Lauren Fritz – May 31, 2017 – M/V Sea Lion – 12 pm Trip

I get all of the happy feels when the Southern Residents come pay us a visit here on San Juan Island. They can be a very unpredictable bunch, as are all wild animals! This was my first day this entire season seeing the Residents (and granted, I did just return to the island two weeks ago), and wow, it was so good to see them! I was so excited to see mama Slick hanging out with her daughters Echo and Scarlet, her big 26-year-old son Mike hanging out further offshore. The rest of J-pod appeared to be scattered around them. Although I absolutely love to watch Transient orcas, and they have some incredible behaviors and hunting patterns that we just don’t see out of the residents, J-pod has a special place in my heart.

Naturally, I was all smiles as I discussed the biology and history of the killer whales and the Southern Residents to the wonderful guests on board M/V Sea Lion today. Everyone seemed just as excited as I was! We caught up with the whales just south of Kellet Bluff, milling near Mitchell Bay, alternating between foraging and socializing. I took this as a good sign – salmon availability is a huge factor in the frequency in which we see our “Ressies” – if there isn’t much salmon for them to eat, we don’t see them hanging around as much. It makes perfect sense. Chinook salmon is their livelihood, and there certainly are issues with salmon availability. Want to learn more about this? Check out this link to the EPA’s latest reports.

As I was watching these beautiful, intelligent creatures playing and splashing around, I couldn’t help but feel a forlorn tug inside and wonder about their future. These animals need our help – they’re quite literally going to starve if we don’t take action and protect their habitat and their food source. Chinook salmon populations have decreased by 60% since the Pacific Salmon Commission started to track this data back in 1984. That’s not good.

What can we do to help? Well, do you like to eat seafood? I know I enjoy some varieties of it! But I try to be mindful of where it’s coming from and how it was harvested/caught. A simple action we can take as consumers is to consult the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch website to see if our seafood choices are eco-friendly (there are definitely some better choices than others!). There’s even an app you can download to your smartphone – there’s no excuse not to check!

These little choices and actions we make on a day-to-day basis matter. They add up to the big things. And I hope that in ten, and twenty, and fifty years time, we can continue to share a home here with our beautiful Southern Resident killer whales.

Lauren Fritz, Whale Watch Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Seattle Orca Whale Watching