Now the Puget Sound orcas have been accounted for

When the Southern Resident killer whales came south out of Canada over the weekend, all three pods were together for a time.

Biologists for the Center for Whale Research were able to identify all known members of all three pods on Sunday, which means that none of the whales have died the past few months. It also means that apparently no new babies have been born.

Here’s the report filed Sunday along with some great photos by the Center for Whale Research.

After watching several whales pass by the Center and receiving various reports of more whales up north, both Orca and Starlet (boats) departed. At approximately 4:10 p.m. both vessels encountered J, K, and L pods traveling in tight groups up Boundary Pass. It appears that all members of the three pods were present, totaling 86 whales. The encounter ended at 6:30 p.m. The whales were traveling tight in two groups and continued north up Boundary Pass.
Observers: Ken Balcomb, Howard Garrett, Erin Heydenreich, Emma Foster and Basil Von Ah

Howard Garrett of Orca Network informed me this afternoon that he had received a report that L pod, now intact with the L-12 subpod, had headed back out of the area. I haven’t yet discussed this with folks tracking salmon, but it probably means that the whales are not finding an adequate number of chinook to make it worth staying around.

If anyone has any new information about test fisheries in the San Juan Island area, please pass it on.

Orca Network remains the best single source of information about the movements of whales, because the managers of the Web site take reports from whale watch boats as well as research scientists. The organization posts daily updates, which are sent to anyone who signs up for the e-mail.

6 thoughts on “Now the Puget Sound orcas have been accounted for

  1. Thanks for a good article. However, your headline makes me see red. They are not, never have been, Puget Sound orcas. We live here in the transboundary Salish Sea. They spend most of their lives out of the Salish Sea these days, looking for food. The Southern Residents rarely go into Puget Sound anymore. Too polluted.

  2. Chris,

    Thanks for the story on the Puget Sound orcas. I always enjoy watching the whales while out on the boat. We see them quite often between Jefferson’s Head, Bainbridge Island and Possession Point when we are out fishing or cruising. I believe they enter the sound more often than people think (I saw three last Monday, 1 male and two females). Most people don’t report them to the hotline and instead just enjoy the moment.

  3. Shann is right Chris. Puget Sound only describes the waterways in the Seattle area. The more correct term of Salish Sea encompasses Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Rosario Strait, Haro Strait, the waters around the San Juan Island archipelago, Boundary Pass, Swanson Channel, and Strait of Georgia. And I also think it’s important to make sure people understand that there are more than one type of orca visiting our inland waters. Resident orcas are salmon feeders, while Transients are mammal feeders. More times than not, the smaller families of Transients are the ones seen cruising toward Puget Sound in search of seals and sea lions.

    I definitely agree that Orca Network is a GREAT resource for orca lovers, scientists, and researchers to get a good description of whale movements, patterns, and behaviors.

  4. So, Johnny B…

    Do you also recommend the “Puget Sound Chinook” be renamed the “Salish Sea Chinook” and that their status (for listing under the ESA) be re-evaluated based on this extended range and population group?

  5. You know, this question shows how complicated salmon are. No, Puget Sound salmon refers to a very specific stock of salmon. So, they stay the same.

    Let me affirm that the Salish Sea does not replace the name Puget Sound. Puget Sound is still Puget Sound. BUT it does not go all the way up to the border. We live in a bioregion. Think Google Earth and just go out a couple of notches. You will see that it is all one interconnected water, and that Canada’s Fraser River is the main contributor of fresh water. The Salish Sea is simply a way to erase an artificial border that keeps us from seeing the real ecology. Not to mention acknowledging that another 4 million people live on the other side of that 137 year old border. But Puget Sound AND the (transboundary) Strait of Juan de Fuca AND the Strait of Georgia together make up the Salish Sea and the Southern Residents use all of that water as part of their summer home. The border is an imaginary white dotted line down the middle of a body of water. It keeps us from seeing the whole. We need to go beyond that these days.

  6. There has never been a ‘Salish whale’ that I know about, nor a ‘Salish sea’. Puget Sound whales sound about right.
    Nothing, in my opinion, ‘makes up the Salish sea’…it does not exist.

    Our seas and oceans flow without regard for ‘lines’ and names a few people fuss over. The Ss seems to be likened to a state and Puget Sound merely a county.

    Most of us DO see the ‘real ecology’- and that the very people most versed in the ecology don’t see it (real ecology) without a name change seems odd.
    Sharon O’Hara

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