SEATTLE -- An orca calf is joining the Southern Resident K pod for the first time in over a decade. Dr. Deborah Giles, director of the nonprofit Wild Orca, confirmed the birth earlier this week after a fisherman spotted the calf off the Oregon coast last week. Born to K20, or Spock, the calf is the second born this year after J59’s birth this winter. With the addition of these new calves, the population of the endangered Southern Residents is now at 75.
The orca’s birth comes as the three Southern Resident orca pods struggle to survive amid threats from noise and vessel pollution, and a decline in their primary food source, Chinook salmon. Four dams on the Lower Snake River block nearly 140 miles of prime salmon habitat, and salmon populations have declined by 90 percent since they were built. All Snake River salmon runs are now listed as threatened or endangered, including Chinook salmon, which make up at least 80% of the orcas’ diets.
Environment Washington Advocate Pam Clough issued the following statement:
“The birth of the newest Southern Resident orca is exciting and worth celebrating, and we are encouraged that the population is growing. However, these animals need more food to sustain population recovery. This will require bold action to restore their main food source, Chinook salmon, best achieved by the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams. We’re calling on Governor Inslee, Sen. Murray and Sen. Cantwell to lead the charge on restoring the Lower Snake River to save salmon and the orcas that depend on them.”