Photo by Ken Balcomb

L116
L116

Photo by Ken Balcomb

L55
L55

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Photo by Ken Balcomb

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Encounter Summary: 

Paul from Sooke Expeditions called at 0800 with a report that a group of SRKW’s including four adult males was inbound off the Sooke Bluff, and he would take ID photos from whale-watching distance. At 0817, Ron Bates texted that there were many KW’s at Eagle Point, so with these two reports we knew it was going to be a whale day on the west side of San Juan Island. It was also a fish day with the Treaty Indian net fishery for salmon open from 0500 on the 9th August until 0900 on the 11th of August in Area 7, including the west shore of San Juan Island. The net fisheries target Sockeye and Pink salmon, but have some bycatch of Chinook salmon that may be accounted for later. We know that the whales seem to have a dietary preference for larger adult Chinook salmon, but the younger whales may practice chasing and eating Sockeye and Pinks.

The whales were very spread out from nearshore to at least mid-Haro Strait heading up-Strait as usual with an incoming tide that motivates the salmon to continue migration toward their natal rivers (most heading toward the Fraser River); and, at least twenty purse seiners awaited both fish and whales for the right moment to set their nets and enjoy their share of the estimated 424,000 Early Summer Sockeye, or estimated 4.6 million Summer Sockeye and 14.4 million Pink salmon bound for the Fraser system. The catch of these fish as of 7th of August was about 55 thousand Sockeye and 31,700 Pink salmon, and it looked like fair catches today. We do not usually hear how many Chinook salmon are caught and retained in The Treaty Indian fisheries, but we hear that Chinook up to 39 pounds have been caught recently in the all-citizen Sports Fishery, and the fishing is reported good with trolling at 140-160 feet for the big ones.

Anyway, Ken elected to stay at the Center for Whale Research for awhile to photo-document the spread out whales and the fishing operations before attempting an encounter from a vessel. The spread out whales identified from the deck of CWR were: J19,26,42,36,52,14,37,40,49,17,28,35,46,47; K13 and 25; and, L72,105,92,47,91,115,106 and L87. J2 slipped by way in the lead before a camera could be rigged.

The vessel Encounter 66 began at 1201 on “Orca” with a few K’s and L’s near Kellett Bluff that were in the trailing groups that came by CWR. K12,22,37,43, and L55,82,103,109,118, and 116 were photo-identified, but the whales were so spread out that it would not be very efficient to attempt a comprehensive inventory with just one vessel in probably a thirty square mile area of whales moving toward Canada. We left the whales near a favorite small cove north of Kellett Bluff, and “Orca” returned to Snug Harbor at 1315.

09-Aug-15

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66

12:01

13:15

Orca

Ken Balcomb

Gail Richard

J, K & L Pod

J19,J26,J42,J36,J52,J14,J37,

J40,J49,J17,J28,J35,J46,J47; K13 and K25; L72,L105,L92,L47,L91,L115,L106,L87

Haro Strait

48 35.0N by 123 12.50W

48 36.0N by 123 08W

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Encounter #66 - Aug 9, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 15569/ DFO SARA 272