Encounter #88 - October 24, 2019
Enc Date: 24/10/19
Enc Seq: 1
Observ Begin: 03:20 PM
Observ End: 05:00 PM
Staff: Dave Ellifrit
Pods: J, L Pod
Location Descr: lower Georgia Strait and northern Boundary Pass
Start Latitude: 48 48.32
Start Longitude: 123 04.38
End Latitude: 48 45.20
End Longitude: 123 04.13
Dave was working in the CWR Photo-ID office when he heard on the radio that someone had found SRs near the Belle Chains heading southeast toward East Point. The weather was nice so Dave headed down to Snug Harbor and left in the boat at 1430. Dave arrived on scene about a mile north of Tumbo Island at 1520 to find J pod, the L47s, L72s, L90, and L87 heading slowly southeast towards East Point. They had been reported to have been really spread out earlier but had begun forming up in groups prior to arrival. Now there were several tight groups coming together to form one big loose group. There were a few peripheral whales too and two of these were J19 and J39 who were about a quarter mile to the south of the main group. J19 and J39 were traveling together and appeared to be socializing. They would join the main group a short time later. The whales in the large, main group were also being social as there were lots of breaches, tail lobs, spyhops, and other splashing and rolling behaviors going on. Several adult and sub-adult males were rough-housing near the rear of the group. As the whales approached East Point, they stalled out in the Boiling Reef area and fanned out some. Several peripheral whales began actively foraging and a few fish chases were seen while many of the other whales continued socializing. The whales moved in closer to the Saturna Island shoreline for a while before pointing due south towards Sandy Point on Waldron Island. Most of the whales remained in one large loose group but some whales split off. An active little group consisting of J31, J56, J46, and J53 moved ahead of the main group and were over a half mile to the south of them by the end of the encounter. J19 and J39 must have stayed close to the Saturna shoreline as they were briefly spotted spread out well over a mile to the southwest of the main group. J16 and J42 made a brief appearance early in the encounter with the main group but then remained scarce throughout the rest of it. They showed up near the end traveling quietly by themselves a half mile to the west of main group. The encounter ended at 1700 about halfway between Monarch Head and Skipjack Island with most of the whales still traveling slowly south towards Sandy Point on Waldron Island.
L90 had the same noticeably sway-backed look and stiff surfacing motion that she had in 2011 and 2013 when we believed she was going through a difficult pregnancy. However, she was in the thick of things, socially, throughout the encounter and was one of the whales seen actively chasing a fish. We will continue to monitor her condition in future encounters with hopes she has a healthy calf this time.
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388