May and June are normally the months when the Southern Resident orca pods show up in the Salish Sea – an intricate network of coastal waterways that includes the southwestern portion of the Canadian province of British Columbia and the north-western portion of the U.S. state of Washington. The whales are usually seen in large groups, feeding on Chinook salmon until approx. September but this year sightings have been scarce and when the orcas are seen, they are in smaller numbers. Some were sighted off the Washington coast recently.
Colleagues at the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island have been tracking the Southern Resident orca pods for many years and this year, J Pod have been sighted occasionally but the K and L pods have hardly been seen at all. The reason seems to be poor returns of Fraser River Chinook salmon, (the largest of the five species of Pacific salmon) the whales’ primary prey which are vital for their continued survival. The Southern Resident orcas love to dine on chinook salmon which appear to be their preferred choice over other fish species. These particular whales spend summer months in the Puget Sound area and in winter months they are known to feed off the outer coast of Washington, Oregon and California.