Some southern resident killer whales in J-Pod returned to the Salish Sea this week, likely as “scouts” looking for salmon around the Fraser and Puget Sound river systems, observers say.
Several members of J-Pod were spotted in Active Pass, Georgia Strait and around the southern Gulf Islands, as well as in the U.S. San Juan Islands.
With Fraser River salmon stocks at record low numbers, the southern residents have had little food to bring or keep them closer to land during the traditional summer months in the Salish Sea. Instead, they are spending more time several kilometres off the B.C. and Washington coasts.
“We normally expect them to begin feeding in Puget Sound in early October, but after spending a few days near the Fraser River and around the San Juan Islands, J Pod entered Puget Sound [on Tuesday],” said a spokesperson for Orca Network, a Washington-based non-profit organization.
Ken Balcomb, founder and director of the Center for Whale Research, based in Friday Harbour, Washington, said J-Pod was likely in the Salish Sea checking out the Fraser River and Puget Sound rivers, as they have done historically. “It seems they represent the scouts for K and L pods and were coming in past Sooke.
“They are coming here for the chinook salmon that are returning to the Salish Sea ecosystem.”