Oldest orca among endangered Southern Resident population believed to be dead, whale center says

SEATTLE --  J2, the oldest orca among the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population, is missing and presumed dead, the Center for Whale Research said Monday.

"We have now seen J2 thousands of times in the past forty years, and in recent years she has been in the lead of J pod virtually every time that she has been seen by anyone." the center said on its blog. "In 1987 we estimated that she was at least 45 years old and was more likely to have been 76 years old (the oldest SRKW at the time, and the presumed mother of J1). And, she kept on going, like the energizer bunny. She is one of only a few “resident” whales for which we do not know the precise age because she was born long before our study began.

"I last saw her on October 12, 2016 as she swam north in Haro Strait far ahead of the others. Perhaps other dedicated whale-watchers have seen her since then, but by year’s end she is officially missing from the SRKW population, and with regret we now consider her deceased.

"The SRKW population is now estimated to be 78" as of Dec. 31,  and J pod contains only 24 individuals plus the wandering L87."