Whale watchers on Canada's West Coast are celebrating the confirmed sighting of a fourth killer whale calf born to the endangered southern resident population this year.
The calf, named L-121, was spotted on June 1 with L-Pod near Cox Beach south of Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The sighting was welcome news, because L-Pod lost one calf and a three-year-old female in recent years, and L-121, which was first spotted in February, wasn't seen the last time the pod was observed off the coast of Oregon by NOAA Fisheries scientists.
Marcie Callewaert, a naturalist with the Victoria Marine Science Association said she spent a couple of hours with the pod on Monday.
"L-121 was present and as energetic as ever," said Callewaert in a statement from the Pacific Whale Watch Association.
Hope for a recovery
After years of population decline, the recent sighting combined with three other calves born to J-Pod this spring, puts the population of wild southern resident orcas at 81.
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"We're thrilled of course," said Michael Harris, the executive director of the PWWA — which represents 32 operators in Washington and British Columbia — in the statement.
"Many of us had concerns about this little whale, not just because of the problems L-Pod has had in recent years, but generally the odds baby orcas have out there.
"We always remind people that wild killer whales have a 50 per cent mortality rate — half don't make it through their first year. And just in its first few months in life, this baby had a lot of big water to battle."
"I'm one of those who think that the southerns have finally turned the corner. We've got a real chance of bringing these whales back. And hey, maybe — if that baby whale can make it, this population can."