WASHINGTON - The Center for Whale Research confirmed on May 26 that the new calf born to the J Pod is a female, offering a glimmer of hope for the endangered Southern resident orca population.
"Having another female is good news for the southern residents; the population’s growth is largely limited by the number of reproductively aged females. While one calf won’t save the population, we hope that J59 can grow to adulthood and contribute to future generations of southern residents," the Center for Whale Research wrote on their website.
J59 was born on March 1 to orca mother J37. The news of her birth was mixed with news of the loss of two other pregnancies in southern resident families.
Scientists John Durban and Holly Fearnbach, of the marine mammal research and rescue nonprofit SR3, reported that routine, noninvasive monitoring of the orcas by drone photography determined two of the three expecting orcas had lost their calves in late 2021 or early 2022.
"A calving rate of 1/3 of the documented pregnancies will, unfortunately, be consistent with the high rate of reproductive loss that has been documented in recent years by our drone studies and by hormone research conducted by the University of Washington," Durban and Fearnbach said.
The southern residents face at least three main threats to their survival: Underwater noise, pollutants, and lack of adequate Chinook salmon, their primary food source.
Studies from the University of Washington have shown that several orcas' recent reproductive failures are linked to nutrition and lack of access to Chinook salmon.
The endangered whales’ population is now 74.