Southern Residents

Photo by Marilyn Armbruster

Southern Resident orcas were seen off the coast of Whidbey Island last week.

After a long absence from the Salish Sea, some Southern Resident orcas found salmon near the San Juan Islands last week before making a one-day trip farther south into the Puget Sound Sept. 7.

Normally, the endangered whales don’t head south until early October. Members of J pod passed close to Bush Point on Whidbey Island during their Sept. 7 visit.

“J pod is now in the Salish Sea doing a little bit of its historic pattern of checking out the Fraser River and Puget Sound rivers,” Ken Balcomb, the founder/director of the Center for Whale Research said in a press release last week. “They are coming here for the Chinook salmon that are returning to the Salish Sea ecosystem. Cherish their arrival as representing that there is some remaining health to these amazing waters.”

On Sept. 8, the whales made their way back to the San Juan Islands. The Center for Whale Research staff urges people to take the visit as a reminder to keep an eye out for the whales and give them plenty of space.

The endangered Southern Resident orcas live in three pods, known as J, K and L. There are 74 whales among them. Other transient orcas, known as Bigg’s orcas, occasionally visit the area, but they are not considered endangered.

Three female orcas in J pod were observed to be in the late stages of pregnancy by the rehabilitation group SR3, The Whale Museum announced Tuesday.

The pregnant whales are J19 Shachi, J36 Alki, and J37 Hy’Shqa.

“We really need everyone to follow Be Whale Wise regulations in support of these endangered whales’ survival,” Kelly Susewind, Fish and Wildlife director, said in a news release.

Find a list of regulations and guidelines about being on the water with marine creatures at www.BeWhaleWise.org.

Anyone who sees an orca is asked to report it to 866-ORCANET, info@orcanetwork.org, or to the Orca Network Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pg/OrcaNetwork/posts. The network has collected the information for more than 20 years.

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