Victoria Whale Watching Report: A Visit from the Southern Resident Killer Whales!
September 5, 2020
Saturday, September 5th, 2020 – 12pm Covered Vessel Tour
It was an exciting day to be on the water as reports of Southern Resident Killer Whales were coming in! In the past several years we tend to see the amazing mammal-hunting orcas more often than the fish-eating Southern Residents, so the prospect of seeing them was exciting! We left the Victoria Harbour and headed west in search of fins, splashing, and misty exhales on the surface of the sea.
Just south of Beecher Bay is where the black triangles of K and L pod whales began to appear on the horizon! As we watched small groups of this close-knot population pass by, a new group would appear in another direction. It was so wonderful to see the whales rolling, cartwheeling, splashing, and waving their flukes in the air! With Chinook Salmon stocks decreasing each year, the Southern Residents have been spending more time searching for food and less time socializing together.
Each whale has a unique dorsal fin and saddlepatch, which makes it possible to identify them as individuals. We spotted over 20 individuals including Ballena (L-90), sprouting Tika (K-33), and mature male Wavewalker (L-88)! When the pods get together, they love to play, verbally communicate, and mating can occur. In fact, we did see some attempts at flirting! Killer whales mate year-round and can have a calf at any time due to their 17-month gestation period.
After our whale watching trip, we learned that the third Southern Resident pod- J-Pod was off the shores of San Juan Island while K and L pods were traveling towards them from the west where we were watching them. We were ecstatic to learn that the birth of a new calf is the likely reason for this huge gathering of the entire population! Tahlequah (J-35) had given birth to a calf known as J-57! Tahlequah became known to people around the world in 2018 because her newborn calf at the time only survived for about 30 minutes. She proceeded to carry her calf on her head for 17 days and over 1000 miles. It was a summer of heartache for the population, but we are all very hopeful that the birth of this new baby will begin a new chapter for Tahlequah, her family, and the entire Southern Resident community. We all need to work together to ensure that Chinook salmon populations stop declining and start increasing so that mothers like Tahlequah have abundant food to be able to nurse their offspring into healthy young whales. It is an exciting time for the Southern Residents and we are so happy that they got some time to celebrate the birth of their newest family member together!