NWFSC and K pod
NWFSC and K pod

Photo by Ken Balcomb

L122 and L91
L122 and L91

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Edmonds Ferry
Edmonds Ferry

Photo by Ken Balcomb

NWFSC and K pod
NWFSC and K pod

Photo by Ken Balcomb

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Encounter Summary: 

The Southern Resident Killer Whales made their first foray of the autumn into Puget Sound last night after having spent several days in northern waters of the Salish Sea and coming down via Rosario Strait yesterday (1 November). They were heard on the Port Townshend hydrophone around 1730 to 1830 last evening, and reported off Bainbridge Island in the morning. Ken launched from Snug Harbor, San Juan Island, in "Chimo" at 0927 and sped across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to arrive at Shilshole Marina to fuel up at noon before beginning an encounter at 1239 in mid-Puget Sound between Shilshole and Bainbridge Island. Alisa Lemire Brooks was most helpful in making contact by cell phone from her mobile lookout perch above Shilshole Marina. There are many good lookouts from the shores of Puget Sound for people to sight these iconic whales during their visits. Keep tuned in to Orcanetwork.The whales were spread out in two large groups and several smaller groups all heading north when first encountered. An hour or so earlier they were in approximately the same location heading south, and whales had been reported moving back and forth off Kingston for much of the night. The most southerly group consisted largely of J pod whales and L87, and the most northerly group consisted largely of K pod whales to which was added the few L whales identified. The babies, L122, J51 and J53 got their first looks at the city of Seattle during this visit and all looked healthy. I did not see active surface foraging, but from the presence of multiple gillnet and seine fishing vessels in the area, I presume that there was a significant biomass of Chum salmon in the sound.The two major groups parted ways around 1417 with the "J group" heading back to the south while the "K group" headed north and spread out in the Edmonds-Kingston ferry lanes. By the time I left this northern group, some whales were facing back south.

Notes-Comments:The NWFSC research vessel also responded to the report of SRKW's in Puget Sound, and they remained with the "J group" when the groups parted company. There could well have been additional whales in Puget Sound at the time, but the distribution was very spread resulting in matrilines and individuals possibly missed. There is no concern about temporarily not finding them. The bulk of these whales remain in Puget Sound as I write this on 6 November, and there is no evidence that any have left. In fact, intermittent hydrophone on the Port Townshend system suggests that some (K's ?) have gone back and forth between Point Wilson and south Puget Sound for the past four days, and the "J's" have been further south near Vashon Island. Hmmm - approximately 50 whales would consume approximately forty thousand pounds of food in that time, equating to maybe 4,000 chum salmon. How many chum did the commercial fishers catch in the same timeframe? That would make a good school project to keep track of such things.

02-Nov-15

1

94

1239

1445

Chimo

Ken Balcomb

J, K, L

J's except J16 matriline;
All of K pod except K21; and L47, L87, L91, L115, and L122

Puget Sound

47.41.502/122.28.027

47.48.2/122.26.41

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Encounter #94 - Nov 2, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 15569/ DFO SARA 272