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Orca newborn seen off Tofino believed to be pod’s first calf in years

Researchers say the calf was seen swimming with L-pod this month
Researchers believe the young whale, pictured here off Tofino on June 19, is a newborn belonging to L-pod. (Courtesy of Howie Tom)

Researchers from Washington State believe to have identified a new southern resident killer whale calf after it was spotted off Vancouver Island this month.

The Center for Whale Research received photos showing the calf with members of L-pod off Tofino on June 19.

“This new calf appears to be over three weeks old and would be the first new calf in L pod since L125 was born in 2021,” the centre said in a social media post on Friday. “CWR researchers will need to conduct on-the-water encounters with this group to determine who the calf’s mother is, assess its health and assign it an alpha-numeric designation. We hope to see this calf in our study area very soon.”

The endangered southern resident whale population is composed of three family groups that have been named J, K and L pods. All three pods were reduced from 1965 to 75 because of captures for marine parks.

Recent counts put the entire southern resident population at 73. The species have shown basically no growth since population censuses began in the ’70s.

Reduced prey quality and availability, pollution and disturbances from vessels are among the threats to the whales.

READ: Study finds endangered orcas hunting longer, catching less than northern B.C. counterparts

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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