Whale researchers say they are cautiously optimistic after video captured off the coast of Oregon late last month appeared to show a young new calf swimming alongside members of an endangered orca population.
In the video shot by fisher John Goodell near Pacific City on April 28, members of the southern resident killer whale’s K-pod are seen dipping in and out of the ocean. At one point, a tiny calf surfaces along with them.
The Center for Whale Research, which studies southern resident whales, said it is cautiously optimistic, in a post on its Facebook page.
The young whale would be the first viable calf born to K-pod since 2011, but the centre warned a successful birth isn’t always enough.
“The mortality rate for young calves is very high, but we are pulling for this little whale and hope to see it soon,” the centre said.
It plans to document the calf through photographic surveys, so it can assess the young whale’s health and confirm the identity of its mother.
Southern resident killer whales have been a designated endangered species in the U.S. and Canada since 2005. The creatures depend almost exclusively on salmon for their diet, and as salmon numbers have dwindled so have the whales.
Transport Canada introduced new protective measures at the start of May to help the southern resident killer whales, including restricting vessel speeds and distances from the creatures. Whale tours can no longer be promoted and two interim sanctuary zones off Pender Island and Saturna Island will be re-introduced. A Vancouver-based group will also be working toward reducing underwater noise.