A New baby orca in the J-Pod of the southern resident killer whales was spotted off of the shores of Tofino by the Tofino Whale Centre (Photo credit: John Forde and Jennifer Steven)

Southern resident killer whales spotted in Salish Sea over the weekend

J-Pod only stayed for a couple of days before heading out again

Whale researchers spotted the southern resident killer whales in the Salish sea over the weekend, more than six weeks later than expected.

Traditionally the JPod, consisting of 74 known members, visits the waters of the Salish Sea and the Juan de Fuca straight starting in mid-May, but researchers grew concerned when they hadn’t been spotted by the end of June.

“The east coast of Vancouver Island is a place they’ve frequented as long as we’ve studied them,” said Michael Weiss, a biologist with the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island in Washington state. “This year was unusual.” 

However, on Saturday the JPod was finally spotted in local waters, captivating Victoria residents and tourists alike.

The pod didn’t stay long, however, heading back out after a couple of days and has been consistently spotted on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, frequenting spots outside of Tofino and Ucluelet.

“The West Coast has had a good run of chinook this year, especially in the spring,” Weiss said. “This has led them to shifting the usage of different areas.”

At the end of May, the Tofino Whale Centre spotted a new addition to the pod, a tiny baby girl who was still soft and slightly orange, as is usual for newborn orcas. She’s is J31’s first baby, and is estimated to be about one month old.

READ MORE: Sick orca J50 declared dead by 1 group while scientists remain hopeful

READ MORE: U.S., Canadian researchers consider capturing ailing orca J50

While most of the time one or two calves a year isn’t a big surprise, in recent years the JPod has had trouble producing viable calves. The last successful birth of a baby was in 2016 with the birth of J53.

In 2018, orca J35 gave birth to a baby who died shortly after birth and mourned by carrying the baby around for at least 16 days, capturing attention from around the world.

Another young orca from the JPod, J50, died in 2018 at three years old after scientists tried several interventions to help treat the ailing and starving youth.

So far, however, J31’s baby is looking good.

ALSO READ: Newborn southern resident killer whale spotted in B.C. waters

“In the first year of life there’s a 50 per cent mortality rate,” Weiss said. “However, she looks about right … she was kind of floppy and saggy as is normal, and since then she’s started to stiffen, and still has some of her orange colouration.”

Weiss said a couple of sick members of the JPod are still unaccounted for, but that this doesn’t mean that they have died.

As of June 1, this is the first year whale watching companies will not be permitted to watch the southern resident killer whales close up, with a mandated distance of 400 metres.

Ben Duthie, general manager at the Prince of Whales company said this won’t affect their business much, since they only saw the southern residents 15 per cent of the time in previous years.

“We’ve seen them less and less every year,” Duthie said. “Ten years ago they were reliably seen off of the San Juan Islands, and that just doesn’t happen any more.”

ALSO READ: Scientists concerned about endangered orca still pushing body of her calf

Whale watching companies have been banned from advertising about the southern residents, and are trying to teach visitors that there are actually two separate species, focusing instead on the transient killer whales which eat seals and sea lions.

Weiss said, however, that this likely won’t make a difference and may even harm the whales since private boaters might not see them or know how to act around them.

“When there’s whale watching boats around it either acts as a signal to slow down, or the whale watchers can alert the private boats to slow down,” Weiss said. “Openly, I don’t think the new distance will make much of an effect, the whales will still hear a lot of noise.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Cloverdale students make puzzles for care home residents

Students from Cloverdale’s Sunrise Ridge delivered gifts to seniors and thank you notes to first responders

COLUMN: Timing just right for raising minimum wage

Raising minimum wage will protect human life and reduce poverty, writes Garber Black

New goalkeeper training centre opens in Cloverdale

Nestled on Surrey-Langley border, facility offers full range of training programs

Easter Seals drop zone returning to Surrey as ‘great no-contact event’

Health and safety a ‘top priority’ for annual event

Blustery South Surrey walk to benefit homeless

Patricia Mulvaney is walking 10k to boost awareness of Surrey Urban Mission Society

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

Police arsenal deployed to avoid potentially violent situation: Mounties

Langley RCMP arrest armed Vancouver man after Tasering him on side street

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

Black worker files discrimination complaint against Facebook

Oscar Veneszee, Jr. has worked as an operations program manager at Facebook since 2017

Nestle Canada selling bottled water business to local family-owned company

The Pure Life bottled water business is being sold to Ice River Springs

US unemployment falls to 11%, but new shutdowns are underway

President Donald Trump said the jobs report shows the economy is “roaring back”

Most Read