Sunset
Sunset

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Sunset
Sunset

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Fishinin
Fishinin

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Sunset
Sunset

Photo by Ken Balcomb

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Encounter Summary: 

Resident killer whales were reported in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca since early morning, presumably following or herding a Chum salmon run into the Salish Sea. The seiners have been fishing for Chum salmon on the west side of San Juan Island for a week now, with today’s catch reported ‘slow’. The Sockeye and Pink salmon spawning migration for this year has ended for all practical purposes, and the diversion rate was more that 90% of the fish coming through Johnstone Strait, not the Strait of Juan de Fuca, presumably due to the warm ocean waters off our coast. Coho salmon are around in the Salish Sea for the sport fishery, as are a few clipped-fin Chinook; but, the prey biomass available from now until December is largely Chum.  For those folks interested in learning about how the prey resources are faring I recommend psc.org and Salmon University websites, and government sites. From scale and scat samples we know that Chinook comprise the largest portion of the SRKW diet, but of course they will eat other fishes if they have to. They just do not survive as well as they do in good Chinook years.

 

I mention all of this prey resource stuff because it also relates to SRKW distribution and behavior. The first whale that I saw today was J16, by herself at 1609, swimming slowly in large circles in front of CWR. J22 was also swimming slowly several hundred yards away, and J34 was further offshore, and at 1618 headed on a direct course toward J16, and then veered off toward Open Bay. All three whales travelled slowly to the north several hundred yards from each other and then reversed course to the south. At 1634 a group of whales (including J50) appeared and became very active very near shore in front of CWR, apparently chasing fish; and, one of the seiners came over to check them out. J16 and J26 joined the group and all spread out again and headed toward Open Bay. A humpback whale swam right through the spread out assemblage of killer whales, apparently unperturbed by their presence. The only killer whales that I identified were from J pod, and I left them loitering north of Kellett Bluff at 1756 around sunset. By the time I returned home to CWR at 1830 there were more killer whales in front of the porch heading in various directions. Apparently they all eventually came back up Haro Strait from the south of San Juan Island in the night, and were off Sand Head in the morning.

15-Oct-15

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90

16:05

17:56

Chimo

Ken Balcomb

J Pod

Haro Strait

48.44.25/123.07.14

48.44.50/123.09.55

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Encounter #90 - Oct 15, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 15569/ DFO SARA 272