Answering Tourist Questions.

Springtime must be my favorite time of year on the Olympic Peninsula. When uncounted millions of birds fly north along our coast to their remote arctic nesting grounds. All of which signals the start of another migration to our shores, the American tourist.

Don’t panic. Please remember but for the grace of God we could all be tourists, too.

These people have suffered through hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of travel through an aging infrastructure, braving long lines waiting for airplanes, ferries and road construction while enduring seasonally adjusted fuel prices as they flood our area in a never-ending pursuit of solitude.

Inevitably, our tourists will have many questions.

This can provide all of us an opportunity to act as ambassadors of good will for the tourist industry by providing our visitors with accurate, up-to-the-minute information on the recreational opportunities available in this emerald green paradise we call home.

How you do this is anyone’s guess. I charge the tourists $5 per question, but then again, I am a professional.

Here is a sampling of some real-life questions posed by real-life tourists.

The most popular one seems to be:

• “Where are the restrooms?” This is a sensitive subject.

One person’s comfort station is another’s toxic waste dump. Given the infrequency with which our public toilets are maintained, it’s sometimes best to just hand the tourist a shovel and tell them our restrooms are as big as all outdoors.

• “Do I need a permit?” Yes. Here in Washington, it’s legal to get married if you’re gay or smoke marijuana, but chances are you cannot get out of your car to use the restroom without one of the many permits required to be on public land.

• “Is the weather always like this?” Another popular question that gives the locals the opportunity to reassure the tourists that they are always right.

Of course, our weather never changes. It’s like this all the time except when it’s not.

• “When is the tide?” A particularly confusing question from confused individuals who obviously have no idea that the tide goes in and out twice a day.

Tides are confusing to many tourists because they have never seen an ocean, and they have no idea that it is constantly changing like that other mystery, the weather.

Knowing the tides is particularly important when hiking along the beach.

Two tourists figured that out just last week when they were stranded by a high tide and had to have the Coast Guard pluck them off a cliff north of the Hoh River.

They had neglected to pick up the free tide chart provided by the Olympic National Park at the trailhead. Duh.

• “What kind of clothes should I wear?” This question is a cry for help.

Fluorescent orange fashions are a good choice for tourists. It makes it easier for search and rescue to find them once they get lost.

The downside is that the innumerable nests of hornets and yellow jackets that swarm our recreational wonderland every summer seem drawn to bright colors — making it wise to choose a more muted fashion statement. You were warned.

• “Are the bears and cougars dangerous?” Yes. Extremely. But your chances of being attacked by bears and cougars are about the same as being hit by chunks of space junk. Be very afraid.

• “When is the fishing good?” Hard to say, but generally the best fishing occurs the week before you get here and the week after you leave.

Then there is my favorite tourist question of all time:

“Why do the loggers wear suspenders?”

This mystery has never been solved.

Understanding Our Fishing Regulations.

“When does the river open?” The tourist angler asked after I told him the river was closed.

He was standing knee-deep in trouble, casting away in a river closed to fishing.

I informed him that every angler in Washington has the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, then you probably can’t afford to go fishing.

I have spent many years trying to understand the logic of Washington’s fishing regulations in an attempt to translate them into English. It’s every angler’s duty to obey our fishing regulations, but you have to know what they are to begin with.

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me what the fishing laws were, I could afford to go where the fishing is as good as it was here in the olden days. That would be in Chile. Where they took our salmon, planted them in rivers that did not previously have salmon and managed them with a degree of intelligence that’s unavailable in Washington state.

Chile allows enough salmon to escape upstream to spawn and keep the runs alive.

This is a foreign concept in Washington, where we have eliminated the most important single element of our river’s ecosystems, the spawned-out carcasses of salmon that feed everything from the tiniest insect to the largest tree in an energy exchange from the mountains to the sea and back again.

Instead of rebuilding this lost biomass to bring back our salmon runs, we build log jams as an excuse for salmon restoration.

The way we manage our salmon is a cycle of abuse.

Alaska catches fish bound for British Columbia.

B.C. catches fish bound for Washington.

Meanwhile, people in Washington get fed up with the poor fishing and go up to Alaska, to catch fish trying to swim back here.

