In this photo taken Tuesday, July 24, 2018, a baby orca whale is being pushed by her mother after being born off the Canada coast near Victoria. The new orca died soon after being born. (Michael Weiss/Center for Whale Research via AP)

Endangered killer whale dies off B.C. coast soon after birth

It was the first calf born in three years to the endangered orcas in Pacific Northwest

  • Jul. 25, 2018 1:23 p.m.

The first calf born in three years to the endangered orcas that spend time in Pacific Northwest waters died Tuesday, the latest troubling sign for a population already at its lowest in more than three decades.

A dead whale was seen being pushed to the surface by her mother just a half hour after it was spotted alive in the waters off the coast of Victoria, said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist with the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, which closely tracks each individual whale.

The mother was seen propping the newborn on her forehead and trying to keep it near the surface of the water, he said. “The baby was so newborn it didn’t have blubber. It kept sinking, and the mother would raise it to the surface.”

The distinctive black-and-white whales have struggled since they were listed as an endangered species in the U.S. and Canada over a decade ago. They’re not getting enough of the large, fatty Chinook salmon that make up their main diet. They also face threats from toxic pollution and noise and disturbances from boats.

A statewide task force formed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been meeting since spring to come up with ways to help the population. Efforts include slowing down state ferries to reduce the effect of noise, increasing hatchery production of salmon, training more commercial whale-watching boats to help respond to oil spills, and prioritizing areas where important habitat can be restored to help fish and orcas.

Balcomb and others say more aggressive measures are needed. They have called for the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River to restore salmon runs.

READ MORE: Feds limit chinook fishery to help killer whale recovery

There are just 75 of the orcas, down from 98 in 1995.

The number is a concern, but the bigger issue is the reproductive status of the small population, Balcomb said. There are 28 whales of reproductive age, and only 14 have produced calves in the last decade.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Kelowna’s definitive Christmas market list

We’ve prepared a list of every market in the Central Okanagan

Festival of Trees returns to West Kelowna’s Mission Hill Winery

The fundraiser for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation will run Nov. 23 to Jan. 4

Proportional representation vote continues to draw low numbers

Only 6.5 per cent of eligible voters have cast ballots so far in B.C. referendum

Kelowna Skating Club skaters take home 10 medals and three provincial titles

Ava Sanderson was among the winners of the 2019 B.C and Yukon Sectional Championships

Kelowna to host World Junior pre-tournament game

Team Russia will take on Team Sweden at Prospera Place on Dec. 18

Your weekday weather update

Flurries and more rain anticipated for the Okanagan - Shuswap

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Okanagan pickleball pair win bronze at nationals

Vernon and Kelowna players reach podium in California

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Couple allegedly caught staking out Okanagan home

The man and woman were seen in a black Suzuki Tracker with a white back

Most Read