More Peas in the Pod

Endangered orcas off the Pacific Northwest are going through a baby boom.

September 11, 2015

NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center/Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science CenterPhoto: NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center/Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center

It’s a calf! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed this week that the Pacific Northwest’s Southern Resident Killer Whale population has welcomed its fifth new baby since December 2014. Scientists sent a drone to check up on the whales in the SRKW population on Monday (don’t worry, they had a special permit from the Federal Aviation Administration) when they spotted the newborn, called L122, swimming alongside Mama, L91, near Sooke, British Columbia.

This little baby boom is a big deal because the population is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Their numbers took a dive in the 1960s and '70s, when dozens of whales were captured for marine parks, and reduced prey availability, toxic chemicals, and noise pollution from passing ships also threaten their extended orca family. Even with federal protection and help from NOAA and the Center for Whale Research, the SRKW group only has a little more than 80 members. Sadly, the calves born in 2013 and 2014 didn’t make it. Hopefully, the latest bundle of hope is a sign that the tide is turning. Welcome to the world, L122.

Photo: NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center/Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.