Orca research coordinator Josh McInnes was shocked to see about 25 members of the southern resident orca L pod in California coast waters. (Courtesy of Josh McInnes)

Orca research coordinator Josh McInnes was shocked to see about 25 members of the southern resident orca L pod in California coast waters. (Courtesy of Josh McInnes)

Southern resident orcas spotted off the coast of California

Victoria researcher shocked to see killer whales so far from home

A Victoria-based killer whale researcher ran into some familiar friends while studying in California.

Josh McInnes, currently a research coordinator at Marine Life Studies in Monterey, has been studying killer whales around Vancouver Island since he was 12-years-old. So he was surprised, to say the least, when he recognized the rounded dorsal fins, open saddle patches, nicks and scars of a local southern resident orca pod off the coast of Monterey, California.

On the morning of March 31, McInnes and other researchers were on a designated killer whale survey outside the southern part of Monterey Bay, looking for transient whales. Instead, they ran into L pod.

“We saw spouts and tall dorsal fins, there were two big groups coming real fast – about 11 knots – toward us [and] they came up right past our boat,” he recalled. “Growing up off Vancouver Island and spending a lot of time with resident killer whales, I knew right away it was L pod.”

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Dolphins befriend killer whale off B.C. coast

With only four recorded sightings of L pod in California, McInnes was shocked to see about 25 of the familiar whales so far from home.

“My jaw just dropped,” he said. “My first thoughts were, ‘Wow we’re in a very cool situation here.’”

L pod is part of an endangered population of about 74 killer whales found typically off of Southern Vancouver Island and the Puget Sound. He was able to properly identify 18 members of the 35-member pod – including calf L124 (Lucky), the baby of L77.

Josh McInnes, currently a research coordinator at Marine Life Studies in Monterey, identified 18 members of a southern resident orca pod off the coast of Monterey, California. McInnes says critical habitat areas might need to be extended to protect the whales. (Courtesy of Josh McInnes)

He said Lucky seemed healthy and was keeping up with her mom.

RELATED: New orca calf in Salish Sea ‘healthy and active’

He thinks the pod might have been searching for food such as endangered pacific salmon, and says the sighting indicates there might be a need to extend protected habitats.

“For me it indicates there is a changing ecosystem,” he said. “We should look into extending critical habitat to areas outside of Washington and B.C.

The outer coast might be an area they rely on.”

While it’s unclear what the sighting means for the pod, McInnes won’t forget the shock of seeing those friendly fins off the coast of California.

“I came down to Monterey to study another type of orca completely, I never expected I would see them, I think that hit home,” he said. “There’s so much we still don’t know about killer whales.”

READ ALSO: B.C. scientist gives life to panicked wild whales

READ ALSO: UPDATED: Conservation groups sue Ottawa to protect endangered killer whales

McInnes located calf L124 (Lucky) with mom L77 among the L pod whales he located off the coast of Monterey, California last month. (Courtesy of Josh McInnes)



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Saanich girl, 12, speaks to lack of supports, says mom

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

The Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors in July 2021. (Malahat SkyWalk photo)
Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors this July

Highly anticipated attraction will take guests 250m above sea level

Illegal goods seized in the simultaneous April 23 busts in Saanich and Sooke. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
RCMP drug busts net trucks, cocaine, cash and Hells Angels gear

Simultaneous searches coordinated between West Shore, Saanich and Sooke police

The Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on Wilkinson Road in Saanich. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police watchdog investigates after man found unresponsive at Saanich jail

Man was in Victoria police custody the day before being found

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,000 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

(File)
With revenge porn on the rise in 2021, B.C. seeks feedback for new legislation

New legislation could help victims take down images and receive compensation

Port Alberni RCMP are investigating a homicide on Third Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
RCMP investigating homicide in Port Alberni apartment

Investigators are still trying to determine the identity of the deceased

Most Read