Orcas moving south into Puget Sound
Source: Christopher Dunagan, Kitsap Sun
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND Puget Sound's killer whales have begun venturing south into Central Puget Sound as they do each fall during their annual hunt for chum salmon.
J Pod and possibly members of K and L pods were spotted Monday morning off Point No Point in North Kitsap and later in the day off Bainbridge Island, according to Susan Berta of Orca Network.
"They're moving real slow and doing a lot of foraging," Berta said.
Also known as Southern Residents, the pods that frequent Puget Sound spend their summers catching chinook salmon in and around the San Juan Islands. As the number of chinook decline up north, the whales begin to come south to feast on the chum.
Large numbers of fall chum return later than other salmon runs and spawn in the many smaller streams throughout Central and South Puget Sound. In normal years, the streams are swollen by rains as the fish begin move upstream to spawn. During dry years, some of the chum die before they can spawn, but this is still too early in the run for concern, experts say.
Jay Zischke, marine fisheries manager for the Suquamish Tribe, said this year's chum run is either earlier than usual or larger than expected, based on commercial harvests and test fisheries in Puget Sound.
The preseason estimate of the chum run in Central and South Puget Sound this year was smaller than any recent year, according to figures by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. But those numbers may be revised upward if the fish continue to show up in larger numbers.
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