There's good news for B.C.'s struggling southern resident killer whale population.

The population's J-pod was spotted near Tofino on Thursday with a new calf in tow. Researchers with the Whale Centre in Tofino say they are excited to see that the new calf still has fetal folds and is sporting a youthful orange glow. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirmed the sighting of the new calf Friday, saying the department is "cautiously optimistic" about the calf's future survival. 

The calf was observed swimming with orcas J41 and J19. The last time J-pod was seen along Vancouver Island's west coast was June 8, 2018.

J-pod captured international attention last summer when the 20-year-old J35 carried her dead calf for 17 days in a poignant show of mourning.

The heart-wrenching spectacle shone a light on the complex emotional relationships of the orcas.

Earlier this month, aerial images were taken of J17 showing the orca and her calf had lost a troubling amount of weight over the last three and a half years. 

The government has increased measures to protect the vulnerable population of whales off the B.C. coast. Under the new rules, vessels must stay 400 metres from all killer whales starting June 1. 

Female orcas birth once every three to 10 years to a single offspring. In the first year of life, the orca mortality rate is 50 per cent.