British Columbia

3rd new killer whale calf spotted off West Coast

There's some good news today about B.C.'s killer whale population — another calf has been spotted off the coast of Vancouver Island.
A third new calf was spotted swimming with J pod in Haro Strait east of Victoria over the weekend. ((Centre for Whale Research) )

There's some good news today about B.C.'s endangered killer whale population — another calf has been spotted off the coast of Vancouver Island.

A whale watcher first noted the small dorsal fin on the weekend in the waters of Haro Strait, between Victoria and the San Juan Islands.

Ken Balcomb, the executive director of the Centre for Whale Research in Friday Harbour on San Juan Island, Wash., confirmed the sighting was the second for that pod this year.

"We went out and yep, there indeed, there's a brand-new baby there, a brand-new baby in J pod. That makes two this year in J pod, and in both cases are doing well," he said.

Population still threatened

J pod's first new calf was spotted along with a new calf in L pod off Victoria at the beginning of February.

The birth of the three new baby killer whales this year raises the population of the three pods that make up the southern resident population to 85.

One of the new calves was spotted with J pod near Victoria on Feb 6. The calves are naturally pink and black instead of white and black when born.

But the population, which spends part of the year off the South Coast of B.C feeding on salmon, is still threatened. Last year, seven resident whales died, including two of three newborn calves.

"Our population of killer whales in the region is endangered. They've suffered declines in the past years and we're hoping they will recover as the salmon stocks recover and our ecosystem recovers, and this is a good sign that they're trying," he said.

Experts have blamed the decline on a range of factors including declining salmon stocks, increased boat traffic, reduced habitat, and a buildup of toxic chemicals in the food chain.

Last month the federal government announced it was making it illegal to damage the habitat of critically endangered killer whales off the coast of B.C. after a coalition of environmental groups launched a lawsuit.