06/02/2015 09:54 EDT | Updated 06/02/2016 05:59 EDT

Killer whale baby boom: 4th calf spotted near Tofino

Whale watchers on the West Coast are celebrating the confirmed sighting of a fourth killer whale calf born to the endangered southern resident population this year.

The calf named L-121 was spotted with L-Pod near Cox Beach south of Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island on June 1.

The sighting was welcome news because L-Pod lost one calf and a three-year-old female in recent years, and L-121 was not spotted the last time the pod was observed off the coast of Oregon by NOAA Fisheries scientists.

Marcie Callewaert, a naturalist with the Victoria Marine Science Association said she spent a couple of hours with the pod on Monday.

"L-121 was present and as energetic as ever," said Callewaert in a statement from the Pacific Whale Watch Association,

Hope for a recovery

After years of population decline, the recent sighting combined with three other calves born to J-Pod this spring, puts the population of wild southern resident orcas at 81.

"We're thrilled of course," said Michael Harris, the executive director of the PWWA — which represents 32 operators in Washington and British Columbia — in the statement.

"Many of us had concerns about this little whale, not just because of the problems L-Pod has had in recent years, but generally the odds baby orcas have out there.

"We always remind people that wild killer whales have a 50 per cent mortality rate — half don't make it through their first year. And just in its first few months in life, this baby had a lot of big water to battle."

"I'm one of those who think that the southerns have finally turned the corner. We've got a real chance of bringing these whales back. And hey, maybe — if that baby whale can make it, this population can."