Newborn orca is a girl; plays big role in future health of endangered species: DFO

Newborn orca is a girl; plays big role in future health of endangered species: DFO
Newborn orca K45 is a girl.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is revealing the gender of a newborn Southern Resident Killer Whale known to frequent waters around Vancouver Island, saying scientists were able to identify her as a female.

According to the DFO, staff at its Marine Mammal Conservation Program spotted the killer whale calf, or orca, while researching her pod near Swiftsure Bank, located at the entrance to the Juan de Fuca Strait.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, the DFO says the calf, known as K45, is the first born into the K pod group since 2011. She was first spotted in July and is the second calf for K20, or Spock, which first gave birth to K39 in 2004.

“While every new Southern Resident killer whale is celebrated, females are especially important as they are essential to the ongoing and future health of this endangered iconic Pacific species,” the DFO said in its post.

“Welcome to the pod little one!”

The DFO explains that K pod, along with J and L pods, are the only three Southern Resident killer whale pods that remain of the endangered species. 

Last month, the Center for Whale Research (CWR) reported a decrease in killer whales after its latest census completed July 1 showed a population of 73 compared to 74 the year before.

READ ALSO: New census shows decrease in Southern Resident killer whale population, despite recent births

The Washington state-based centre said its census marked the lowest L pod count since the study began in 1976, with 32 orcas recorded this year. That’s down from 33 the year before and nearly half the population recorded in 1993 when there were 59.

“K pod sits at its lowest number in the last two decades, at 16 individuals. With no mortalities and a single birth, J pod now totals 25 individuals,” the CRW added.

Transport Canada in April announced measures to protect endangered killer whales, including expanded closures for commercial and recreational salmon fisheries in parts of the Salish Sea where they feed.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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