Photo by Ken Balcomb

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Photo by Ken Balcomb

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Photo by Ken Balcomb

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Photo by Ken Balcomb

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Encounter Summary: 

Climbing back on board “Chimo” after the “Goldwing” VIP trip, I departed Victoria at 1450 and headed back toward San Juan Island. After clearing US Customs by phone in mid-Haro Strait at 1535, I got wind of a group of resident whales rounding Turn Point and heading south in Haro Strait, so I sped north to see who they were. The K’s that I had seen off Eagle Point in the morning had moved up the strait and into Boundary Pass by mid-day and they met with the J16’s, etc. that had come down Georgia Strait to East Point and Boiundary Pass. Apparently, they were very spread out in the Pass, and they were still spread out as they came around Turn Point and headed south. The first whale that I saw was J26 heading south a couple hundred yards off the Stuart Island shoreline, and offshore of him were two small groups with the new babies, J50 and 51. As soon as I saw them, J36 and J51 turned and swirled vigorously at the surface for a few moments, providing me a clue that they were pursuing a salmon. Sure enough, when the activity died down and the whales had moved away, I went over and observed numerous fish scales in the water, looking like a cloud of sequins drifting toward the depths. I quickly dispatched the swimming pool net and collected one of the scales that I could reach before the cloud disappeared. I will bet it is Chinook – much larger than the scales of a Pink Salmon, but still not from a large fish. My guess is it is from an about an eleven pound Chinook – a Jack? The nice thing is that a lot can be determined from the scale, but I seldom hear back when I send them off to NWFSC for analysis. I think that we should pay for our own analyses and thereby obtain more real-time feedback on our work. It would be helpful to know if our guesses are correct.

Around the western region of Speiden Channel the trailing group of whales that I had chosen to be with grouped up and headed toward Battleship Island before spreading out again a mile north of Kellett Bluff. This group comprised the remainder of J pod, and the leaders that had already passed Kellett Bluff were reported to be the subgroups of  K’s seen most of the day (K12’s and K13’s). Interestingly, Mallard had K21 out in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca this afternoon. All of the pods are extremely spread out and “associating” in strange arrangements that we have not seen before. I think this is due to salmon being few and far between. The spread out feoraging pattern exists whether or not there are any whalewatch vessels in the area, so it cannot be a response to them.







Ken Balcomb on "Goldwing"



Haro Strait





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Encounter #56 - June 27, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits