Orca Whale

T34, a transient orca whale nicknamed Grace, breaches the waters of Fidalgo Bay on Friday in Anacortes. According to Sam Murphy, a naturalist for Island Adventures, the whale was one of at least 17 seen Friday in Fidalgo Bay, which rarely gets visits from orcas.

ANACORTES — A group of orca whales visited Fidalgo Bay on Friday off the shore of Anacortes.

Representatives of the Pacific Whale Watch Association said it’s uncommon for the whales — of the mammal-eating transient, or Biggs’, orca species — to be seen so close to Anacortes.

But it’s not unheard of, particularly as the population continues to grow, unlike that of the fish-eating and endangered Southern Resident orcas of the region.

“It’s yet another example of these spectacular mammal-eating killer whales continuing to thrive as they expand their population and presence in the Salish Sea,” Pacific Whale Watch Association spokesperson Kelley Balcomb-Bartok said.

The transient orcas are abundant in British Columbia and Washington waters, and Bartok said Friday’s sighting marked the 98th consecutive day whale watchers were able to locate them in the Salish Sea.

“The whale watching season this year continues to be one of the best seasons on record in the Salish Sea,” Bartok said.

The season has included sightings of transient orcas, gray whales and humpback whales, but none of the Southern Resident orcas.

The Southern Resident orca population, made up of family groups called J, K and L pods, has struggled despite Endangered Species Act protections due to a lack of salmon to eat, the interference of underwater noise from boat traffic on their ability to find food, and pollution in marine waters accumulating in their bodies.

The transient orcas, in comparison, eat abundant seals and harbor porpoises, and don’t rely on sound, or echolocation, to hunt them.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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