Every winter, the state of Washington and the 29 Treaty Tribes of Washington get together for the mysterious “North of Falcon Meeting.”

These top-secret meetings divide the predicted runs of paper salmon returning to Washington between competing groups of tribal, commercial and sport fishers who can only agree on one thing, banning the other person’s gear.

These secret negotiations that set the salmon seasons are based on a theory that the fish that spawn naturally in a river and fish raised in a hatchery are two different species.

It’s a theory based on a misconception.

In fact, the National Marine Fisheries service has determined that, after a 120 years of releasing hatchery fish in Washington, there is no significant difference genetically between hatchery-reared fish and the so-called wild fish which are likely to be the feral offspring of hatchery fish.

Still, the hatchery fish and wild fish are treated as two different species in our fishing laws.

This inane dichotomy contributes to the extinction of our salmon.

Hatchery salmon are routinely subjected to the brutal, inhumane clipping of their adipose fins to identify them.

Any hatchery fish that are unclipped are simply released with their fins unclipped — where they are suddenly considered “wild fish.”

Catching and releasing numerous unclipped hatchery fish to catch and keep a clipped hatchery fish endangers our salmon.

The released fish feed the hungry seals that follow fishing boats around for an easy meal.

Anglers should just keep the first fish they catch instead of inadvertently killing bunches of fish to try to get a legal one.

It would make more sense to stop fin-clipping fish. It is a cruel, failed experiment.

Einstein said repeating a failed experiment while expecting different results is insanity.

Here in Washington, we call it our fishing regulations.

An Earth Day Review.


How was your Earth Day? Many hoped it would lead to some progress in reducing the pollution of our planet’s air, water and soil.

It was once thought that, by using science and technology, we could clean up the industrial mess we have made with our science and technology. Instead, this year’s biggest scientific achievement would be flying a helicopter on Mars while we ignored our own dying planet.

Look at Hood Canal. This glacial fiord was once the most productive marine environment in the Pacific Northwest.

Hood Canal was once home to an inexhaustible bounty of oysters, clams, shrimp, crabs and bottom fish. The rivers that ran into Hood Canal were teeming with salmon, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat. Unfortunately, since that first Earth Day, we have turned parts of Hood Canal into dead zones. We are studying the problem.

Traveling west, we come to Discovery Bay. It was also once home to “inexhaustible” marine resources. Until it was used for a dumping ground for mill waste and undisclosed military waste then treated to a slipshod so-called restoration project that unleashed plumes of sulpheric acid and metal precipitate that heavily impacted formerly inexhaustible sea life.

Further west, we reach Dungeness Bay. Home of the famous Dungeness Crab, Dungeness Bay has fallen on hard times. Since that first Earth Day, much of the sea life of Dungeness Bay is either polluted, endangered or extinct. That means no more Dungeness Bay oysters or King salmon. Crabbing is closed most of the year. Even the clams are periodically unsafe to eat. In short, Dungeness Bay has outlived its usefulness.

Coincidentally, real estate prices around Dungeness Bay have never been higher. If the bay is too toxic for sea life, a cost-benefit analysis indicates the highest and best use would be to fill in the bay, pave and short plat it as an age 55 and older retirement community.

West of Dungeness, we come to what was once called “False Dungeness” or Port Angeles. After over a century of being used as an industrial dumping ground where heavy rains can still wash raw sewage into the harbor, we are studying possible cleanup scenarios, someday.

West of Port Angeles, we find the largest man-made structure on the Olympic Peninsula, a pyramid made of garbage. In the bad old days of the first Earth Day, we threw our garbage off a cliff into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Then we burned it. Now we truck our garbage to Tacoma, railroad it to the Columbia, barge it upriver to eastern Oregon, where we truck it out to the desert and throw it off a cliff. That’s progress for you.

West of the Port Angeles pyramid, we come to the biggest environmental movement this place has ever seen, the removal of the Elwha Dams. Experts told us that, once the dams were removed, up to 400,000 salmon would magically appear. Yet other undammed rivers all across the Peninsula have lost their salmon populations. The fishing moratorium on the Elwha has been extended, an indication of the failed attempts at restoring this great river. Are there other factors besides dams that affect salmon survival? We don’t care.

