There’s hope on the horizon for the endangered orcas of J-Pod.
The Center for Whale Research has spotted the J-Pod of Southern Resident Killer Whales for the first time this year and one member, previously seen in poor body condition, has gained weight critical to his survival.
The encounter with the J-Pod happened on Feb. 2 between 10:35 a.m. and 12:40 p.m. in the Strait of Georgia.
The whales were heading northerly about midway up Galiano Island, according to the CWR.
In the first grouping the team observed, J46 and J27 were foraging and milling while taking long dives.
J27, an adult male named Blackberry, was one of 13 whales previously listed as vulnerable because he was observed in poor body condition.
READ MORE FROM JULY 2022: 13 southern resident killer whales declared vulnerable
Researchers say in the Feb. 2 encounter that J27 was still thin “but not nearly as bad as he looked during the Summer of 2022.”
J36, J49, and J56 were three whales also reported to be in poor body condition in June 2022 also spotted in the Feb. 2 encounter, but the CWR did not specify their current condition.
J44, a male named Moby, was the last J-Pod orca in poor body condition in June 2022, but he was not mentioned in the update.
Additionally, J45 was spotted from a distance and the researcher says he looks like a “sprouter” which, according to the Orca Lab means the orca is entering the period of its life where it is considered socially mature and his sexual advances may be taken more seriously by female orcas.
J26 was spotted and researchers say he continues to look robust, but he had peeling skin.
In its latest census released in November 2022, the Center for Whale Research reported a decline in the number of Southern Resident Killer Whales belonging to J, K and L pods.
CWR reported the population declined to 73 from 74 the previous year and there were three deaths, including K21, K44, and L89, as well as two new births, J59 and K45. J-Pod’s population, however, increased by one due to no deaths.