Orca Survey Since 1976
The Center for Whale Research (CWR) is dedicated to the study and conservation of the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whale (orca) population in the Pacific Northwest.
Date: January 29, 2024
Center for Whale Research Statement: Killer whale calf J60 missing
The Center for Whale Research is sad to report that the youngest member of J pod, J60, was missing during our most recent encounter with the pod. On January 27, CWR researchers conducted a photo ID survey of J pod in San Juan Channel (Encounter #8). During the encounter, photos were obtained of all other members of the pod, including all potential mothers for J60, but J60 himself was not seen. Given his young age, it is extremely unlikely that J60 was off on his own for the entire duration of the encounter. While our protocols require at least three full censuses of the group to confirm mortality, we now believe that J60 is likely deceased.
Given the calf’s association patterns and the pregnancy status of J pod females in late 2023, J42 was the calf’s most likely mother, however given the calf’s varied social partners in early life this will enter our dataset as a “probable” relationship.
Female J46 was also heavily pregnant in late 2023, however she was not as consistently associated with the calf as J42. This would have been the first observed calf for either female.
The mortality rate for young calves, especially those born to first time mothers, is very high in the southern residents. This is due both to the generally poor nutritional status of southern residents, and the transfer of toxins from mother to calf during gestation and lactation. The southern residents need abundant, large Chinook salmon if they are going to be able to raise their calves to maturity, and keep the population going.
48 years of RESEARCH
Every year for over four decades, we have collected detailed demographic data on the Southern Resident killer whale population, recording all observed births and deaths. We have also gathered detailed information on the behavior and ecology of these animals, including information on where the animals are in geographic location and time, and their social behavior and foraging patterns. This dataset has provided ground-breaking insight into killer whale biology and ecology that we hope will help to inform management decisions to conserve this vulnerable and now endangered population.
CWR TAKING Action
ABOVE: Aerial view of CWR's BIG LEGACY Project,
Action: Center for Whale Research purchased a 45-acre ranch along Washington State's Elwha River, taking a BIG leap in conservation to preserve Chinook salmon habitat.
In October 2020, CWR added an ecosystem approach to saving the Southern Resident orcas by buying a ranch bordering both sides of the Elwha River, in a stretch of the mainstream river where a majority of the remnant native Chinook salmon now spawn. Balcomb BIG SALMON Ranch is smack in the middle of the recovering Elwha Valley habitat.
The salmon abundance from the Elwha River ecosystem, flowing into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, can provide a healthy food source for the Southern Resident orcas and a sustainable, nearshore artisanal fishery in the Strait.
Watch Sealife Productions’ Florian Graner’s new twelve-minute video Elwha River Salmon Recovery, a story about the Elwha salmon since Washington State removed the river’s two dams in 2012 and 2014. The wildlife documentary producer and marine biologist provides an update on the now thriving Elwha River ecosystem. The video offers an objective take on where salmon recovery is presently and what’s still to come. And it’s as educational as it is informative. The film footage of salmon species at different stages of their lives is riveting—Chinook/King salmon, in particular.
Together we CAN help
Become a CWR Member or make a DONATION
The Center for Whale Research has been studying these amazing whales since 1976, but our work is far from over. We need your help to continue our studies and to speak out on the Southern Resident orcas behalf.
OUTREACH & EDUCATION CENTER
185 S. First St., Friday Harbor, San Juan Island WA
OPEN Friday - Sunday 10 AM - 3 PM
Become immersed in the world of whales through our interactive displays. Watch amazing videos and listen to the whales vocalize underwater. See big screen video footage of the whales in the wild as experienced from our research boats. Come meet the naturalists and researchers, they'll share their knowledge of the magnificent whales of the Salish Sea.