Two things to cheer you up, from one pod to another

In our latest newsletter, we report back on the mission our readers made a success before diving into some good news for B.C. orcas

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Before we dive into one good news story, I’d like to tell you about another: our mission to add 500 new members in May was a grand success!

We know times are tough right now yet, one by one, our readers stepped up to support independent journalism by becoming members of The Narwhal. Thanks to these new members (and two generous matching donors!), we can move ahead with three ambitious pieces of investigative journalism over the next few months.

As a non-profit magazine that doesn’t run advertising, everything we do is made possible by your support. Thank you so much for believing in our team and our work.

And now, onto that other bit of good news…
A photo of J59, a new southern resident killer whale calf.

Meet J59.

Likely born a few months ago, J59 is proving to be a beacon of hope for B.C.’s critically endangered southern resident killer whales.

And thanks to her playful rolls, researchers have been able to determine that J59 is a girl — which means, eventually, she could help play an, ahem, role in bringing her species back from the brink.

This is the first calf born into J pod since September 2020. As of December, researchers counted just 73 southern residents across three pods.

“Deborah Giles, the science and research director of the non-profit Wild Orca, told me that we should be seeing six or seven new southern resident calves every year and that’s just not happening,” The Narwhal’s B.C. biodiversity reporter Ainslie Cruickshank told me. 

“So to see J59 born earlier this year, the first J pod calf in two years, is really exciting. And for a lot of people, the fact that she was a girl, offered this added hope that she will one day be able to have calves of her own.”

But, unfortunately, there are plenty of obstacles that could get in the way of that. As Ainslie reports, nearly 70 per cent of the southern residents that do become pregnant either miscarry or lose their calves shortly after birth.

Underwater noise, from things like tanker traffic, can wreak havoc on the orcas’ ability to communicate and find food. Then there’s the matter of the food itself: Chinook salmon, the go-to for southern residents, is in decline due to a host of pressures including wildfires, logging and mining.

“I think we need to spend some more time understanding that what we do in the forest up in the interior has an impact on the southern resident killer whales’ ability to survive,” Sm’hayetsk (Teresa Ryan), a long-time member of the Pacific Salmon Commission’s Joint Chinook Technical Committee, told Ainslie.

Go here to read all about J59 and what needs to be done to turn things around for southern residents.

Take care and do something to cheer yourself up,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience
Arik Ligeti headshot

This week in The Narwhal

A moose takes a bath in northwest B.C.
New hunting rules fuel division in B.C., four First Nations say
By Matt Simmons
Four Treaty 8 nations are calling out the province for ignoring input on balancing conservation needs with the interests of local hunters and guide outfitters.

People wait at a makeshift bus stop on Hurontario Street south of Derry Road in Brampton.
‘It feels like an afterthought’: Mississauga and Brampton transit users weigh in on Hurontario LRT
By Fatima Syed
An illustration of Doug Ford holding EV charging cables.
First, Doug Ford ‘stopped the carbon tax’: how Progressive Conservatives reshaped Ontario’s environmental policy
By Emma McIntosh and Fatima Syed


What we’re reading

CBC news: Crown to charge 15 Coastal GasLink pipeline protesters with criminal contempt
ProPublica: How Not to Count Salmon
GIF of a whale with text: "whale hello there"
When you’re popping up with some cheerful news. Tell your friends that our newsletter offers a bit of levity in between all the serious stuff.
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