Traveling west, we view clear cuts habitually sprayed with herbicides to eliminate anything that might compete with a future crop of trees.

Then we reach the acidified Pacific Ocean. A walk on any Pacific beach reveals a growing problem of plastic pollution from minute particles to giant blobs of Styrofoam.

The Pacific Ocean is too big to pave, but it is not too big for us to kill. Happy Earth Day.

Highway 101 Blues.

Thank you for reading this. Somebody must. Because when I mentioned in last week’s column that the Highway 101 bridge over the Hoh River was “the scariest bridge on the Olympic Peninsula,” the pushback was immediate.

Competition for the scariest bridge on the Peninsula is intense, but the bridge over the Hamma Hamma River is a definite contender.

Maybe you don’t have to fold in your mirrors and grease the sides of your truck to cross that bridge in oncoming traffic, but it couldn’t hurt now that the tourist invasion is heating up.

While it is common to see massive RVs the size of battleships lumbering through our antique bridges, other vacationers take a minimalist approach.

They ride bicycles.

These brave souls travel the thin strip of asphalt between the white line on the edge of the road and bottomless brush-choked canyons unencumbered by any guardrails.

In Washington state, it’s interesting to note that bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as cars — except for one major difference. It is currently legal to ride a bicycle while drunk. Although it should be noted that the police can take your bike if you are too drunk. Whatever that means.

I think it means you are riding your bike around Lake Crescent on U.S. Highway 101. Especially after the Spruce Railroad Trail on the north side of Lake Crescent was built to keep cyclists off this dangerous section of road.

Perhaps the strangest mode of tourist transportation was spotted last weekend on the high ground between the Bogachiel and Hoh rivers, where a pair of adventurers was seen headed south on the edge of the oncoming lane of U.S. Highway 101, pushing some heavily loaded shopping carts.

The intrepid pair was later spotted south of Kalaloch. Causing questions to be asked, such as, how did they make it across the Hoh River bridge?

It’s scary enough just driving a vehicle across that pioneer edifice.

Walking across that bridge is a death wish, but pushing a shopping cart? Pushing a shopping cart while drunk must be legal in Washington, too.

Just last February, a California man carved a whole new chapter in the history of that bridge while performing a daredevil feat that we can only hope will not be soon repeated.

The man was traveling north on U.S. Highway 101 sometime during the night.

He missed the Hoh River bridge entirely, blew through the guard rail and went airborne for 260 feet, almost across the Hoh River, landing on all four wheels, upright in a foot of water, 60 feet under the bridge.

Fortunately, the individual was wearing a seat belt. Even so, the stunt put him in the Harborview trauma center.

The State Patrol said the cause of the wreck was, “speed too fast for conditions.” Duh.

Rumors that this stunt was part of a fishing video I was filming when the chute failed to deploy were nothing more than hurtful gossip spread by other guides who didn’t think of it first.

South of the Hoh River bridge, U.S. Highway 101 snakes its way through mud flows and swamps until it reaches the Pacific Ocean.

To build that road back in 1927, equipment was landed at the mouth of the Hoh River. Crews had to dynamite their way south through the rocks to begin work at Ruby Beach.

In August 1931, what was then called the Olympic Loop Highway was completed.

The fact that we could build this engineering marvel with hand labor and antique machinery during the Great Depression begs the question: Why can’t we maintain that road with our modern technology now?

Olympic Peninsula Driving Guide continued.

In last week’s episode, we were hurtling west of Port Angeles and, having crossed the Elwha Bridge, headed west on U.S. Highway 101. This bridge is yet another unintended consequence of the Elwha Dam Removal experiment. This liberated Elwha was freed to erode the footings of the antique bridge that had never quite reached bedrock.

A March 2018 Forks Forum article described Department of Transportation plans to rebuild the bridge in 2020 before something bad happened like, say, a log jam like the one currently piled up against the Sol Duc bridge on Mora Road.

Out and out failure of the Elwha Bridge would have left state Highway 112 the only route to the west end of the Peninsula. Until last winter’s mudslides destroyed what amounted to the paved elk trail we knew as Highway 112.

