Encounter #1

2021.1.2


Location: Monterey
# of killer whales: 3


ID: CA171B (Fatfin), CA138, CA21, and CA169

On January 2nd we had our first killer whale encounter of 2021 with one of our favorite orcas, CA171B Fatfin! He is a very special whale that we frequently encounter in Monterey. We soon spotted CA21 and CA169 nearby. Fatfin started tail slapping next to the boat. Then the three whales quickly transitioned into travel mode and headed off together.


CA171B Fatfin, who is about 21 years old, was sadly orphaned as a small juvenile when he was 4-5 years. He was adopted by the CA138, before she had calves of her own. He got the nickname "Fatfin" because of his very unusual wide (fat) triangular dorsal fin, the same fin shape that his mom CA171 had; he has been our only calf who had a triangular dorsal fin, instead of a falcate fin!


CA21 was first encountered in 1987, and is one of the very first whales we identified; she is missing a large portion from her flukes, perhaps from an entanglement!  CA169, another mature female, was first seen in 1992 off British Columbia, then in 1997 off Oregon! She has been encountered occasionally in California since then, most often in the Monterey Bay area. CA169 and CA21 have traveled together for many years. CA171B, CA169, and CA21 have often been seen together over the past two years, which leads us to believe this might be a newly established association. In January 2020, all three were involved in the predation of a southbound gray whale calf: a rare sight, as killer whales normally target more robust northbound gray whale calves! All whales were identified by the California Killer Whale Project.


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Photos by Dane McDermott, Monterey Bay Whale Watch

CA169
CA169

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CA171B Fatfin
CA171B Fatfin

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CA171B Fatfin
CA171B Fatfin

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