Reader Joe Flynn e-mailed me about my story earlier this week on the threat California’s water-delivery system poses to killer whales. Federal officials have concluded that the current methods for pulling water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are contributing to a decline in salmon and consequently threatening the killer whales that call Puget Sound home.

Those whales have been spotted as far south as Monterey Bay searching for salmon to eat.

Flynn said he’d seen killer whales while deep-sea fishing off San Diego’s coast. He wrote:

Orcas have been in the San Diego area for some time. We used to see them while fishing offshore (10-30 miles and from south of the Coronado (Islands) almost to San Clemente Island).

We saw pods of them a number of times over the years, (late 70s and early 80s) in the vicinity of the Coronado Islands, which have a large sea lion population. Fishing friends have told me of seeing a pod of Orcas round up a bunch of seals then take turns going in to eat one of the corralled sea lions.  I never saw them feeding in that area but did see them cruising in the vicinity.

When fishing, I usually ran predetermined courses and sometimes our courses would be converging. Orcas always had the right of way.

Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, said transient killer whales, which feed on marine mammals like seals and dolphins, are found off the Mexico coast and could frequent waters near San Diego. They’re also found off the California coast. Transient whales — unlike Puget Sound’s resident orcas — don’t have a home base. Their marine-mammal diet also differs from resident whales’, which typically eat fish.

Any whales spotted locally are most likely not from the Puget Sound crew. Those whales haven’t been seen any further south than Monterey Bay, where they’ve been ranging in search of food since at least 2000.


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