Tuesday, September 29, 2020 - 13:15 to Tuesday, December 29, 2020 - 13:15
Another baby orca has been born to J pod, the Center for Whale Research confirmed Friday morning. It’s the second calf born this month for the endangered southern resident orcas that frequent Puget Sound.
The second birth to J pod in just a few weeks’ time is “certainly cause for celebration,” said Deborah Giles, biologist for the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology. She leads research on the orcas’ scat, which is a gold mine of information on their health.
Reproduction in the southern resident pods is limited by lack of food, especially chinook salmon, according to research detailed in a 2017 paper. Now is the time for the region to work to make sure there is enough chinook for the southern residents, including the lactating and expecting mothers, Giles said.
It is not just the total number of chinook that matter. The whales need big chinook. The fish also need to be in the orcas’ feeding range, where they have learned through generations uncounted to successfully target chinook. That includes the Salish Sea, the transboundary waters between the U.S. and Canada, and the mouth of the Columbia, where the southern residents return again and again for succulent spring chinook.
“They need those big ones, those three-, four-, and five-year-old chinook,” Giles said. “For recovery, these whales need high-quality, abundant salmon throughout their range, and throughout the year. Those lipid-rich, spring-run chinook they preferentially loop the mouth of the Columbia for are vital for this population of whales.”
As the world watched Tahlequah carry her dead calf around the Salish Sea in 2018, and saw her relative J50 waste away, many people were galvanized to fight for the orcas that are so special to Puget Sound — the only orcas that in winter cruise all the way into the waters of downtown Seattle.
Giles said she hopes the positive news of these recent births can inspire people to redouble their efforts on behalf of the southern residents: “This is just exactly what we need in 2020.”
Read the full article in The Seattle Times.
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