Jan 3, 2024 - News

Newborn orca spotted near Seattle

A photo of a brand new black and white baby orca swimming next to a bigger whale near Seattle.

Photo: Maya Sears/National Marine Fisheries Service Permit 27052

A brand-new calf has been spotted swimming with the endangered Southern Resident orcas' J Pod.

Driving the news: The new addition, named J60, brings to 10 the number of endangered killer whales under 5 years old, according to Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail.

  • The entire Southern Resident killer whale population was estimated to be 75 in July 2023, up from 73 in 2022.

Why it matters: The newest calf is a male, according to researchers, and with six surviving female calves among the endangered killer whales, the recovery of the population "isn't just theoretical," Sandstrom told Axios. "It's happening now."

Details: J60 is believed to be the first offspring of 19-year-old J40 or "Suttles" and is believed to have been born on Christmas, per Sandstrom.

A baby whale swims next to its mother.
J60 with presumed mother J40. Photo: Maya Sears/National Marine Fisheries Service Permit 27052

Catch up quick: The Southern Resident killer whales were added to the federal endangered species list in 2005.

  • Among the most critical threats to their survival are the lack of Chinook salmon, pollution and underwater noise that interferes with their ability to hear prey and hunt, said Sandstrom.

What they're saying: "The whales are coming back to the Salish Sea and this should give people hope," said Sandstrom. "We've made great strides reducing noise and they are responding."

What we're watching: The Washington Legislature approved a measure last year to establish a 1,000-yard buffer around the endangered orcas that becomes mandatory in 2025.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to the resurgence of other whales in Puget Sound.

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