A potential sighting of a new baby killer whale has buoyed hopes for the southern resident population — an endangered species that has stagnated ever since 45 members of the whale clan were killed or abducted as a spectacle for marine parks more than 50 years ago.
The April 28 sighting of what appeared to be a “very young calf” was captured in a video posted to the fishing-focused YouTube channel The Guide’s Forecast, confirmed the Center for Whale Research Tuesday.
Slipping through the water off Pacific City, Ore., the small whale appeared to be associating with K20, or “Spock,” who was originally thought to be a male until she gave birth in 2004.
If verified, the footage would confirm the first birth in K Pod since 2011 and comes less than a year after the pod’s oldest member died after falling gravely ill.
With 16 confirmed members, K pod is the smallest of the three southern resident killer whale families. Together with J and L pods, the endangered southern resident population peaked at 98 animals in recent decades. But its population has since taken a downward turn, declining to 73 confirmed whales by the end of 2021.
The news prompted whale enthusiasts to light up social media with tempered optimism.
“Cautiously exciting news!” tweeted the group Whale Tales.
“I love you new k pod baby,” wrote an underwater photographer.
The spotting comes only days after the Canadian federal government ramped up protection measures for southern resident killer whales across its critical habitat.