Northwest Fisheries Science Center

2013 Southern Resident Killer Whale Satellite Tagging

2013 Southern Resident Killer Whale Satellite Tagging

NWFSC scientists tracked a Southern Resident killer whale from K pod (K25) using a satellite tag in an effort to understand where orcas go during the winter months after leaving Puget Sound. View the blog entries, maps, and video animations below that tracked K25’s progress up and down the West Coast from late December 2012 to early April 2013.

K25
Movie 1
Click the map above to view an animation of K25’s movements from December 29, 2012 to April 4, 2013.

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29 January update– L87 remained in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca or just off the coast since the previous update on 22 January. L87's tag stopped transmitting part way through its transmission schedule on 26 January. The 30-day duration of signal contact obtained for L87 was very near the average deployment duration we have experienced with killer whales. Given it was programmed to run for over 3 months, this outcome suggests that it detached from the whale rather than a battery failure. The past month of data has yielded new detail on the winter movements of J pod, particularly within the Salish Sea. C


lick on the animation to view the whales movements from 26 December through 23 January.

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15 July update – K pod made its reappearance in inland waters of Washington on 8 July for the first time since 29 December 2012, when they were in Puget Sound and a satellite tag was deployed on K25. The satellite tag allowed us to get nearly daily locations until 4 April 2013. Since then their whereabouts has remained unknown except for a sighting of them by Rod Palm off Tofino in early June 2013. The 8 July photos collected by the Center for Whale research show that the tag deployed on K25 has detached, although the anterior attachment dart was observed protruding from the fin. Although this outcome was unexpected based on a redesign and extensive testing of the tags in 2012, previous experience with attachment breakage that occurred on transient killer whales and a few other medium-size cetacean species indicates that the long-term presence of a surgical grade titanium dart does not pose a health risk to the whale (See FAQs).




2 April update – Since the morning of 28 March when K25 was near the Point Grenville area the whales moved north to the head of the Quinault Canyon. By 29 March the whales had turned south and were on the continental shelf break to the west of Gray's Harbor. The whales continued south and were southwest of the Astoria Canyon on 30 March. The whales then traveled to the east near the entrance of the Columbia River and by 31 March they were near the entrance of Grays Harbor. The whales again turned south and were in the Astoria Canyon on 1 April. The whales then turned east and then north traveling just offshore of the entrance to the Columbia River and were just northwest of Cape Disappointment on the morning of 2 April.

28 March update – Since 25 March when K25 was off Willipa Bay the whales traveled as far south as Tillimook Head before reversing directions and gradually making their way north over the last two days reaching the Point Grenveille area this morning




25 March update – Over the past five days K25 has remained off the coast off southern Washington and northern Oregon. On the 20 March they were approaching the Astoria Canyon. On 21 March they went through the Astoria Canyon and traveled back north and were off the entrance to Grays Harbor on 22 March. They continued north and by the morning of the 23rd March were well to the northwest of Grays Harbor where they turned back south. By the morning of 24 March they were off the northern Oregon coast west of Cape Falcon. The whales then turned north and where off the entrance to Willipa Bay on the morning of the 25th




20 March update – Over the past two days K25 headed south along the Washington Coast. They were initially near the Juan de Fuca Canyon and moved south on the continental shelf and were approaching the Astoria Canyon this morning.




18 March update – Over the past four days K25 (and likely the rest of K pod) moved north up the Washington Coast. They remained off the Columbia River on 15 March, where they had been for the past several days, before starting the northbound transit which found them off the Westport area on the 16th, the northern Washington coast on the 17th, and by the morning of the 18th they had moved west off the continental shelf into over a 1000m of water.




14 March update – K25 (and likely the rest of K pod) have spent the last two days off the mouth of the Columbia River.




12 March update – K25 continued south from Cape Flattery on 11 March and the whales were off the mouth of the Columbia River on the 12 March.




10 March update – We caught up with K and L pods moving northbound off Destruction Island on the morning of 9 March and were again able to spend the day conducting prey and fecal sampling from our small boat based off the Bell M. Shimada. The whales foraged extensively which resulted in us being able to collect 11 prey samples today. The whales turned around at Cape Flattery that evening and headed south and moved through the same general area again on Sunday.

We concluded our research cruise on the Bell M. Shimada prematurely due to the budget sequestration on 9 March and returned to Newport, Oregon on Sunday 10 March.

We have received no further transmissions from the tag that was deployed on L88 after 0730 on Sunday 10 March and based on our observations of the tag attachment condition on 9 March it is likely this was due to detachment.




