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Whale Update....

Northern Residents

Echo (A55) and Fantome (A91)
Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard

August saw numerous sightings of A clan in the Johnstone Strait area, as would be predicted. The A36s, A34s, A30s, A35s, A24s, A8s, A23s and A25s were sighted in the area throughout the month.  Further north along the BC central coast, the A34s were also seen off Goose Island on Aug 9th.  On August 13th, the I19s were seen again off Goose Island and the R5s and R17s were seen together a few miles south off Blenheim Island. The A34s were then spotted again on August 24th this time with the R5s and I15s in Gordon Channel. Later that afternoon, the I11s were also seen in Goletas Channel.  August 27th saw the A34s, A23s and A25s at Bere Point, where 3 whales came in for a rub on the beach.  On August 28th, the A34s and I15s came down from Queen Charlotte Strait towards Johnstone Strait, joining up with the A30s and A8s that were coming up Weynton Pass. On September 7th, the B7s were seen off Tofino.


Southern Residents

August continued to be spotty for southern resident sightings; however, when they ventured into the Salish Sea they come in as a group.  The official population count from July 2013 is 82 animals: 26 in J pod, 19 in K pod, and 37 in L pod.  The first super pod was seen on August 11th and 12th, then again between August 14th and 18th. On August 22nd, there was a super pod of 50 whales near Victoria, and on August 26th, a super pod of 60 whales near Race Rocks. On August 25th a super pod in Active Pass made the news when a lucky vacationer on Galiano Island captured the tight group on video from shore. Click here to check it out!  On September 3rd, there was another super pod at Hein Bank, and again on September 14th, more north near Point Roberts.


Bigg's (Transients) 

Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard

Bigg’s killer whale sightings helped fill in the blanks between resident sightings this summer.  The T2s were a consistent sight this August - seen in Fife Sound on Aug 8th, near Read Island on the 11th, off Cracroft Point with the T18s on the 21st, and in Knight Inlet on the 23rd. The T18s were also spotted near Mitlenatch Island on August 11th, and again near Leonard Island on August 18th. The T10s were seen off Cortez Island on September 8th. 
Late August saw many Bigg’s groups gathering together forming larger than normal congregations. Twenty-six whales were seen off Race Rocks on August 21st; 20 whales were seen near Trial Island on August 30th; and 25-30 whales were sighted between Mitlenatch Island and Cape Mudge on September 1st.  


Sept 2013
In this issue

 Whale Update
 Program Update
 Field Updates
 In the News 




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Adoption Program Update....

Coming to your inbox!

Every year the Vancouver Aquarium Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program produces an annual 8 page newsletter, the Blackfish Sounder, with a mix of news and feature stories to keep adopters up-to-date on our research.  For years we have made sure the newsletter was printed on post-consumer recycled paper, but this year we want to take our sustainability practices a step further and go paperless with the newsletter.  Starting this year the Blackfish Sounder will be distribute via email and a web link.  If you would still prefer to receive a printed copy of the newsletter please email us at by October 3rd with the subject line ‘Mail Blackfish Sounder’, otherwise please expect the newsletter in your inbox in October.

Please note the Blackfish Sounder is for active adoption members and the printed newsletter will only be mailed out upon request to current owners of a killer whale adoption. Click here to see back issues of the newsletter.



Field Notes....

2013 field season update!

The August field trip picked up easily where we left off in July – focusing again on the waters between Rivers Inlet and Camaano Sound on BC’s remote central coast. Team leader, Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard’s primary goal was to document the use of the area by killer whales, but similar to previous years was also interested in the use of the area by humpback whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins and sea otters.

Our updates from last year revealed that 2012 was a poor Chinook salmon year and the killer whales appeared to be working harder to find food.  Rather than meeting in large, vocal groups, the whales were traveling in smaller, quiet groups, and spending more time traveling than in previous summers.   This year wasn’t much different.  The movements of resident killer whales seem to be shifting to more offshore waters making it much more challenging for our team to locate and study the whales.

Add a little distraction, a four year old Bigg’s killer whale nicknamed Sam, into the picture and we had less killer whale encounters than previous year.  Sam, identified as T046C2, is a Bigg’s whale who was found by our colleagues at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, John Ford and Graeme Ellis, by itself in a bay off Aristazabal Island on the central coast.  Lance spent most of the first two weeks of August monitoring Sam, recording his vocalizations and playing Bigg’s whale calls underwater to try and entice Sam out of the Bay he was in. See more about Sam in the story below.

When not around Aristazabal Island checking on Sam, Lance focused his efforts off the west side of Calvert Island, Goose Island and Queen Sound.  On August 8th, Lance and research assistant Albert Michaud encountered the A34s in Queen Charlotte Sound.  It was early evening and the sun was in their eyes but all members of A34s were present including Eclipse’s (A67) calf A102 born last year and a new calf with Misty (A62).  A week later Lance and research assistant Meghan Moore encountered the I18s in much the same area.  The I18s are a group of northern residents that had not been seen in two years so they were very excited to see and document all the whales present.

Strong north-westerly winds and fog added to the difficulty of surveying the central coast this year so the team crossed back to the northern end of Vancouver Island about a week earlier than planned.  That worked in their favour though and on Aug 24th Lance and Meghan encountered a group of residents in Gordon Chanel that consisted of the R5, I15, A12 and I11 matrilines.  Then two days later Lance and research assistant Valeria Vergara encountered the I15 matriline in Blackfish Sound and the following day the A8 matriline off Robson Bight.

Lance is still hoping to get one for field trip in this season before returning the research vessel Skana back to Vancouver for the winter.

Loquillilla (I12) with Levy (I105) and a new calf
Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard 


Sam's Rescue

In August another little whale became a media sensation.  Sam, also known as T046C2, a four year Bigg’s (transient) killer whale was found all alone in a remote bay on the central coast of BC at the end of July.  Killer whales are exceptionally social animals so this lone young whale worried Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Vancouver Aquarium researchers.  Sam was extremely vocal, no doubt attempting to call it’s mother, but would not leave the small bay and appeared psychologically trapped there.  As the weeks passed, Sam showed signs of losing weight, and DFO and Aquarium researchers made the decision to attempt to move Sam out of the bay.  On August 15th with a little encouragement, Sam porpoised out of the bay and immediately headed to sea.  Two weeks later Sam was sighted again near Knight Inlet near the northern end of Johnstone Strait.  He was still alone, but in an area where his family, and many other Bigg’s whales, have been seen before that time of year and an area where food was plentiful.  Good luck little Sam! 

Read more: Vancouver Aquarium AquaBlog 

Sam (T046C2) in Bent Harbour near Aristazabal Island
Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard



In the News....

A Rescue Season!

Photo: Vancouver Aquarium
Eleven years ago the Vancouver Aquarium helped rescue an orphaned killer whale and return it to the wild – that was Springer (A73).  Then this summer Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard helped rescue a young killer whale trapped in a remote bay off the BC central coast – that was Sam (T046C2), see the story above.  And then in September Levi, a male harbour porpoise successfully rehabilitated at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, was released back to the wild.
Levi came the Rescue Centre five months ago after stranding on a beach off Saanich Inlet.  He was too weak to swim on his own and diagnostic tests revealed Levi has a large lung-parasite infection.  The veterinary team treated Levi’s infection and he slowly regained his strength.  On September 10th Levi was fitted with a GPS tracking tag and released back to the wild.  You can follow Levi’s journey here.