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Newborn orca joins resident pod


Ecstatic whale watchers are welcoming another new baby to the endangered southern resident killer whale pods.

The newcomer was first spotted swimming off the north end of Cordova Bay on Sunday, and the following day the birth was confirmed with photographs taken by observers from the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Wash.

"It was doing fine. It was brand new," said Ken Balcomb, the centre's executive director.

The baby is designated L-114 and its mother is a 22-year-old whale known as L-77 or Matia. It is the first known calf for L-77, Balcomb said. "She certainly took her time."

The birth is the seventh in just over a year for J, K and L pods, which are still struggling for survival after decades of hunting and capture that lasted until the mid-1970s.

Seven surviving babies is a record for the last couple of decades, but there were years during the 1980s when there were nine births, Balcomb said.

The total population of the three pods is now 89, which still falls far short of the recent high of 97 southern residents in 1996. Historically, there were about 120 southern residents.

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Necropsy reveals impaled whale may have been sick


VANCOUVER — The dead fin whale dragged to shore by a cruise ship had no food in its stomach, indicating it may have been sick, preliminary results from a necropsy reveal, said Paul Cottrell, marine mammal coordinator for the department of fisheries and oceans.

The female whale also had a thin layer of blubber, he said. While a thick layer indicates good health, providing a good layer of insulation and indicating the whale has been foraging, a thin layer doesn’t necessarily suggest bad health, Cottrell said, before explaining the thin layer of blubber may merely be a result of nutrients lost when the whale had been producing calves.

But the middle-aged whale wasn’t likely reproducing anymore at this stage in her life, according to the official.

Cottrell said it’s still unclear if the impact if the ship killed the whale or if it had been dead already. The final necropsy report should be completed within a couple of weeks, he said.

The necropsy was performed at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and took about seven hours to complete.

A barge is now towing the whale to “put it back into the marine ecosystem,” Cottrell said.


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Whale impaled on cruise ship in Vancouver


A whale was impaled on the front of a cruise ship that pulled into port in Vancouver Saturday morning, witnesses said.

Jeff MacDonald, who was at Canada Place watching the ship come in, said seeing the impaled mammal "was a shock. You don't expect to see something like that and, you know, there's a lot of people staring at it — it's a very sad thing to see — and you kind of wonder how it would happen in the first place.

"It wasn't something you wanted to see on a nice Saturday morning in Vancouver."

Christianne Wilhelmson, the managing director of the marine conservation group Georgia Straight Alliance, said incidents like this are all too common.

"It's kind of a tragic example of what happens when ships meet whales … There's more and more tanker traffic, there's more and more cruise ship traffic and what you have is an animal that's trying to make its way through all this."

Wilhelmson said that traffic makes a lot of noise underwater, which confuses the whales.

"They can't talk to each other, they can't hear their environment. We're going to have more incidents like this," she said.

"It's very possible that what happened here is the animal just had no idea the ship was there and this tragedy happened because of that."

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Baby beluga born at Vancouver Aquarium

June 7, 2009 | 5:37 PM PT


Aurora, the 20-year-old beluga grandmother at Vancouver Aquarium, gave birth to a calf Sunday afternoon.

Staff called it a thrilling event for the aquarium and although they couldn't conclusively comment on the calf's gender, they said it appears to be a female.

Visitors and volunteers gathered around the beluga habitat to watch the birth and, after a few false starts, the baby emerged to cheers from the crowd.

Sharon Newman has been haunting the aquarium since Aurora was put under 24-hour surveillance to monitor her condition.









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Entangled whale freed at sea


Humpback gets rare reprieve as marine mammal expert nearby


By Lindsay Kines, Times ColonistMay 20, 2009

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How orcas find chinook hidden in a school of sockeye

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Resident killer whales know the precise sound of their favourite dinner, according to a new study by a team of Canadian and U.S. researchers.

Orcas like their fish dinners fat and greasy, which means their prey of choice is chinook salmon, and scientists have discovered the whales can identify a juicy chinook at up to 100 metres.

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