8 March update – Since 6 March we have continued to try to follow K and L pods on the NOAA vessel Bell M. Shimada. On the evening of 6 March the whales were offshore of Cape Elizabeth, Washington, heading southwest. By the morning of the 7th they were nearshore off the entrance of Willipa Bay before turning northwest. We spent the day following them in our small boat and collected several fecal samples. By this morning the whales were off the head of Gray's Canyon. The whales then moved inshore and were off of Gray's Harbor and northbound up the coast this evening.

In the process of trying to resight K and L pods this morning we inadvertently ran into 30-40 offshore type killer whales. We worked with Cascadia Research Collective staff that were there surveying the area for fin whales to photo-ID, deploy satillite-linked tags and collect other data on these whales.




6 March update – Since the previous update on 4 March when the NOAA vessel Bell M. Shimada was with K and L pods off Cannon Beach, Oregon, we have continued to follow them almost continuously up the Washington coast. They reached the northernmost point of their most recent round-trip to California this afternoon offshore of Cape Elizabeth, Washington before turning southwest and heading more offshore. We have been able to conduct small boat operations with the whales for the last two days and have been able to collect 3 prey samples and 7 fecal samples.




4 March update – On 2 March staff from the NWFSC, Cascadia Research Collective, and Biowaves, on the NOAA vessel Bell M. Shimada, intercepted K pod off Cape Blanco using location data from its satellite-linked tag. L pod was also present and a tag like the one on K25 was deployed on L88. These tags have allowed us to remain with these two pods almost continuously for the last 3 days as the whales have made their way up the Oregon coast. As of this afternoon they were off Cannon Beach, Oregon.




1 March update – Since 26 February when the whales were just south of Pt. Arena they have continued traveling north and were off Brookings, Oregon this morning. Staff from the NWFSC, Cascadia Research Collective, and Biowaves, will depart this afternoon from Newport, Oregon on the NOAA vessel Bell M. Shimada and attempt to locate K pod tomorrow.

28 February update

K25
Click the Map above to view the Movie.

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26 February update – In the last 4 days the whales traveled south from Trinidad Head to just south of Pt. Reyes yesterday morning before turning around and heading north. They were just south of Pt. Arena this afternoon. The transmitter began transmitting every day as of February 25th. Staff from the NWFSC, Cascadia Research Collective, and Biowaves, will attempt to locate K25 from the NOAA vessel Bell M. Shimada later this week.




22 February Update – In the last 2 days K25 traveled north from near Shelter Cove, California to the area just south of Crescent City before turning south and being off Trinidad Head this morning.




20 February Update – In the last 4 days K25 traveled south from near Shelter Cove, California to just north of Pt. Reyes before turning back north and traveling back to the the area off Shelter Cove today.




16 February Update – In the last 2 days K25 traveled south from the continental slope edge southwest of Crescent City to just north of Shelter Cove, California.




14 February Update – The previous location on 12 February found the whales just north of Eureka, California. In the last 2 days they traveled only as far south as Eureka before turning around and traveling to just north of Brookings, Oregon and turning south again with the last locations showing them traveling offshore to the continental slope edge southwest of Crescent City. Unfortunately inclement weather has continued prevented small boat response or resighting from shore.




12 February Update – On 10 February the whales were off Eureka, California. In the last 2 days they traveled only as far south as Cape Mendicino before turning north and then traveling as far north as Crescent City. By this morning they had turned south and were again were just north of Eureka. Unfortunately inclement weather has prevented small boat response or resighting from shore.




10 February Update – On the previous update on 8 February the whales were just north of Coos Bay, Oregon. By this morning they had traveled at an average speed of almost to 6 kts to a few miles offshore of Eureka, California. The most recent locations this morning suggest that the whales may have halted their southbound transit.




8 February Update – The previous update on 4 February found the whales at the base of the Juan de Fuca Canyon with a hint that they were turning south. By 6 February the whales had moved south to just southwest of the entrance to the Columbia River and by this morning they had continued south to just north of Coos Bay, Oregon.




4 February Update – As of 2 February K pod was off the continental shelf break between Willipa and Grays Harbors. By 4 February they had traveled up the shelf break to the base of the Juan de Fuca Canyon




2 February Update – As of 31 January K pod off of Cascade Head, Ore. This was likely close to the southernmost extent of this transit down the coast as on 2 February they had traveled back up to continental shelf break between Willipa and Grays Harbors.

