2018 Encounters

Encounter #43 - June 29, 2018
T124As at Friday Harbor

T124As at Friday Harbor

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T124A3

T124A3

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T124A and young

T124A and young

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T124A

T124A

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Whale Watching from Ferry

Whale Watching from Ferry

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T124As visit Friday Harbor

T124As visit Friday Harbor

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T124A4

T124A4

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Soundwatch

Soundwatch

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T124A2

T124A2

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Busted!

Busted!

Photo by Ken Balcomb

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Date: 29-Jun-18

Sequence: 1

Encounter Number: 43

Enc Start Time: 13:45

Enc End Time: 15:06

Vessel: Chimo

Observers: Ken Balcomb, Lynda Mapes and Steve (Photographer)

Pods or ecotype: Transients

Location: Upright Channel

Begin Lat/Long: 48 33 27.708N/122 59 52.560W

End Lat/Long: 48 34 3.702N/122 54 27.750W

 

Encounter Summary:

Bigg’s Transient Killer Whales were reported in the morning in President Channel heading southwest, and by the time Ken had set out from Snug Harbor in “Chimo” with Lynda Mapes (Seattle Times) and her photographer for a news story, the whales were heading down San Juan Channel between Orcas/Shaw Islands and San Juan Island. The encounter began as the whales cruised in a tight slow-travel resting group right off the entrance to Friday Harbor, as if to beckon tourists. Two whale-watching boats were remaining a respectful distance away from the whales, and two ferry boats were loading/unloading innumerable passengers at the dock while a seaplane with additional passengers took off over the placid scene. This is pretty much what it is like on a summer day in much of this inland Salish Sea surrounded by several million humans going about their daily routine - not bad for those who love nature and too busy for those who wish for solitude. The whales, of course, were aware of the humans around them but they had long since lost any trepidation over their presence; and they were going about their daily routine – swimming about seventy-five miles a day and looking for food between bouts of social activity and leisure.

Food for these “Transient” whales is the red meat of seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals that abound in Salish Sea waters. Currently, there are many thousands of seals in the area, having recovered from “culls” of many more thousands a few decades ago before marine mammal protection became law on both sides of the US/Canada border. The “Transient” killer whales have plenty to eat, and their population has increased dramatically in the forty plus years that we have studied them. Plus, they come into the study area virtually daily now, whereas there were relatively few Transient encounters when we began our pioneering photo-identification research.

The opposite is true for the “Resident” killer whales of yesteryear – the SRKWs. Their food supply, which we now know is largely Chinook salmon, is becoming scarce in the Salish Sea. At least, it is becoming scarce during critical seasons that are important to the whales – for example, during pregnancies. And, the Chinook salmon that are now in the area are mostly of hatchery origin – smaller in size and not sustainable without continuing expensive hatchery ‘factory’ production. What is needed for them is massive recovery of natural populations of Chinook salmon throughout their range.

The group of Bigg’s Transient whales that we encountered were the T124As that we have seen in this area frequently since January. Maybe we should now call them “Resident”? We left them in Upright Channel as another ferry was travelling to Friday Harbor with another load of tourists that come to this lovely place we call the San Juans.

Encounter Summary:

Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 21238 / DFO SARA 388