The other not-for-the-faint-hearted detour would have been the paved goat path along the eastern shore of Lake Crescent, which formerly connected highways 101 and 112. Until a forest fire showered the road with rock slides so it’s been closed with no clear date of reopening.

Leaving the labyrinth of logging roads through the uplands between the Twin Rivers and Bear Creek as a last possible link to the West End of the Peninsula in the case of emergency.

But you made it across the Elwha Bridge, arriving at the shores of beautiful Lake Crescent. Completed in 1922, the road around the lake is in the best shape of its 100-year history. A recent rebuild finds the road around Lake Crescent a dreamy drive on a fresh carpet of smooth asphalt. People still crash their cars here anyway. They’ve watched too many car commercials of people stump-jumping through the wilderness and splashing through creeks and … bam.

West of Lake Crescent, get ready for another driving adventure. One of the more popular tourist questions is, “How many bridges are there over the Sol Duc River?” Visitors can think they’re trapped in a Groundhog Day vacation loop. No matter how many Sol Duc bridges there are, each of these antique structures can provide all the thrills any driver could want.

Driving across a Sol Duc bridge behind a line of tourist traffic feels like you’re a hog in a chute. Then you meet a log truck, monster RV and Lowboy tractor trailer while trying to miss the platter-sized chuckholes. After which, our visitor will want to stop in Forks, kiss the ground, get an apple fritter and move on.

South of Forks, one encounters an eroded landscape of Pleistocene clay deposits. These remains of the continental ice sheet are worthless for anything but ruining your day. Unstable at any temperature or moisture content, the clay oozes downhill, taking the road with it when you least expect it.

Eventually, the persevering driver is rewarded with a new bridge crossing the Bogachiel River. The old one fell in the river. Confirming the locals’ belief that it’s the only way we can get a new bridge out here in the West End. Remember to always check to see if a bridge is still there before you cross it.

South of the Bogachiel, we are treated with stunning views of Mount Olympus and the Hoh River Valley, which means crossing the Hoh River Bridge. This was voted by me to be the scariest bridge on the Olympic Peninsula.

Built in 1931, the Hoh River Bridge was the final link in the Olympic Loop highway that we now call 101. Traffic has gotten heavier and faster since 1931. The Hoh River Bridge, like the glaciers on Mount Olympus, seems to be shrinking. More next week.

Olympic Peninsula Driving Guide.

The signs of summer are all around.

The roar of the lawn mower, the stench of burning charcoal and the seasonal spike in gasoline prices tell us vacation time will soon be here.

All of which means an influx of the dreaded tourist traffic.

Some are scurrying back to the rat race. Others are headed west in search of solitude in God’s country.

Unfortunately, God let people in it.

Many of these people are tourists who drive almost as bad as the locals.

At times like these, you need an Olympic Peninsula driving guide.

The Olympic Peninsula is a peninsula.

Surrounded on three sides by treacherous bodies of water.

You can approach from the south on roads that are more like paved elk trails that wind around in circles like a hound dog chasing a squirrel, or tempt fate and cross the water on a ferry and a bridge that can involve many hours of waiting in line.

It doesn’t matter.

Tourists come here from all over the country to clog up our roads.

Some are in a tremendous hurry with a powerful urge to pass the car in front of them, so they can get behind another car that has 25 more cars ahead of it.

Other tourists are in no hurry at all. They drive 15 mph under the speed limit, while testing their brakes.

All tourists fast and slow fear the king of the road, the log truck.

“They think they own the road!” I heard a tourist sob.

Do the math. A log truck weighs 90,000 pounds. You don’t. Pull over and let them by.

Sometimes the greatest challenge drivers face are the roads themselves.

The speed limits can go from 60 mph to 40 mph to 55 mph in just a few miles.

Fortunately, our State Patrol is usually on hand at one of their many usual and accustomed speed traps to help remind us of the speed limit.

Once you’ve figured out the speed limit, you’re ready for the next challenge — road construction.

Much of the road construction on the Olympic Peninsula is road destruction.

Between Sequim and Port Angeles, they are ripping up the road to replace the culverts on two creeks so salmon can theoretically migrate upstream, if they ever decide to come back.

Continuing west, we come to the most dangerous corner on the Olympic Peninsula, the Morse Creek hill.

