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Orca alerts will help Islanders see whales

Preserve Our Islands, a Vashon nonprofit that was instrumental in preventing Glacier Northwest from expanding its mining operation on Maury Island, wants to help Vashon residents see what they and others work to protect. The organization recently announced the launch of its “Pod Blasts.”

For a $15 annual fee, Islanders can be alerted by text message or email when orcas or other whales approach Vashon and then receive frequent updates on the whales’ locations and where and when they can best be viewed.

Amy Carey, director of Preserve our Islands (POI), said she and those she knows make many frantic phone calls when whales come to Vashon, and she has been asked for years to set up a more formal system.

“We were hearing so many people say, ‘Please, please, please, find a way to do that,’” Carey said.

The Pod Blast program will be a pilot this year, she said, as POI wants to assure the alerts don’t result in people watching whales from boats, which she said can be harmful for the animals.

“At the same time, I don’t anticipate that being an issue,” Carey said. “It doesn’t reflect Vashon’s values.”

Educators can sign up for free alerts, Carey said, and anyone who can’t afford the $15 fee, which she said covers the cost of the program,  can still participate.

“Financial status shouldn’t be a barrier,” she said.

Orcas pass by Vashon mostly during the late fall and winter months, Carey said, though transient orcas as well as gray whales and humpbacks have been known to come down during all times of the year. Large orca pods have traveled by the Island at least twice this year, and in late October they put on a spectacular show off of Point Robinson.

Carey hopes the new Pod Blasts will not only get more people watching whales from the shore but increase awareness of the animals and encourage people to think about how they can protect marine habitat.

“Yes, seeing whales is fun,” Carey said. “But it’s a pretty profound experience ... and we consider it a tool in preservation and protection work, because having that interaction and experience of what we’re working to protect only strengthens our work and this community’s work.

 

To sign up for Pod Blasts, go to www.preserveourislands.com and click the Pod Blasts link, or send contact information, including a phone number or email address, and a $15 check to Preserve Our Islands, PO Box 845, Vashon, WA 98070.

 

 

 

 

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