Plan to dart tag Puget Sound orcas raises concerns

by Tim Flanagan on January 26, 2012

PHUONG LE of the ASSOCIATED PRESS has this story in the Tacoma News Tribune:

SEATTLE — Federal biologists plan next month to attach tiny satellite devices on Puget Sound’s endangered orcas off the West Coast to better understand where they go during winter. But some whale experts worry the tags – about the size of a 9-volt battery with two darts – could injure the orcas.

While dart tags have been used on other whale species, there this is the first time they would be used on the southern resident killer whales that frequent the inland waters of Washington state and British Columbia.

Brad Hanson, approved a wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service in Seattle, and his colleagues received federal approval last month to implant the transmitters on the dorsal fins of up to six orcas.

The orcas spend summer months in Puget Sound, but "that’s only half the story," Hanson said, adding "we don’t know where they spend the bulk of their time."

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