Interested people will soon be able to vote on the “human” names of the Southern Resident killer whales’ two newest members, J57 and J58.
The births of the two calves on Sept. 4 and Sept. 24, respectively, were a sign of hope for Island residents and whale researchers who had experienced the tragic loss of a J pod calf in 2018.
The naming process is run by The Whale Museum in Washington. Starting on Oct. 31, members of the museum will be able to nominate names. Museum staff will then create a final ballot of choices and release it to the public for voting between Nov. 16 and 23. The two most popular names will be announced in early December.
Communications director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA), Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, said they don’t normally give calves human names this quickly.
He explained that there is a lot of uncertainty in the first year of an orca’s life to as whether it will survive or not and giving it a human name only makes people more “emotionally attached”.
That said, if it were up to Balcomb-Bartok, he said he would name J57 “Hope – because of the hope she has given us all”.
He is hopeful that the births and the naming of the two calves will touch people enough that they go out and do something to help save the salmon and, thus, the orcas.
J Pod has spent October traveling through Puget Sound on the hunt for wild chinook, coho and chum salmon. The PWWA said J57 and J58 “were looking healthy and active when last sighted off San Juan Island Oct. 7” in a press release Oct. 16.
The new calves will sustain themselves off their mother’s milk for the first year, but this depends on the mothers’ ability to finding enough food.
In past years, a lack of fish has left Southern Resident killer whales starving, but Balcomb-Bartok said they have seen the whales altering where they go hunting for food and is hopeful that this year they will find enough.
But, he emphasized, “we’re also not out of the woods yet”.
The PWWA asks boaters to slow to under seven knots when within a half-mile of whales and always remain 300 yards away from Southern Resident whales. It also encourages people to support salmon protection and habitat restoration in their local communities.
Balcomb-Bartok said for anyone interested in spotting whales, now would be an excellent time to go on a tour.
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