Newest Puget Sound orca calf continues to survive

It was an announcement met by applause. A Monday meeting of Washington’s Orca Task Force revealed that the newborn calf spotted back in January continues to survive.

Nicknamed "Lucky," and officially labeled L124, he was the first new calf born in Puget Sound since the tragic death of another last summer. Its mother continued to carry and push the dead calf with it for weeks after.

Lucky was last reported seen by the Center for Whale Research on March 9, "zig-zagging their way toward Obstruction Pass," off the coast of northern Washington.

Monday’s Orca Task Force meeting — spanning almost three hours — addressed a variety of issues, with discussions ranging from substantial legislative work already underway in Olympia, to the effect climate change is having on the local whale population.

Also announced at the meeting was the launch of a new website, housing links to government and non-profit partners for aiding local orcas, a collection of educational resources, and more.

In total, there are just 75 orcas in the Puget Sound area, a 30-year low for the region. A variety of factors have been cited for the decline in population, including: a lack of orcas’ primary prey, Chinook salmon; noise pollution from boats which make hunting difficult; and toxic contaminants to food and water.

Meanwhile, steps are being taken on the side of state government, marked by Gov. Jay Inslee's ambitious $1.1 billion budget for targeted solutions to save Northwest orcas.

That includes the revival of the Chinook salmon population, fixing fish passage barriers, greater enforcement for habitat protection laws, and converting two of the state’s ferries to hybrid-electric to reduce noise pollution that harms orcas’ ability to hunt.

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