J pod returns after an extended absence

J pod, one of the three groups of killer whales that frequent Puget Sound, returned to the San Juan Islands yesterday after an unusually long absence.

J pod returned to the San Juans yesterday after being gone more than 70 days. Photo courtesy of Capt. Jim Maya
Photo courtesy of Capt. Jim Maya

J pod typically passes through the area throughout the winter months. It is K and L pods that spend more time in the open ocean along the West Coast. Until yesterday, J pod had been gone for more than 70 days, according to Capt. Jim Maya of Maya’s Westside Charters.

Orca Network received reports that J pod was off Victoria around noon. The pod moved east and then north along San Juan Island, shuffling along the west side between Lime Kiln State Park and Henry Island all afternoon. They were last seen heading north up Haro Strait.

Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research reported that all the members of J pod were accounted for and no animals had died through the winter, which is cause for celebration. (See Orca Network’s Facebook page.) It appeared no babies had been born either. The last J pod calf was J-49, first spotted in August of last year.

K and L pods should begin to make their appearances in the inland waters in the near future. Whether they stick around probably depends on how many salmon they encounter. Typically, these Southern Resident orcas begin to roam around the San Juans and lower Strait of Georgia in early to mid-June, as chinook salmon return to rivers in the region.

Photo courtesy of Capt. Jim Maya
Photo courtesy of Capt. Jim Maya

One thought on “J pod returns after an extended absence

  1. Get Off My Tail!

    In Canada and the US all vessels (including kayaks) must not block the pathways of orcas. In Canada, it is the law that they must also stay 100 yards away and in the US it must be 200 yards (400 yards from approaching orcas).
    In addition to pollution, and food depletion, boat harassment is a major threat facing endangered orcas. It is psychologically stressful and can physically injure them. Boat traffic can interrupt their communication, feeding, socializing and more.
    An option is land based whale watching at Point Roberts, WA; San Juan Islands, WA; Saturna Island and Victoria/Vancouver areas and other places.
    If you take a Whale Watch boat trip please take video and photos of the violations by any company/pleasure boaters to help enforcement agencies. If operators are truly following the rules they should be supportive. Funding for government enforcement is not adequate. The more eyes on the water the more protection there will be for orcas and other wildlife. In 2012 Lifeforce investigated numerous boat harassment incidents and provided evidence to Canadian and US enforcement agencies. Our volunteer work has led to fines against whale watch companies and private boaters.

    In Canada Report Violations to Department of Fisheries and Oceans 1-800-465-4336
    In US Report Violations to National Marine Fisheries Service 1-800-853-1964
    Further info: lifeforcesociety@hotmail.com

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