It’s actually a long curve where 250 collisions have occurred between 2007 and 2019.

They’re putting a concrete median around the curve this spring, so that should make it safer.

Now if we could only fix the drivers.

West of Port Angeles, we come to a fork in the road where state Highway 112 takes off west along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Or used to, until last winter’s mudslides closed this vital link to Cape Flattery.

So, go left at the junction down U.S. Highway 101, where you will soon come to another dangerous trouble spot, the Elwha River Bridge.

It’s on a nasty corner with a history of horrendous wrecks.

To add to the drama, the foundation is being eroded since the removal of the Elwha Dams.

Remember to always check to see if there is still an Elwha River bridge before you try and cross it.

As we shall see later, this simple precaution could possibly save you from a watery grave — but more next week.

West of the Elwha, we come to beautiful Lake Crescent, where the road around the lake was just rebuilt.

Enjoy, because the farther west you get, the worse the road gets.

To be continued 

Requiem for a River.

Spring is a time of hope on the river.

The salmon eggs that survived the winter floods are getting ready to hatch when the weather gets warmer. The steelhead eggs are freshly laid in their beds, secure in the knowledge the floods of winter are over.

The river has settled down for the summer, when another run of steelhead will emerge from the gravel.

This is the time for the return of the spring chinook. These were known as “the first salmon.”

The first salmon ceremony was a celebration of the salmon practiced by Native people throughout the range of the salmon. Until the salmon were gone.

A few years back, we held a First Salmon Ceremony on the Hoh River. Or tried to.

There were no salmon.

The state would not allow us to catch even a hatchery salmon. The celebration was renamed the No Salmon Ceremony.

It was more like a requiem — a requiem for a river — where friends came to remember a dead friend.

Someone had sense enough to record the testimony of some first-hand eyewitnesses to the death of the Hoh River, the last best river in America.

Daryle “Jake” Jacobsen started fishing the Hoh when he was a young man up until the time of his passing on Easter Sunday of 2019.

He began guiding on the Hoh in 1973, catching 50-pound chinook and 20-pound steelhead for generations of anglers.

Then, Jake watched the river die.

He said the fish were like a pie. The more people you have, the smaller the piece everyone gets. The fishing pressure increased incrementally as the state shut down fishing elsewhere in Washington and directed everyone to fish for steelhead on the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula.

Jake said everyone is going to have to give up something to save the river.

Something such as the late season that fishes the steelhead all the way into April.

He said you can’t just plant the river like a garden and expect it to grow back in a year. He did not want a hatchery on the Hoh. Because it would draw too many crowds. Jake could see the effects that 50 years of planting hatchery fish on the Hoh River had on the natives.

Jake could look at the so-called natives we caught lately and point out their narrow backs and skinny tails that marked the dilution of the fishery into feral mongrels of hatchery and wild stocks.

Jake proposed hatch boxes full of fertilized native salmon and steelhead eggs placed in creeks running into the Hoh River.

It’s been done before.

In the 1960s, Missy Barlow of Oil City on the Lower Hoh had a 4-H group plant hatch boxes in creeks running into the river. They raised shoals of fish.

In 1981 and 1990, Jake proposed a one-week-per-month closure of the Hoh River to Tribal and sport fishing to allow fish to get upstream.

This was historically practiced in the Native American fisheries.

These measures were ignored.

For reasons known only to the co-managers of the Hoh River, placing remote hatch boxes in creeks is not allowed. Periodic, in-season fishing closures are not even being considered. Instead, we are building log jams to bring the fish back. A practice that has not worked anywhere.

Jake said that he didn’t expect to see the salmon restored on the Hoh River in his lifetime.

Will the Hoh River be restored in anyone’s life time? Doubtful.

We have to change the way we manage fish populations.

Like Jake said, the way we are currently co-managing the Hoh River, there is no management at all.

The Orca Task Force.

Last week we examined the tragic results of capturing the orca for captivity in theme parks and aquariums, where an estimated 164 captive orca died from pneumonia and septicemia.

This number represents more than twice the number of Southern Resident Orca currently surviving in the wild.

In 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee said, “Protecting and restoring the complex ecosystem these beautiful animals rely on will take a lot of work. There are no do-overs with the orcas.”

