J-Pod orcas growing in numbers

NEWS_Orca J51 and mother J19_Credit Dave Ellifrit_Center for Whale Research
Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research

Endangered species may have hope

By Angela Espinoza, News Editor

On February 13, the sighting of a second orca calf from the “J-Pod” group of killer whales was reported.

The calf, dubbed J51, follows calf J50 in reportedly being the second calf born since late December 2014. The J-Pod is located throughout the state of Washington and BC, and now holds 26 recognized orcas in their group.

Both J51 and J50’s births have been surprises as southern resident killer whales have been endangered for several years, in part due to contamination and starvation. While the births are celebrated, the orcas won’t be officially recognized as part of the JPod group until at least one year has passed for each.

Michael Harris, executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, told CBC, “We always try to be cautiously optimistic when we hear about babies, as wild orcas have a high rate of infant mortality, but still, this is wonderful news.”

The births also follow the death of a full-term orca, J32, and unborn calf that also occurred in December, the likely cause also being starvation.