A new calf has been born to J pod.

John Forde was out on the water near Tofino, B.C., when he spotted a baby orca alongside its mother, possibly J31.

“It looked like it’s doing really well, fingers crossed,” Forde said of the baby, which he saw a little after 11 a.m. Thursday. Forde owns whale-watch company The Whale Centre, but he was out on the water on his research permit doing photo identification, not on a tour, when he saw the baby.

This is the second calf born to the endangered southern residents since January. With the new calf the southern resident population now numbers 76 whales.

Reports of the calf excited orca advocates on both sides of the border. The calf is still so young its fetal folds are showing, and what will become white patches are still the orange color the new babies sport.

Forde posted photos of the calf on his company’s blog.

The Center for Whale Research, the official keeper of whale demographics for the southern residents, confirmed the report.

“Researchers at the CWR have confirmed that the calf is a new addition, and based on its coloration and body condition was likely born some time in the last 1 to 3 weeks,” the center reported in a news release. “The calf was photographed in association with several J pod females, including J31, J46, and J40. More field observations are needed to confirm the identity of the calf’s mother.”

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The new baby is particularly good news in an endangered population that before 2019, had no documented successful births since 2016.

“A ray of hope,” said Donna Sandstrom in an email. Sandstrom is a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Whale Recovery and founder and executive director of the Whale Trail, which features land-based whale watching.

This is the second calf born this year. The last new calf, L124, was born to southern-resident orca L77 and is still alive. That sex of the calf is not yet known.

Orca calves face a perilous first year, with only about 50% surviving.

Hostile Waters: Orcas in Peril


ABOUT THIS SERIES
“Hostile Waters” exposes the plight of Puget Sound's southern resident killer whales, among our region's most enduring symbols and most endangered animals. The Seattle Times examines the role humans have played in their decline, what can be done about it and why it matters.