Researchers believe the new female orca brings hope to the endangered species, but there is still concern


A new female orca calf off the southern coast of Vancouver Island is exciting, but also a stark reminder of how endangered the species is, according to the Marine Education and Research Society.

In a social media post, the Washington state-based Center for Whale Research (CWR) said the calf, likely born in late February, is a female member of J-pod, one of only three remaining pods of almost exclusively salmon-eating orcas off the northwest coast.

The calf is the firstborn to J-pod since September 2020 and was named J59 shortly after birth.

Jackie Hildering, with the Marine Education and Research Society, said while this calf is great news and brings hope for the endangered whales, the reality of survival needs to be considered.

“There’s an incredibly high mortality rate in the first two years of orcas’ lives,” Hildering said. “There was a big baby boom several years ago, few of them survived.”

Hildering said there are currently just over 70 resident orcas within the three pods off the B.C. coast. Adding there hasn’t been much growth in the population due to a lack of food, contaminants in the water and ocean noise.

The CWR said an aging female population has also limited reproductive possibilities.

According to Hildering, humans need to change some of their habits in order to help J59 mature and succeed.

“Anything we can do to reduce our fossil fuel use, to consider our consumerism, where things come from, how much fossil fuels it generated and of course how we boat generally,” Hildering said.

She added that will not only give J59 a better chance to grow and hopefully reproduce, but also help the earth in general.

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