L47 (Marina) pictured with her youngest son, L115 (Mystic) in 2011. (Center for Whale Research)

L47 (Marina) pictured with her youngest son, L115 (Mystic) in 2011. (Center for Whale Research)

Southern Resident grandmother orca missing, likely dead

The Associated Press

FRIDAY HARBOR — The Center for Whale Research has declared an orca in one of the Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident orca pods “missing and likely dead.”

The Bellingham Herald reports mother and grandmother L47, or Marina as she was also known, was missing from the center’s 2021 census, according to a Monday news release, and she hasn’t been spotted since Feb. 27.

The 47-year-old orca “did not appear to be in particularly poor condition” in that sighting, but she was missing from surveys this summer conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca, a body of water that separates Washington state from Canada.

The Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor said it had six encounters with L47’s matriline and photographed all of her offspring without finding her.

“Her repeated absence meets our criteria for declaring a whale missing and likely deceased,” the news release said.

Marina was born in 1974 and was among the Southern Resident’s most prolific females, giving birth to seven calves that survived long enough to receive an alpha-numeric designation, according to researchers.

Four of the calves did not survive past their first year, but three — L83, (Moonlight), L91 (Muncher) and L115 (Mystic) — are still alive. L115 is a male, while females L83 and L91 are raising their sons, L110 (Midnight) and L122 (Magic).

“As a mother and grandmother, L47’s death may have severe consequences,” researchers said. “Center for Whale Research data shows that older, post-reproductive females hold key leadership roles in this society, particularly when food is scarce.”

According to the center, L115 has a three-times greater risk of death in the next two years than a male of the same age whose mother is still alive, while L47’s grandchildren face a six-fold increase in their chances of death over the next two years. Those risks will rise even higher if salmon abundance shrinks.

In July, the endangered killer whales received new habitat protections from the U.S. government. While environmentalists praised the action, many also called for habitat protections for salmon to aid in the orcas’ recovery.

With the loss of L47 and the oldest Southern Resident male orca, known as K21 or Cappuccino, the current Southern Resident population is 73.

Researchers said this week after presuming K21’s death this summer, they could now confirm the death, as their teams have repeatedly censused all of K pod without finding the 35-year-old whale.

The oldest Southern Resident on record was J2, or Granny, who lived to be 105.

More in News

Artist Chris Stevenson, who described herself as an urban sketcher from Port Townsend, uses a pencil for scale as she sketches the work at the new entrance to Point Hudson Marina on Monday morning. A group in town, the Port Townsend Urban Sketchers will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday to sketch at the Port Townsend Aero Museum. Sessions are free and open to sketchers of all skill levels. For more information, see www.urbansketchersporttownsend.wordpress.com. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Marina art

Artist Chris Stevenson, who described herself as an urban sketcher from Port… Continue reading

The site of the former Rayonier mill in Port Angeles, shown on Tuesday, awaits completion of environmental cleanup almost 27 years after the last roll of pulp rolled off the line. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Cleanup at Rayonier site still years away

Action plan to be approved in 2024-25

About 25 people, including Warren Musgrove of Port Angeles, far right, rallied in support of Palestine on Saturday in front of the Clallam County Courthouse. The event, also scheduled to run from noon to 1 p.m. this Saturday and March 2, included an information table that provided information about the history of occupation in the Gaza Strip, organizer Christy Cox said. (Lois Danks)
Rally for Rafah

About 25 people, including Warren Musgrove of Port Angeles, far right, rallied… Continue reading

Report: Crime down in Port Townsend in 2023

New hires added to city department

Clallam County eyes four locations for reservoir

Clallam County will know more about the four potential… Continue reading

Conservation Futures Fund citizen committee to elect officers

The Jefferson County Conservation Futures Fund Citizen Oversight Committee… Continue reading

Cetacean system aims to reduce ship strikes

The U.S. Coast Guard is launching a cetacean desk pilot… Continue reading

Evelyn Jefferson, a crisis outreach supervisor for Lummi Nation, stands at the grave of her son Patrick George Jr., who died last September due to an overdose of street drugs containing the synthetic opioid carfentanil, at the Lummi Nation cemetery on tribal reservation lands on Feb. 8 near Bellingham. Jefferson had to wait a week to bury her son due to several other overdose deaths in the community. (Lindsey Wasson/The Associated Press)
State tribes battling a devastating opioid crisis

Legislation could provide annual funding to help

Tom Ferrell.
Former Sequim mayor announces resignation from council

Ferrell said work obligations overseas limit his time

June Claypool.
Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market names new executive director

The Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market’s board of directors has… Continue reading

Port Angeles City Council to address STR regulations

Tuesday meeting will tackle contentious topic