SEATTLE -- NOAA'S Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the Center for Whale Research confirm a new baby orca has been spotted in the waters of Puget Sound.
A photo of the new baby calf, named J48, was taken on December 17 by NWFSC scientist Candice Emmons. The calf was swimming with its mother, J16, and sister, J42, born in 2007.
"We were up north along the Kingston-Edmonds ferry line when we intercepted the whales," said NWFSC wildlife biologist Brad Hanson, who also spotted the calf from their small research vessel. "When we get on the scene (where there are orcas), we usually look to see who's present."
The researchers identified the matriarchal whale as 39-year-old "Slick", also known has J16, and noticed an additional calf swimming along side it.
"The main thing we noticed was the calf had fetal folds on it, which indicated it was recently born," said Hanson. "We're always delighted to have new additions to the population. It's moving in the correct direction toward recovery."
NWFSC researchers document orca births to help monitor the orca population. Hanson says most orca calves are born in the fall and early winter months, and they'll check to see if the calf is still present in the spring.
This is J16's fifth calf since her first, J26, was born in 1991. According to NWFSC, J16 is among the oldest orcas whose exact age is known. Her new calf brings the total number of whales comprising the endangered Southern Resident population up to 89.