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'Three cheers!' DFO photos show endangered orcas off B.C. coast
Fisheries and Oceans Canada shared four photos of orcas Friday morning, celebrating the shots in a message on Twitter.
"Three cheers!" DFO posted.
"We're happy to report that our researchers had the privilege of encountering Southern Resident killer whales from all three pods along the West Coast of Vancouver Island last week."
Among the whales was one of J-pod's youngest members, a female calf first spotted near Tofino in May.
At the time, DFO said it was "cautiously optimistic" about the calf's survival.
The critically endangered population has seen tragedy in recent years, including last summer when a mother was seen carrying her dead calf for 17 days.
Researchers spent weeks watching for another ailing whale, J50, who is believed to have died in September.
At a time when orcas are struggling with pollution, boat noise and a shortage of chinook salmon, the sighting last week appeared to have been a welcome sight for DFO researchers.
Along with J-pod, they also spotted whales from pods K and L.
DFO's post came a day after local advocates raised concerns about a University of British Columbia research project, which will see trackers attached to endangered southern resident killer whales.
The lightweight trackers are attached to whales' sides, and will reveal at what depth they're hunting for fish. Advocates are raising concerns that the tag could cause "unnecessary, harmful psychological impacts including stress," and about 246,000 people have signed a petition calling for the project to stop.
UBC's head of marine mammal research says the data collected may actually save the dwindling population.
Watch a report from CTV News Vancouver's Shannon Paterson on the tracking project