Stop Barbaric Orca Satellite “Tags” and Skin Biopsies!

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Dear Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce:

We urge you to intervene and to stop all orca experiments that involve satellite tagging and skin biopsies. Both of these barbaric methods can cause infections and deaths.

The death of orca L95 in March 2016 led the US responsible parties to halt all barbaric satellite "tags" pending a review. The "tags" are actually sharp barb-like blades that penetrate the skin. On October 4th a press conference was held by NOAA Fisheries. At that meeting the following information was given:

1. The death of orca L95 was due to a fungal infection. The first dart attempt failed and due to human error it was not properly sterilized as per protocol. It was also done in waters that were known to have this fungus. The dart was shot into the area of the dorsal fin where large blood vessels are located.

2. Unlike Canada that is not using satellite tags since it is deemed too invasive and alternatives are available, NOAA will only suspend the experiments on the endangered SRKWs pending a review. This will not include Transient orcas who also had been tagged and two went missing afterwards. (Alternatives include suction cup tags and underwater sound buoys).

3. L95 had parts of the dart remain in the body and other cases have been reported over the years. There are 12 orcas presently with parts of old “tags” in them. The issue of pain was not discussed. It was stated that one of the ways the tags are removed is by being bitten off by other orcas. In addition, Right whales had swelling from infections and “dolphins” died during “handling” to attach tags.

4. It was stated that it is always a "risk" and NOAA will look at reducing the risks. They said that the researchers were "dismayed" at the possibility that they killed an endangered orca.

There must also be a review of harmful skin biopsy experiments. Researchers conduct extremely close pursuits on the orcas’ backs then shoot a biopsy dart into them. It has been observed that the orcas have shaken with fear (dorsal fins quivered). In one case the two offspring shook with fear after their mother was darted. These skin biopsies would also cause pathways for toxic pollution, bacteria, and viruses to infect orcas. An investigation should include any deaths of those orcas who were biopsied too.

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