New southern resident orca calf born

LENNARD ISLAND, B.C. -- The JPod of southern resident killer whales has a new calf, marking the second birth for the endangered species in five months.

The Tofino Whale Watching blog, based in British Columbia, reports that the new calf was spotted with the JPod Thursday about four miles off Lennard Island in B.C.

The bloggers said the calf was "very orange" and still had fetal folds, a sign that it's very young.

A second birth is phenomenal news for the dying species that lost three members last summer.

The first calf, L124 or "Lucky," was born in late December and appeared to be healthy and thriving when seen in April.

    About 40 percent of newborn calves do not survive their first few years.

    Southern resident killer whales' numbers are the lowest they've been in more than three decades. Lead researchers say there are only about five years left until the current southern residents lose their reproductive abilities. The resident orcas have struggled as salmon numbers drop, and the Puget Sound becomes increasingly crowded with vessels.

    Meanwhile, the health of another member of the JPod, J17, is rapidly declining. J17 is also the mother of J35, the southern resident orca who carried her dead calf on her head for 17 days last summer in a so-called "tour of grief."

    NOAA is asking the public to give the southern residents more space on the water so they can better forage. A new Washington state law mandates all vessels stay at least 300 yards away from southern resident orcas on the sides and 400 yards away in front or behind the whales. The law also states boats must travel at seven knots or less within a half nautical mile of the endangered orcas.

    In Canadian waters, a new policy of staying 400 meters, or 437 yards, away from all killer whales will go into effect in June.If you see a whale warning flag being flown by any vessel in the U.S. or Canada, it's a signal that whales are in the area and to slow down, watch for them and keep your distance.