Written by Simon Pidcock
Summer Super Pods
It’s whale soup in the Salish Sea. The Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) are back in force this summer; they have been in our waters for the past 45 days straight. We have been watching all three families, J Pod, K Pod and L Pod socializing and foraging in the Georgia Strait, Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The SRKW haven’t spent so many continuous days in the Salish Sea since 2010. They set a record in 2010 and were seen for over 110 days straight.
This July we have been lucky enough to have 11 super pod encounters. A super pod is formed when all three of the SRKW families come together to socialize, forage and mate. Currently there are 79 southern residents that form the community. One cannot really put into words what it’s like to spend time watching a super pod of 79 highly social whales. It brings many to tears and turns adults into children.
The good news is it seems like the residents are finding the Chinook salmon they so desperately need. The past two summers have been challenging for the SRKW’s and they had to travel much further to find their food. The residents are truly picky eaters and 90% of their diet is made up of Chinook salmon. These whales typically travel 100 miles in a 24-hour period so one can image that amount of energy that they expend daily. The Chinook being the largest and most lipid rich species of salmon in our waters is the perfect food source for the orcas. The population is so reliant on the salmon that when we have a low return of Chinook the SRKW population drops. When we have a good salmon year their number increase. I hope they continue to find they food they need this summer and hopefully we will see a new calf born soon. The last strong salmon year in 2010 we had two new births within the community.