T36As

T36As

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T36A

T36A

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T36A2

T36A2

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T36A2 & T36A1

T36A2 & T36A1

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T36A3

T36A3

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Encounter #69 - Aug 30, 2017

Date: 30-Aug-17

Sequence: 1

Encounter Number: 69

Vessel: Shachi

Observers: Ken Balcomb, Gail Richard

Pods or ecotype: Transients

Location: Presidents Channel

Begin Lat/Long: 124848 36.462N/123 01.681W 

End Lat/Long: 130748 39.020N/123 00.841W 

 

Encounter Summary:

We topped off fuel at Port Angeles and cast off at 1050 to head across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and back to San Juan Island. As in recent days, Bigg’s Transient killer whales were seemingly everywhere in the Salish Sea, so we were confident that we would run across some within reasonable distance of our northerly course across the Strait. Sure enough, two groups of Ts were reported off Partridge Bank heading toward Smith and Minor Islands, but that was a little tangential to our course and they were already identified. Therefore, we continued toward Haro Strait and soon received a report of Ts off Jones Island at noon that were probably the unidentified ones reported off Point Doughty earlier in the morning, but nobody had found them in spite of several boats searching. This is the way it is with Ts – they can be pretty cryptic and circuitous in their travels. 

We opted to continue past our destination Snug Harbor to catch up with “Spindrift” who was on scene with the whales near the northwest shore of Orcas Island as they headed into President’s Channel. We arrived at 1247 and a minute later the whales surfaced a few hundred yards offshore, backlit in the mid-day sun. I took a few long-shot photos in case the whales disappeared again, but with the backlighting and the pixelation the pictures could just as well been of Loch Ness monsters; so I dropped behind them and guessed where they might again surface in the Channel. They came up right on cue, and ten minutes later the job was done as the four T36As passed us by heading back toward Point Doughty. Though it would be interesting to stay with Ts for an extended period of time to observe their predation rate and behavior, it consumes our authorized “takes” (every instance in which we are within 200 yards of a whale) that I am conserving for when the Residents return to the Salish Sea. We have documented this group of four in the area on the 2nd, 23rd and 24th of February, the 8th of March, the 9th of June, and the 19th and 30th of August, making them (along with many other Ts) more resident to the area than the Residents (SRKWs). The factors that set this upside-down situation in motion began to occur decades ago with human overfishing, habitat destruction, and ecosystem-altering dams; and, now Mother Nature is trying to bring the ecosystem into balance by sending in the troops of seal-eating Transient killer whales to reduce the competition for the fish (seals are currently blamed by humans for the salmon ‘problem’, but they take nowhere as much biomass of salmon as humans). Mother Nature and the Ts probably do not know the salmon problem is due to human fault, but we had best not consider ourselves exempt from the laws of nature. Don’t be worried about the Ts bothering humans, but do be concerned with anthropogenic climate change and its far-ranging effects.

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

2017 Encounters