Killer whales, or orcas, are found in all the world’s oceans, but nowhere are they more accessible for viewing and study than in British Columbia’s coastal waters. More than 500 killer whales roam BCs rugged coastline, usually traveling in close-knit family units also known as pods. Killer whales along the coast of British Columbia and Washington are among the best-studied whales in the world. For nearly 40 years, intensive field research has been conducted to learn more about these fascinating animals. While the years of study have provided many insights into the lives of killer whales, they have also illustrated how much remains to be learned.
In 1973, Canadian scientists began compiling photographs of killer whales off southwest BC using physical characteristics such as nicks, scars and the shape of dorsal fins to identify individual whales. This photo identification program, which continues today, enables scientists to learn about the different types of killer whales, their social systems, diet and range.