By becoming a member of the Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program you will be directly supporting research on wild killer whales. Continuing research will lead to a better understanding of the whales, their place in the ocean ecosystem, and the conservation measures necessary to protect them.




Whale Update....

Northern Residents

Loquillilla (I12) and her new calf in August 2013
Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard

As winter rolls around many boats come off the water so there are fewer eyes looking for whales.  Killer whales are all tracked by visual (and sometimes acoustic) encounters, so when there are less boats on the water there are generally less whale sightings.  The killer whales themselves are also not around the coastal waters as much in the winter so sightings are usually light until spring rolls around again.

That being said on Oct 30th calls from the A36 brothers and some G clan whales were heard from the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve hydrophone. A week later on Nov 5-7 calls from the A36 brothers were heard again this time around the Johnstone Strait area and they were believed to be with the A34s.  Then on Nov 8th, at the opposite end of Vancouver Island, the G2 and G27 matrilines showed up at the south end of Vancouver Island.  They were seen foraging east of Race Rocks, before heading back out west.

In other news, after our research colleagues with Fisheries and Oceans Canada Cetacean Research Program reviewed the summer field data it appears there are some new calves to announce.  Misty (A62), Sonora (A42), Springer (A73), Kiltik (A52), Blinkhorn (A54) and Loquillilla (I12) have all had a new calf in 2013!  


Southern Residents

The fewer number of southern resident sightings in the winter is similar to the northern residents.  On Oct 26th a mixed group of J, K and L pod whales were seen in Juan de Fuca Strait between Sooke and Race Rocks.  They were spread out and slowly traveling east.  The group of whales included the J9s, some of the J17s, L37s and K21.  Then a few days later on Oct 31st a mixed group of J and K pod whales were spread out and foraging in Haro Strait.  This group included the J4s, J7s, J17s, and K8s. About a week later again, another mixed group of J and K pod whales were seen off Whidbey Island, Saratoga Passage and Admiralty Inlet in Puget Sound.   


Bigg's (Transients) 

Stanley (T123A) in Haro Stait in November
Photo: Jim Maya

November has seen fairly regular sightings of Bigg's whale in the Salish Sea and a handful of sightings from northern Vancouver Island too.  In the majority of these sightings the whales have not been ID but based on their small group size and behaviour they are probably Bigg's whales. Of the whales identified, on Oct 26th the T46Bs and T46Cs were seen milling around the south end of Vancouver Island.  Then on Nov 11 the T123 group were seen foraging in Haro Strait and were believed to have caught a couple seals.  


November 2013
In this issue

 Whale Update
 Program Update
 Field Updates
 In the News 




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Adoption Program Update....

Looking for a truly unique Christmas gift!

Looking for a truly unique gift idea? Or having trouble coming up with Christmas gifts for those on your list who don’t really want anything – except maybe to save the world?  This year put something wild under the tree and get to know one of BCs most iconic animals – a whale adoption.

Funding research that benefits wild killer whales is a great way to love and help protect these magnificent creatures long-term.  Anyone can adopt – an individual of all ages, or even the whole family. The Vancouver Aquarium Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program matches up the would-be adopters with their new 5,000 kilogram bundle of joy.

It’s not too late to give the gift of a whale adoption.  Adoption packages are created and mailed daily, and shipping within BC only takes two days.  Adoption packages can also be purchased from the Vancouver Aquarium gift store.  All donations are tax receiptable in Canada and the US.  Click here for more information or call 604.659.3430. 



2013 Annual Blackfish Sounder

The 2013 annual newsletter of the Vancouver Aquarium Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program was shared with adopters in October.  This year’s issue focused on change observed in the resident populations, the story of Sam’s rescue and an update on ocean noise studies.  We chose to distribute the newsletter via email this year.  If you did not receive the newsletter, please click here to view the 21st edition online.



Field Notes....

BC Cetacean Sightings Network expanding north!

Northward Ho! The BC Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN) is expanding its presence along the north coast by opening a satellite office in Prince Rupert in December 2013. Caitlin Birdsall, our current BCCSN Coordinator, is taking on the role of developing our newly minted ‘North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative’. The program intends to increase awareness of cetaceans in the region and to boost the profile of the Sightings Network in north coast communities. In addition, the program will allow for more dedicated cetacean surveys and other research in an under-studied area along the BC coast.  While we’re sad that we won’t see Caitlin on a day-to-day basis, we’re thrilled she’s leading the endeavor and will remain a part of our group and the Vancouver Aquarium family.  If you happen to be in Prince Rupert and want to report a whale sighting in-person (or just want to get out of the rain) please stop by and say hello. The new office is located on the Prince Rupert Community College campus.

Two humpback whales along the BC central coast
Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard 


Sam Update

A regular question we get is “has Sam found his family?”  Unfortunately we don’t have an answer yet. While we haven’t had a report of a reunion just yet, we can say that Sam (T046C2) has been seen a few times since his release from Bent Harbour where he was found alone in August of this year.  As we told you in the last update, Sam was spotted a couple times in early September by himself in Clio Channel (in the Johnstone Strait area). Then three weeks later, on September 26th, he was seen travelling near Knight Inlet but this time with other Biggs whales. Sam was traveling with the T123 group, of which T123 is believed to be his aunt.  Sam also appeared to be in much better condition than he was in August.  Unfortunately Sam didn’t stick with the group very long as he was absent during subsequent re-sights of the T123’s.

Interestingly, Sam’s mother (T046C), older brother (T046C1) and younger sibling (T46C3) were seen off Southern Vancouver Island roughly a month later. This was the first time his family has been seen in nearly two years and confirms that they are still alive. Given the cryptic nature of Bigg’s whales and the T046Cs in particular, it may be some time before we receive another tidbit in this ongoing story. Until then, the possibility remains that Sam and his family can reconnect.  

Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard



In the News....

Another Northn Pacific Right Whale!

Photo: Fisheries and Oceans Canada
This just in: North Pacific right whale sightings up 200% for 2013 in BC! After 62 years without a single sighting in BC waters, two North Pacific right whales have been sighted in 2013. The first highly publicized sighting was made by James Pilkington (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) off the west side of Haida Gwaii in June. The second comes from much further south over Swiftsure Bank at the mouth of the Juan de Fuca Strait.  Brian Gisborne, operator of Juan de Fuca Express charters, spotted the rare whale amongst a group of humpbacks on October 25th and returned the next day with colleagues John Ford, Graeme Ellis, and Robin Abernathy (Fisheries and Oceans Canada Cetacean Research Program). They confirmed the whale was a different individual than the one found further north and was approximately 15 m long. North Pacific right whales are considered the most endangered whale on the planet with a population estimate of only 30 – 60 whales in the eastern North Pacific. 

Read More: Vancouver Sun