The endangered southern resident orcas that usually return this time of year to the Salish Sea have not been spotted yet and experts are worried.
Some pods have been spotted around western Vancouver Island, but are not coming into the coastal waterways.
Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research in Washington says it’s a result of ongoing decreases in Chinook Salmon.
“Unless we restore these interior river runs of Chinook salmon, particularly in the Fraser River, we are just going to see a decreasing trend in the observance of these southern residents in the interior waters,” said Balcomb.
Some thought the southern resident may have been hanging around California, where salmon are more abundant. On Thursday, they were spotted again off south-western Vancouver Island.
Even J pod, known as the most residential of the residents, is not coming in.
“Usually they just make trips in and trips out to the coastal waters, this year and last year we have seen less and less of them,” said Balcomb.
Members of Victoria’s whale watching community are concerned but say their business isn’t suffering.
“[The] residents are sort of rare sighting the last few years. It used to be the other way around but [for] the transients it’s their day, there is just so much food for them,” said Mark Malleson, Prince of Whales senior zodiac operator.
Experts now say the only hope for them to return and ultimately survive is by replenishing fish stocks, rather than focusing on enforcement of industries.
“It doesn’t make sense to me, that money would be much better spent on restoring the while natural salmon runs these whales need for their natural food supply,” said Balcomb.
There are only 76 southern resident killer whales left.