Iconic Pacific Northwest whales make annual pilgrimage to the Columbia River plume
LONG BEACH — The satellite-tagging program that tracks movements of orcas in Pacific Northwest waters has been monitoring a killer whale pod swimming in the vicinity of the Long Beach Peninsula this week.
The iconic marine mammals were first tracked via satellite in this area in 2013. Last year, the tag became detached early in the season and the pod’s southward migration couldn’t be observed in detail. But this year, tagging was again successful and the researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been posting regular updates at tinyurl.com/pcstao6.
Most excitingly this year, a newborn orca calf is traveling with its mother, and has been photographed in the ocean west of Westport and northwest of the Long Beach Peninsula’s northern tip.
According to NOAA’s latest blog post:
“25 February update — We were about 15 miles west of Westport this morning when we relighted the whales and observed a new calf — L94 appears to be the mother. To recap since our previous posting, on 23 February we were off Cape Lookout, Oregon following the whales north. Yesterday, we continued following the whales north past the mouth to the Columbia River. Since L84 was tagged a week ago we have been with all of K pod but only part of L pod. On 23 February Jon Scordino with Makah Fisheries sent us photos taken on 20 February of L25 off Cape Flattery, which indicated another part of L pod was in the general area. This morning, shortly after we launched our Zodiac we observed L41, part of the group that includes L25, indicating that another group of L pod had joined up overnight — this is first time we have documented pods reuniting on the outer coast. Fortunately the whales were very grouped up and within a few minutes we observed the new calf — with its unique orange-ish color on the white areas. The calf looked very energetic. We have five more days on the cruise and look forward to additional observations of the calf and collecting additional prey and fecal samples.”
The Chinook Observer will have more on this story in our March 4 edition.