2018 Encounters

Encounter #84 - Sept 28, 2018
J47

J47

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J26

J26

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J26 looks like J1

J26 looks like J1

Photo by Ken Balcomb

J42

J42

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Slide from presentation in Snake River Webinar 27 Sep 2018.

The Southern Resident orcas need your help like never before. For these whales to survive, and for their community to grow, they need us to be their voice.
BECOME A CWR MEMBER; 
together we will be a strong collective voice for the whales.

we can 
HELP
TOGETHER

Date: 28-Sept-18

Sequence: 1

Encounter Number: 84

Enc Start Time:12:40

Vessel: Chimo

Observers: Ken Balcomb

Pods or ecotype: J Pod

Location: Strait of Juan de Fuca

 

Encounter Summary:

At 11:15, Mark Malleson spotted J pod over by the Rock Pile north of Port Angeles and they were moving toward the west - they were most probably the whales seen earlier this morning south of Hein Bank. It was then an easy choice for Ken to give up on the Governor’s Task Force response he was working on and head to the boat with camera gear and suitcase to stay overnight in Port Angeles. Ken departed in “Chimo” from Snug Harbor at 11:45 and encountered the whales foraging and drifting west off the Elwha River plume in the Strait of Juan de Fuca at 12:40.

L87 (Spot 1) was the most northerly whale of the spread out group, very near the US/Canada border in mid-Strait. He methodically headed in a straight line west, not apparently foraging at the time but acting more like a flanking guard preventing fish from going around the whale line-up. Next in line, a few hundred yards south and east of L87 was J27 swimming in a zig-zag pattern toward the west and engaging in the occasional fish chase, with no obvious catches. The rest of J pod was very spread out south of them with many individuals engaging in fish chase with some success as the entire assemblage moved slowly west in an ebbing tide. Most inshore was J26 (Spot 12), traveling in a fairly straight line toward the west and often leaning to the left (shoreward) as he surfaced and dove repeatedly. He seemed very relaxed for the most part, but occasionally changed course slightly and appeared to be cluing in on fish without rapid chasing. This would have been a great situation to observe what was really going on with a drone. The situations that we have seen with a drone operating from land off San Juan Island have provided great insight into interpreting what we see in horizontal observations. Routine vessel-based drone observations of underwater behavior will commence for us next year, concurrent with the vessel-based horizontal identification work we have done for 43 years for a comprehensive cataloging of SRKW.

It was very encouraging to see the whales foraging off of the Elwha River now that the dams have been removed and the natural salmon populations to that watershed are recovering. The expected return of Chinook this year to the Elwha is 5200. The whales cannot survive without salmon, and we whole-heartedly have pressed for wild natural salmon restoration in all of the rivers of the Pacific Northwest for their benefit, and for fishermen. That is why Ken is sticking his neck out and campaigning for the big one – the Snake River wild natural salmon recovery following LSRD removal in the immediate future. That recovery alone could contribute to hundreds of thousands to a million adult Chinook salmon returning to the entrance of the Columbia River each year! (see graph above in slide show) The SRKW demographics and rapid trend toward extinction show that we cannot wait for a political decision – the biological decision for this issue is due now before the whales have no reproductive capacity left. There are only a few females reproducing in the recent decade, and no successful births in the past three years. Even if there is the successful birth of a few calves this winter, and they survive (which is doubtful without sufficient food), it will be at least another decade before they can possibly contribute to the reproductive cohort.

 

Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 21238 / DFO SARA 388