British Columbia

Killer whale baby boom: 4th calf spotted near Tofino

Whale watchers on the West Coast are celebrating the confirmed sighting of a fourth killer whale calf born to the endangered southern resident population this year.

Confirmed sighting of L-121 raises endangered southern resident population to 81

Naturalist Marcie Callewaert with Victoria Marine Science Association reported she “just spent a couple hours with L-Pod from Cox Point to Long Beach, near Tofino, BC. L121 was present and as energetic as ever!” (Marcie Callewaert/Victoria Marine Science Association.)

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.

      1 of 0

      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.

      "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."

      Comments

      To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

      By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.