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The Return of our Southern Residents

As we approach the end of May, we are excited to see some warmer days in our forecast and move into our peak season on the water. We say that ‘peak season’ is June, July and August based on the fact that our Southern Resident killer whales return for the summer and will stay in sheltered waters of Washington and BC until October. web page alert . The three pods labeled J, K and L consist of ~86 whales and will return to our area to socialize, mate, and feed on their primary food source..salmon!! We have seen a few sightings of J’s and L’s but have yet to see K’s. One of the best times to view killer whales is when all three pods come together to form a superpod!! Here at the office we are already taking wagers on when the first superpod will form but I expect sometime in early June we will see all our residents back in the area. Until then we will continue to be awed by the less studied transient killer whales that have taken over our waters for the months of April and May. Regardless the waters are brimming with sea life and it feels good to be living on the West Coast!

Transients near Galiano Island May 28th

Seafood Delight!

Today I’m going to stear away from my favorite topic of whales and talk about one of the best parts of living on the ocean…fresh seafood!!! This past weekend the Steveston wharf were packed with people! The sun was shinning and with most people wearing t-shirts and sandals it almost felt like we had skipped spring and bounced into summer. A quick walk down to the wharf for some fresh shrimp for dinner and you had to first fight your way through the Timothy’s ice cream line up! The fishing boats bring everything in fresh on Friday’s and this time of year you can find ‘frozen on-board’ Sockeye salmon, fresh shrimp, prawns, crab and urchin. This Saturday May 7th on the Fisherman’s Wharf at Granville Island kicks off the prawn season with the 5th Annual Spot Prawn Festival.  Here you’ll find ?the city’s top chefs preparing a spot prawn boil and you’ll also be able to ??buy fresh, local and sustainable prawns right off the boats. For more information on the event you can visit www.chefstablesociety.com. If you’re looking for a nice way to spend your weekend, come out to the Steveston wharf and eat some fresh fish & chips or support your local fisherman and grab some seafood for dinner… and if you have time stop by our office and we can talk about whales 🙂

-Claire, Naturalist and Steveston enthusiast

Fisherman's Wharf on a busy summer day

J-Pod is back!

Our famous J-pod residents came back into the area for the first time this month on April 24th.  On the 25th we spotted them by San Juan Island travelling southwest quickly along the shoreline.  The pod was spread out in several groups of females and juveniles, plus a few larger males including J-27 Blackberry. Unfortunatly J-1 Ruffles was not seen in the pod which brings the group size to 26 individuals. They didn’t stick around for much longer and have probably moved south into Puget Sound for awhile. Resident killer whales feed on salmon and move throughout Washington and BC following the salmon runs, specifically their favorite Chinook Salmon. With declines in many different species of salmon, there is concern that the whales are not getting enough to eat. Vancouver satellite map The future of our wild salmon is unknown, but we are hopeful that our southern resident community continues to thrive in our waters so that we can keep saying hello to old and new friends!

The oldest member of the southern resident community, J-1 last summer was ~60 years old. Ruffles got his name after his wavy fin that looked like a 'ruffles potato chip'

Transients in the Spotlight

When all of us here at Seabreeze Adventures anticipated the start of the season we had no idea what to expect from the month of April. Past years we’ve had to cancel trips due to weather and lack of people in town interested in seeing whales. But to our surprise the month of April has been filled with sunny days, lots of tourists and locals, and most importantly whales!! The first trip of the season we found a large group of eight transient killer whales and this was only the beginning of transients taking over the Gulf Islands. Transients are marine mammal eating killer whales that have a large range extending from Alaska to Washington. They come into our area often to feed on seals, sea lions, porpoises and in rare events, larger whales such as Minke or Gray. Vancouver interactive map Transients travel in small pods of ~3-10 but can often join up with other pods to make a large hunting group of 20 or more. Our customers have been lucky enough to witness large groups of killer whales working together like a pack of wolves to kill 1 ton Steller sea lions. There has been several new calves spotted and the whales often play with their food to help teach the juveniles how to hunt. Needless to say this has been amazing time to view the size, intelligence and agility of killer whales! Less is known about these marine mammal eating killer whales and we hope through photo identification and increased sightings this season we will begin to further understand the behavior and life history of these animals.

A transient dives for a seal near Orcas Island