Saturday, July 07, 2012

BC celebrates 10th anniversary of Springer's rescue

It's an anniversary that has been celebrated at the Vancouver Aquarium and Seattle's Alki Beach Bathhouse, and now British Columbia is again joining in the festivities. Celebrate Springer is being held in BC's Telegraph Cove July 12-15, 2012 to mark the 10th anniversary of the only successful rescue of a killer whale and subsequent reunion with its family. The four-day celebration at the north end of Vancouver Island honors the orphan Springer (A73), now 12 years old, and who has been sighted recently on the central BC coast. Organizers are hoping she will make her annual return to Johnstone Strait with her extended family of Northern Resident killer whales during the celebration. Highlights include:

  • Environmental Fair
  • Whale Interpretive Center
  • July 13-15
  • Panel Discussion - Springer's Story and Why It Matters
  • Whale Interpretive Center
  • Saturday, July 14, 9:30 AM
  • Salmon BQ
  • Boardwalk
  • Saturday, July 14, 1 PM
Panelists for the Saturday morning discussion include John Ford, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) marine mammal scientist; Joe Scordino, former NOAA Fisheries Deputy Administrator; Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal scientist Lance Barrett-Lennard, and The Whale Trail's executive director Donna Sandstrom. Moderator will be retired People for Puget Sound founder and director Kathy Fletcher.

As a two-year old orphan, Springer appeared in Puget Sound in January 2002 near Vashon Island after becoming separated from her family. The little whale was 300 miles from home. Six months later, she was rescued and rehabilitated in Puget Sound, transported by jet catamaran to Dong Chong Bay near Hanson Island and released to the wild and reunited with her family on July 14, 2002. According to DFO marine mammal scientist John Ford, a number of things came together to make the reunion a success, including the donation of a jet catamaran to get her home quickly. Springer's family showed up much soon than expected. "She eventually was able to keep up with them," said Ford, "and by the end of summer she was acting like a normal whale."

The Whale Trail's Donna Sandstrom calls Springer's reunion an unqualified success and the only project of its kind in history. But there's a shadow in the celebration. "Today our Southern resident orcas are in trouble," said Sandstrom. "We hope Springer's success inspires people to join us in working on issues facing orcas today with the same urgency, commitment and resolve." For more information on Celebrate Springer, go to the Celebrate Springer Facebook page and The Whale Trail. 

Springer (A-73) with her relative Sunny (A-70) and Sunny's calf in the summer of 2011 when they returned to the Johnstone Strait. Photo by Leah Robinson.