New baby for struggling pod

An endangered group of orcas has had its first good news in a long time — a new baby, although it has an uphill battle to survive.

The Southern Resident pod was down to just 74 members when a newborn was spotted next to the whale known as L-77, or Matia.

The tiny new calf was seen Thursday in aerial footage captured by the Washington-based Center for Whale Research. Its sex is currently unknown.

The birth is good news for the ailing population, but no new calves have survived for the past three years, and the population has been plagued by unusual deaths.

“Approximately 40 per cent of newborn calves do not survive their first few years, but we hope that this one makes it to maturity, especially if it is female,” the Center for Whale Research said in a statement to CTV News.

Declining stocks of chinook salmon are a big threat to the group, with two extremely skinny adults not expected to survive until the summer.

In September, a young orca called J-50 died of starvation despite efforts by scientists to administer medication and save her, and two months earlier, a female orca carried her dead calf around at the surface for 17 days, capturing headlines around the world.

Canada and the United States have both launched efforts to save the population, including designating protected habitats.

The orcas spend their summers between the waters off southern B.C. and northern Washington State, and head further south in winters. Since 1976, their population has wavered between 70 and 99 animals.

-With files from CTV Vancouver

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