That year, the Orca Task Force was formed to save them from being starved, poisoned and rammed by ships. Four recommendations included increasing the abundance of Chinook salmon, decreasing disturbance and other risks posed by vessel traffic and noise, reducing exposure to toxic pollutants for orca and their prey, and ensuring adequate funding and accountability measures are in place to support effective recovery efforts.

Let’s see how many of the Orca Task Force recommendations have been implemented so far.

Coincidentally, the biggest salmon restoration experiment in the world, the Elwha Dam removal, received another set-back just last week.

The myriad co-managers announced that the fishing moratorium on the Elwha would be extended for another year due to the failure of salmon to reach the upper river.

That was the whole point in removing the dams in the first place — to get the fish up into the miles of pristine habitat the dams blocked since 1913. That was the year the first fish hatchery was built on the Elwha.

The famed 100-pound salmon of the Elwha are extinct.

The river has been planted with hatchery fish for over 100 years.

The so-called wild fish in the Elwha are either hatchery fish that haven’t had their adipose fin clipped or the feral progeny of hatchery fish that spawned in the river.

The co-managers of the Elwha decided to plant log jams instead of fish and let the upper Elwha restore itself. Ditto the Dungeness River, where a hatchery has been in operation since 1905, rearing up to 12 million salmon per year.

Until the co-managers decided we would rather have the extinct native salmon on paper than hatchery fish in the river. We’ll take restoring chinook off the Orca Task Force table.

Forget about decreasing noise and other risks to orca due to shipping.

Every year about 11,000 deep draft vessels transit the Strait of Juan de Fuca, burning bunker oil, making noise and ramming any whale unlucky enough to be sleeping on the surface.

The number of ships will only increase with faster, larger vessels, according to the Port of Seattle’s expansion plans on Elliott Bay for dredging and building new facilities for more and bigger ships.

So, we’ll take decreasing vessel and traffic noise off the Orca Task Force table.

Reducing marine toxins that affect the orca and their prey is another non-starter.

We annually pump an estimated 97,000 pounds of drugs, hormones and personal care product residues in the sewage that flows through the 106 publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants in Puget Sound.

In addition, cleaning the remains of our extinct industries has been a fuse that’s worse than the bomb, spewing acidic plumes of precipitate metals, destroying entire ecosystems in the process.

As for funding and accountability for the orca, money is not a problem.

Measuring the accountability from the millions of dollars we’ve spent on failed salmon restoration efforts is.

We’ll take accountability off the Orca Task Force Table.

Only one goal of the Orca Task Force has been achieved: adequate funding.

Before the orca spiral further down the drain of extinction, maybe we should appoint another task force.

Killing the Killer Whales.

Last week, we reviewed the industrial slaughter that pushed our large whales to the brink of extinction.

As whales became harder to find, their renderings were replaced by petroleum distillates. We shifted gears from industrial whaling to whaling for family entertainment.

The orca became the target species. The orca, also known as Killer Whales, are actually a member of the dolphin family. Orca were revered by the Native Americans as the reincarnated spirits of their loved ones and chiefs who had passed on.

Initially, only a few orca were killed by scientists, who harpooned them and cut them open to learn what they ate. Later, these intelligent, friendly, family-oriented creatures became the raw material to feed an insatiable appetite of the public for the ancient spectacle of captured wild animals in cages performing tricks for our enjoyment.

In 1965, two orca were entangled in a fishing net on Vancouver Island. One survived. A male named Namu was moved to a pen on the Seattle waterfront. Namu swam in the raw sewage of Elliott Bay for a year before dying from a bacterial infection.

Namu was so popular that, in 1970, a super pod of between 90 and 100 orca — representing what could have been the entire Southern Resident orca population — were rounded up with the aid of explosives, speedboats and airplanes, and trapped in a 3-acre net pen at Penn Cove on Whidbey Island. Orca families were separated. Seven orca calves were forced into slings and loaded onto trucks to begin their lives in captivity in sea parks.

Some of the seven orca that were eventually sold to various sea parks only lived a few months.

All of these captured orca are now dead, except one.

Lolita was sold for about $20,000 to the Miami Seaquarium, where she’s lived in an 80- by 60-foot concrete pool that’s bisected by a work island ever since 1970.