29 January Update – As of today K25 has been tagged for one month and has provided significant new detailed information on the movements of K pod in the winter. As of 25 January K pod was traveling south along the Washington Coast and over the last 4 days continued south to about the Astoria Canyon before turning north. As this morning they were west of Gray's Harbor. It is important to note that given the tag is now transmitting every other day the connections of the some points on the map will not fully reflect the whale's movements.




26 January update – Prior to the deployment of the satellite-linked tag on K25 on 29 December 2012, we had pre-programed it to transmit on specific days and times of day in order to extend transmission life should the deployment extend beyond the average of 30 days we typically see for killer whales. There were no transmissions this morning as this was the first day that the tag was expected to go from an every day to an every other day transmission schedule. The last time we observed K25, on 17 January, off the southern Oregon coast, the tag attachment looked secure so we do not expect that the tag has detached. The map shows the movements from 24 January through 25 January as K pod traveled south along the Washington Coast.




24 January Update – Since 21 January when the whales were off LaPush, they continued northwest to near the Barkley Canyon off the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. They then reversed direction and headed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca yesterday morning, completing a round trip to California in just under 3 weeks. This morning they were located just west of cape Flattery near the Juan de Fuca Canyon.




21 January Update – Since 19 January the whales have continued traveling consistently north from Tillimook Head. They made a very interesting turn offshore at the Astoria Canyon and then followed the continental shelf break up to the Quinault Canyon before heading back in on the shelf. They were off LaPush this morning.




19 January Update – In the last two days the whales have continued traveling consistently north from Cape Blanco and were just south of Tillimook Head this morning. Jeff Jacobsen was able to intercept them on the water on Thursday when they passed Coos Bay and reports that they were very spread out and observed an attempted predation event when two whales were observed chasing a salmon near the surface.




17 January Update – Since the last update on 15 January the whales headed north from Crescent City and made it as far north as Cape Blanco before reversing course yesterday afternoon, traveling back to near Pt Orford, but were back off Cape Blanco this morning




15 January update – Since the last update on 13 January K pod has continued traveling north and as of 0945 AM today they were off Crescent City, California




13 January update – Since the previous update two days ago the whales traveled south from the Bodega Bay area and then reversed course off of Pt. Reyes and started heading north. They were 5 miles north of Pt Arena this morning. Today's map shows their movements since about 2000 on the 11th when they had reached the southernmost point in their travels down the coast.




11 January 2013 update – In the last two days K pod has continued traveling south, close to the coast, from off Eureka/Arcata to near Bodega Bay this morning. Yesterday, colleague Jodi Smith was able to get out on the water with the K pod with vessel support from California Department of Fish and Game and with Ken Balcomb on shore directing them to the whales.




9 January 2013 update – K pod off Eureka/Arcata California - In the last 3 days K pod traveled south from just north of Cape Blanco, Oregon to Eureka/Arcata California. Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research was on site in Arcata yesterday and helped coordinate an on-water response by colleagues Jeff Jacobsen and Gary Friedrichsen that led to resighting the whales and collection of fish scales from a predation event and likely a fecal sample. The whales were still off Eureka/Arcata California this AM.




6 January 2013 Update -K pod continues down the Oregon coast - In the last two days K pod has traveled almost 3/4s of the way down the Oregon coast and was just south of Cape Arago, Oregon as of this morning.




5 January 2013 Update -K25 was tagged one week ago today and this map shows K pod's extensive movements during that time all the way from Puget Sound (the tagging location) down to about 25 miles south of Newport, Oregon as of this morning.




4 January 2013 Update - As of this morning, Friday, 4 January, K pod had continued traveling south and was off Tillimook Oregon. New map shows movements since Monday, 31 Dececember 2012.




3 January 2013 Update - Since the last update on 31 December 2012 when K25 was off Pt. Renfrew, Vancouver Island, he (and most likely the rest of K pod) has traveled south along the Washington coast and as of 8PM on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 was located near the Quinault Canyon. It was particularly interesting to see how close they traveled to the northern Washington coastline.




December 31, 2012 Update - As a continuation of a project began last year to help us understand where Southern resident killer whales go in the winter, and thus their winter habitat use, NWFSC researchers tagged an adult male, K25, in Puget Sound on December 29, 2012 with a satellite-linked tag. The information gathered from this tag will address the data gap in winter distribution identified in the Recovery Plan as well as provide information for improving Critical Habitat designation. This technique was recently identified as an important approach for addressing this issue by the independent science panel that assessed the impact of salmon fisheries on southern resident killer whales (http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/Whales-Dolphins-Porpoise/Killer-Whales/ESA-Status/upload/KW-Chnk-final-rpt.pdf). The map below shows the most recently available track of K25 during tag deployment.