Steven Rice captured an incredible sight in the Salish Sea Wednesday afternoon as a large group of endangered southern resident killer whales stunned onlookers on shore near Seattle.
Moments later, Rice captured the pod moving slowly alongside a paddleboarder. He says he’s never seen so many orcas in one spot for so long.
“It’s just amazing to see them so close together kind of slowly drifting, kind of like a raft or a slumber party for orcas, I guess,” the Seattle resident said.
And an even larger group has been spotted in the area recently. A ‘superpod,’ more than 70 whales from all three southern resident pods, was spotted hanging out for several days in central Puget Sound.
“To have them all together in a superpod in the Salish Sea is something really special and something we want to see, it’s a positive sign for sure,” said Monika Wieland Shields, director of the Orca Behavior Institute.
While a brief superpod visit isn’t unusual, the fact that all three pods have spent more than two weeks touring the Salish Sea from Puget Sound up to Campbell River is something that hasn’t been seen in a decade.
Biologists say they’re clearly finding food, and it turns out the Puget Sound chum run has been stronger than expected this year.
“Hopefully, it’s a testament to some of the salmon recovery work that’s been going on to help these Puget Sound fall chum runs recover and, as an effect of that, help support the southern residents better this time of year,” said Wieland Shields.
While seeing all 73 endangered residents back in our waters for an extended period this fall gives researchers hope, the fact that two calves born this year have also been spotted alongside them makes the sightings even sweeter.