J49 chasing fish

J49 chasing fish

Photo by Ken Balcomb

L87

L87

Photo by Mark Malleson

J39

J39

Photo by Mark Malleson

J27

J27

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J38

J38

Photo by Mark Malleson

J22

J22

Photo by Mark Malleson

J17

J17

Photo by Mark Malleson

Encounter #21 - Mar 4, 2017

Date: 04-03-17

Sequence: 1

Encounter Number: 21

Enc Start Time: 09:47

Enc End Time: 16:54

Vessel: Mike 1 & Shachi

Observers: Mark and Hanna Malleson in Mike 1

Ken Balcomb in Shachi

Pods or ecotype: J Pod

Location: Trial Island

Begin Lat/Long: 48 22.2/123 20.3

End Lat/Long: 48 31 33N/123 09 53W

 

Encounter Summary:

Mark and Hanna left Victoria Harbor in “Mike 1” at 0923, following up on a report from Steve McConnell (working on a pilot boat) of killer whales north east bound south west of the VH bouy in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Shortly after leaving the harbor they spotted blows a couple of miles south of Clover Pt in the excellent lighting. The first whale encountered was L87 heading toward Trial Island – northeast bound. They then came across J26 and J38 engaged in intimate activity. The whales were very spread out at first and moving slowly against the strong ebb current. There was some foraging in the Oak Bay Flats however there was no evidence that they were catching any fish. Mark and Hanna had the dip net ready with hopes of getting some scales, just in case. The whales started grouping up as they approached Discovery Island and worked their way through the strong tidal chop where Mark and Hanna left them.

 

Ken came out in “Shachi” from Snug Harbor at 1344 into Haro Strait as the tide was about to slacken and the chop died down. At 1408, he encountered J27 by himself about two miles off Hannah Heights, San Juan Island, heading up Haro Strait. He was diving for 5-6 minutes and then surfacing for a very few blows before diving again, and traveling several hundred unpredictable yards between surfacings. There were already a few whales inshore of him, so Ken left to check them out. Mark and Hanna had already photo-documented most of the whales present, so the priority now was to identify the outliers, check on whale-body condition, and look for foraging events. Three high speed surface chases representing what were surmised to be foraging events were seen in the next hour and a half as the very spread out assemblage of whales traveled slowly north, taking long dives of 5-7 minutes between surfacings. J49 was seen to conduct a prolonged chase in circles several hundred yards off Dead Man’s Bay, but by the time Ken arrived in “Shachi” with a dip net for sampling scales only a few could be seen drifting downward, out of reach of the dip net. The scales appeared to be small, from an estimated six to eight pound fish. Of the ten whales that Ken was able to see, all appeared to be in good body condition, so they must be finding enough to eat. J pod has apparently not been in the core area of the Salish Sea for about two weeks, while they were presumably feeding in coastal waters. One Spring Chinook salmon has been counted passing the viewing window at Bonneville dam to date this year, but more are expected as March is the month during which the count typically increases.

 

By 1630, the whales were nearing Sunset Point San Juan Island, so Ken hurried back to Snug Harbor and went home to observe them from the porch. L87 passed by in front of the Center for Whale Research at 1654, having traveled 14 miles in just short of 6 hours, a little slower than usual.

Take ACTION

for Orcas

We appreciate your support.

Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 15569/ DFO SARA 388

2017 Encounters