FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Michael Harris
Executive Director. Pacific Whale Watch Association
December 30, 2014
NEW YEARS BABY!
Pacific Whale Watch Association Crews Report New Calf in Endangered Southern Residents; Confirmed by Center for Whale Research
The endangered Southern Resident Community of orcas has a New Year’s Baby.
Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) crews are reporting that J16 has been seen with a new calf, confirmed tonight by The Center for Whale Research and designated J50. It’s the sixth known baby for J16, also known as Slick, and at 42 it would tie her for the oldest orca to give birth since Orca Survey began in the southern Salish Sea in 1976. Three of her offspring – J26, J36 and J42 – are still alive. The population now stands at 78 individuals.
After the sad news of the loss this summer of the newborn orca, L120, the first birth in the population since 2012, and the recent death of J32 and her unborn calf, this is cause for celebration among whale watchers and researchers – albeit one with a good dose of caution.
“Happy New Year, Southern Residents! This couldn’t come at a better time,” explains Michael Harris, Executive Director of the PWWA, which represents 32 operators in Washington and BC. “Of course we have an extremely high infant mortality rate among wild orcas, so when we find these babies we always pass cigars out with one hand while crossing our fingers with the other. About 50% of these babies don’t make it through their first year. That means we have half a chance that J50 will survive. But that’s half more than we had last week.”
Pacific Whale Watch Association members Maya’s Westside Whale Charters of San Juan Island and BC Tours of Victoria were the first to spot the baby, and The Center for Whale Research was quickly on the scene to confirm.
“It’s going to be a tough slog for this little whale, but if anyone can mother a baby through the perils ahead, it’s J16 and the rest of J-Pod,” continues Harris. “We’ve got a very experienced mama and a pod that knows how to make its way through winter in the Sound and Straits. They’re the most urban of these most-urban orcas, and some would say the most resilient of the three pods. There’s an awesome support network awaiting this calf. We’ll wait until we see the baby again this summer happy and healthy before we pop the cork on the New Year’s champagne, but this is great news.”
HOW TO HELP: For all those who want to help the whales, become a Member of The Center for Whale Research! The Pacific Whale Watch Association is proud to be a longtime supporter of Ken Balcomb and his team. Help them help the whales. www.whaleresearch.com