An orca that carried her dead calf for 17 days has given birth to a new baby.
J35, the latest addition to the southern resident killer whales, was spotted on Saturday, confirmed by the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA).
“I definitely cried,” said Sarah McCullagh, professionally trained captain and naturalist for San Juan Safaris of Friday Harbor in a release.
“We first saw J35 and her son J47 off by themselves away from the main group, then as we watched we quickly realized that there was a very small fin tucked in next to them.”
McCullaugh was the first to spot the new baby orca during a greeting ceremony between J and L pods on Saturday.
Researchers from the Center for Whale Research confirm J35 was born to 22-year-old mother J35, Tahlequah, who carried her dead calf through the Salish Sea for nearly three weeks in 2018.
“I was obviously elated, so excited for J35 after the incredible loss she suffered a couple of years ago,” said McCullagh. “But also for the Southern Resident community as a whole.”
Researchers don’t yet know whether the calf is a boy or a girl.
The PWWA reminds vessels to keep their distance from the new calf and the critically endangered south resident killer whales.
In 2019, the Canadian government implemented a mandate for boats in the Salish Sea to maintain a 400-metre distance from orcas in an effort to lessen the effects of disturbance and underwater noise pollution.
In 2020, foraging and extended sanctuary zones were implemented, including an area based fishery closure for critical habitat areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and near the Gulf Islands.
– with files from Nina Grossman
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