

I remember when fish were bigger. Much bigger.

I remember when dogfish were treated like a pest species. Now you never see them.

I remember when it was common to have a killer whale surface next to the boat you were fishing in.

I remember abundant sea lions on the rocks of the west coast. The sea lions are mostly gone now because fisherman shoot them because they compete for dwindling salmon stocks.

I remember political parties that promised to close the fish farming industry because of harm they do to wild fish stocks and when elected change their mind because the economy is more important than ecology.

I remember being optimistic. I visited the local fisheries office to ask if there was anything residents could do to restore the keystone kelp beds. They were not helpful and more or less said it was a waste of time because human pressure and climate change will continue to degrade ocean health.

I remember when we used to discuss over-population. The population of this valley has grown by more than 3 times (300%) since we had those conversations.

I remember being in denial like most people.

17 thoughts on “I Remember…”

  1. Every time I tell my story about driving from Edmonton to Calgary (300+ km) in the summer meant I had to clean the windshield before going through the city, and now driving some 400+ km several times before having to clean it, I get nothing back – no comments, no understanding (about the ubiquitous use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and homicides). Fait accompli would seem to be the level of ‘intelligence’ presently, and probably for the foreseeable future. Disheartening and depressing.


    1. I get it Bruce. I was born in Alberta in the 1960’s and remember it well. Every family vacation was by car. Lots of camping trips. I recall dad pulling over just to clean the windshield.


  2. I remember watching TV, and it didn’t matter in what order they showed the episodes of a series, because every show went around in a loop. The castaways tried something new, but were still stuck on Gilligan’s Island. Every week, the crew of the Enterprise tussled with some aliens, then They Thought of Something which resolved the situation. Richie Cunningham spent ten years getting through High School, never aging a day. Every problem had a solution. There were no long-term trends. Personally, I think I’ve been “in my 30’s” for about three decades now (with a 30-year old son), and the fact that my hair is thinner now than it was then must be due to some untreated medical condition, because now that I’m grown up, why should I change? Everything’s just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. OT but have you any idea what happened to Megacancer. I think I first found it though this site. Excellent site.
        Thoughtful read as usual Rob – insect situation same this side of the pond. Can sit in our kitchen late into the night with lights blazing and not a thing.
        I see JTRoberts (whoever it is) is still commentating on various blogs. Latest one on SRSrocco about the Hills Group is interesting. You just can’t treat oil like another commodity.


        1. Megacancer was going strong with an intelligent community of participants 2 days ago. I’m guessing James forgot to pay his bill and they’ll be back.

          I wish JTRoberts would start a blog. He’s really bright and insightful.


          1. James has had problems with the Internet provider for Megacancer — it’s gone offline a couple of times, and comes back in a few days. Probably an expired card on file, or something like that.


        2. JTRobert’s comment is a new idea I have not previously seen:

          “If you balance the debt with the oil production it follows quite closely as they are inverse in relationship. Debt will increase with oil price above economic value. This is a function of declining oil gdp benefit to the economy.

          So if oil is producing only $20.00 bbl to the economy the price is a result of debt. That would be $40-50.00 per barrel.

          96mbpd * 50.00 $5billion per day or $1.8 trillion per year.

          Sound familiar?”


          The implication I think is one hell of a Seneca cliff.


  3. Cuttin’ pretty close to home, in more ways than one.

    Nice rant by Doug Stanhope on the futility of giving a shit + killer whale justice.

    I’m not quite ready to quit yet. Got a few more denial rants to get out of me first.

    “Me caring about stuff will affect it as much as me not caring about stuff”.

    “I just want to find a great closing bit before I slink away. Last year at Seaworld at the end of a show the killer whale leapt up, grabbed the trainer by her ponytail, pulled her under water, and chewed on her head. That’s how I want to end my career.”

    h/t Mac10


  4. Orcas thrive in a land to the north. Why are Puget Sound’s dying?

    “The southern residents are struggling to survive amid waters influenced by more than 6 million people, between Vancouver and Seattle, with pollution, habitat degradation and fishery declines. The plight of the southern residents has become grimly familiar as they slide toward extinction, with three more deaths just last summer. Telling was the sad journey of J35, or Tahlequah, traveling more than 1,000 miles for at least 17 days, clinging to her dead calf, which lived only one half-hour.”



  5. 2 more Puget Sound orcas predicted to die in critically endangered population

    “J17 rolls on her side, showing the dramatic constriction in the shape of her neck, which should be a smooth line. The condition, known as peanut head, is a sign of starvation in killer whales. ”



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