J45

J45

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J26

J26

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J31

J31

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J22

J22

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J27 J39

J27 J39

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J pod resting

J pod resting

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J46

J46

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J39

J39

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J pod resting

J pod resting

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J19

J19

J22 J38

J22 J38

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J16

J16

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J42

J42

J36

J36

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J37

J37

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Encounter #34 - May 13, 2017

Date: 13-May-17

Sequence: 1

Encounter Number: 34

Enc Start Time: 10:37

Enc End Time: 13:50

Vessel: Chimo

Observers: Ken Balcomb

Pods or ecotype: J pod

Location: Haro Strait

Begin Lat/Long: 48 32.911N/123 10.20W

End Lat/Long: 48 24.689N/123 08.972W

 

Encounter Summary:

On the 8th of May J pod entered the Salish Sea via the Strait of Juan de Fuca, coming past Sooke in the early morning as a group before spreading out near Constance Bank and turning north up Haro Strait, getting as far as Stuart Island by evening. The next day they briefly appeared in Rosario Strait very spread out and heading up into the Strait of Georgia, passing Nanaimo by evening. On the 10th of May they were seen off Comox, and two days later they were again off Nanaimo, this time heading south toward Porlier Pass by evening. Expecting their arrival in the wee hours of morning of the 13th, I listened to the Orcasound and Lime Kiln hydrophones all night but did not hear them, and at 1000 they were finally seen heading south very spread out off Battleship Island in Haro Strait.

            Ken departed Snug Harbor at 1037 in “Chimo” and immediately encountered J36 and J37 off Mitchell Bay heading southeast very spread apart and taking long dives. Other individual whales were off at great distance and some were ahead, also heading down Haro Strait but they were too far away to identify and not surfacing often. For the first two hours, the “encounter” was very unrewarding of IDs, with poor lighting angle, dark seas and skies, and only occasional individual whales as “Chimo” cruised southeast at trolling speed near the shoreline of San Juan Island. The occasional whale-watch vessels lingered far offshore in the ebbing tide, also with very spread out whales. The comprehensive view for observing the procession of whales would have actually been better from shore, for example at Lime Kiln Whale Watch Park on San Juan Island. At 1118, “Chimo” passed by Land Bank, and at 1207 was south of Pile Point when some of the whales seemed to reverse direction off False Bay and then they moved offshore. The water conditions inshore were pretty sloppy by then in the tidal chop as the tide turned to flood at 1219, so I also moved offshore rather than wait for the trailing whales to see what they would do. The water conditions were not so sloppy in mid-Strait, so I waited on the Canada side of the border in hopes that the direction change signaled a response to the tidal change and direction of travel. At 1237, I glimpsed J27 far offshore by himself at 48 25.844N and 123 07.373 W, facing north but not going anywhere; and, by 1250 the whales were beginning to group up in his general area. Then, for about an hour the pod gradually coalesced and formed a “resting group”, zigging and zagging  in various westerly and northerly directions in unison while the whale-watching fleet remained respectfully distant. I tried to take a few ID photos during this rare time together, but the whales barely raised their backs enough to see their “saddles”, and they kept changing direction.

            With the whales meandering undecided in the vicinity of Beaumont Shoals, I left at 1350 and headed to Port Angeles, arriving at 1505. Mark and Hanna Malleson launched in “Mike 1” late in the afternoon and observed the whales very spread out off Clover Point, Victoria, heading west just before sunset so apparently they decided to leave. Thus ended a brief J pod foray into the Salish Sea in early May 2017. It is very apparent that the whales go and spend their time where they find salmon, and they have a strategy and group coordination for their search. All of J pod and L87 appeared to be in good condition during this visit, or at least none appeared to be in poor condition. Soon we hope that they will come in more regularly and stay longer, and eventually K and L pods will come in, too.

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Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 15569-01/ DFO SARA 388

2017 Encounters