Her partner, Hugo, another captured orca, died in 1980 after repeatedly ramming his head against the side of the tank.

As a result of these captures, people realized the orca were worth money.

The state of Washington began selling $1,000 permits to capture them. Eventually, between 275 and 307 orca were caught in British Columbia and Washington — 55 were sold to aquariums. While there are no firm estimates on how many orca died in the capture operations, four humans have been killed by captive orcas. These creatures have never attacked humans in the wild.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 banned capturing orca.

Still, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) granted SeaWorld permission to capture orca under an economic hardship exemption.

In 1976, Washington state sued SeaWorld for violating its permits due to the violence of hunting, herding, capture and transportation of the orca.

At some point, even the scientists admitted that capturing the orca was a likely factor in depressing their population and altering their familial structures in a manner that would severely affect their reproduction and survival. The scientists continued their research.

Biologists have long been known to subject animals to horrific cruelty in their search for knowledge.

They used a different kind of harpoon, this time to stick the orcas with satellite-linked transmitters to track them, which caused fungal infections that led to the deaths of two orca in 2016.

One of the orca was found dead in the water with chunks of a tracking dart still in its fin. Another tagging victim was found washed up on a beach.

All of which added biologists to the long list of environmental threats to the survival of the orca.

Next week: We review efforts of the Orca Task Force to save the orca.

A Short history of Whaling

It’s fun to look back at this day in history to measure the changes brought to the Olympic Peninsula.

These changes can be discovered in newspaper articles written by James Swan in the latter half of the 1800s.

It was on this day in 1859 Swan was invited to go on a cruise on a schooner with two old sea captains who were trading with the Native Americans along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Swan would go on to become an ethnologist, documenting the fast-disappearing cultures of the indigenous people of the Olympic Peninsula and the Queen Charlotte Islands, now Haida Gwaii.

Swan traveled safely and made friends among these warlike nations with three basic rules that hold true today. He ate the foods his hosts provided. He never carried a gun, and he never told a lie, even as a joke.

Initially, Swan was obsessed with the idea of turning kelp into parchment paper.

It was an industry for which he could obtain no financing. For which we can thank our lucky stars, since the kelp forests are the nursery of our fisheries. We should really let them be.

Swan switched to real estate promotion, guessing the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad would be in Port Townsend. He guessed wrong. Tacoma got that prize.

Swan was from Boston, the headquarters for much of the American whaling fleet that sailed the world, rendering whales for oil, spermaceti and baleen. Swan had been a chandler, provisioning and outfitting ships engaged in trading and whaling.

Naturally, Swan thought the Strait of Juan de Fuca would be a good location for a whaling station.

At the time, the Strait of Juan de Fuca was lousy with whales of the largest kind.

The abundance of whales was seen as evidence by Spanish and English explorers that the Strait was connected with a larger body of water such as Hudson Bay or the Atlantic Ocean.

This fueled the search for the Northwest Passage, an imaginary shortcut across North America.

Swan was never able to establish a whaling station in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Canadians did.

In 1905, they built four whaling stations on Vancouver Island. While there were few right and grey whales left after being slaughtered by the American fleet, the humpback whales were ripe for the picking — for a while.

The whaling station in Nanaimo had to shut down after killing the entire local population of 95 humpback whales.

The last right whale was killed in an accidental collision with a whaling vessel in 1951.

The ship towed the whale to the station for rendering anyway.

Whaling continued in British Columbia until 1967 after killing an estimated 25,000 whales.

Not to be outdone, the Americans built a whaling station in Grays Harbor in 1910, rendering an average of 300 sperm, humpback and fin whales per year.

It was said you could smell the operation 20 miles out to sea.

A hundred years later, we are trying to save the whales.

We are all familiar with the plight of the remaining Southern Resident Puget Sound Orca.

The visceral image of a female orca swimming along the surface of the Salish Sea, keeping her dead offspring afloat back in 2018 created an overwhelming groundswell of support among environmentalists, politicians and the general public to save this iconic species.

An Orca Task Force was set up to identify threats to the orca and what can be done to save them.

In next week’s column, we will form another task force to examine the accomplishments of the Orca Task Force.