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

The A34s were in the Johnstone Strait and Blackney Pass area for 4 days at the beginning of November – they stopped at the Robson Bight rubbing beach and were also seen foraging in the Bight.  A1 pod calls were also heard by Orca Lab on Nov 1st.  On Oct 31st the G17 matriline was seen in Blackfish Sound and other G and A clan calls were heard but none of the whales were identified.  The G12s were in Johnstone Strait on Oct 24th and the A36s were heard on Oct 23rd.  In late August and September the A30s, A5s and I15s were in the Johnstone Strait area for a couple weeks.  

Southern Residents

Photo: Barbara Bend_CWR

There have been few sightings of the southern residents from November, apart from a brief sighting on Nov. 19th of J & K pod south of Victoria before the groups headed back out west. Even during October J, K & L pod only stayed in the Salish Sea for short visits.  Instead, in late October, J's and K's travelled south through Puget Sound where they spent time around Seattle.  There have been no specific reports of the baby J49 although the whales currently appear to be travelling in large groups making individual sightings more challenging. 

L-pod was last seen regularly at the end of October after spending 2-3 weeks in Puget Sound, foraging in Admiralty Inlet, often with the other southern resident pods. They were likely following the high number of Chum salmon returning to spawn.   


Photo: Erin Heydenreich_CWR

T20 & T21 were sighted multiple times in the Salish Sea through the early half of November, adding to a long list of recent sightings.  T93 and T97 were photographed with the pair on the November 13th so the hunting party was a foursome for a short time at least. On Nov 9th another hunting party was seen south of Victoria, this time it was the T123's and T49A's. Transient sightings continue to be prevalent, continuing the trend set early in the summer. Hotspots have included Haro Straight, Beaumont Shoals and a stretch of southern Vancouver Island from Oak Bay to Sooke.  Transients have also been seen off the northern end of Vancouver Island this fall. 

November 2012
In this issue

 Whale Update
 Program Update
 Field Notes
 In the News 




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Adoption Program Update....

Wee-awh. Clik. Clik. Buzzzz!
That's orca for, "Please adopt me this holiday season."

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. 

jinge bells long


Please take a few minutes to complete our survey

The Vancouver Aquarium is considering changing the package that we send to killer whale adopters.  The purpose of this change would be to reduce the environmental footprint of the adoption program and to increase its efficiency so that more of your donation can go directly to support conservation-oriented research.   We would very much appreciate it if you would share your opinions by completing this short survey.Click here to take survey   



Springer (A73) video now online

In celebration of the 10 year anniversary of Springer’s (A73) successful rescue, rehabilitation and release three events were held this past summer.  At the Vancouver Aquarium celebration in June 2012 we showed a 6 minute video of highlighting Springer’s ordeal and successful release 10 years ago.  The video is now posted on our website and we are thrilled to be able to share it with everyone.  Click here to view the video.   



2012 Annual Newsletter

The Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program’s 2012 annual print newsletter, the Blackfish Sounder is finished and in the mail to houses all over the world.  This year’s issue looks at noise levels in the underwater environment, asks ‘Why do killer whales beach rub’, celebrates the Adoption Programs 20th Anniversary and explore the tragic death of the southern resident killer whale L112.  The annual newsletter is sent to everyone with an adoption that is new or has been renewed within the last year.  If you purchased an adoption for someone else within the last year and would like to see the Blackfish Sounder, please log onto our website and visit the News section.  I’m sorry but the Blackfish Sounder is only available to adopters and donors of the adoption program. 



Field Notes....

The winter often means meeting and lab work!

In October, the Vancouver Aquarium’s head marine mammal researcher Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard attended Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s National Marine Mammal Peer Review Committee (NMMPRC) Annual meeting in Nanaimo.  This annual meeting brings together marine mammal experts from across Canada to conduct scientific peer review of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) scientific results.  Dr. Barrett-Lennard attended the 5-day workshop as a non-DFO experts or external advisor. The peer review process ensures high quality review of the scientific results and provides sound scientific advice as the basis for the management and conservation of marine mammals in Canada.  This year, the papers reviewed covered topics pertaining to grey/harp/ringed seals, California/Steller sea lions, walrus, narwhal, beluga, killer whales, and blue whales.



In the News....

Killer whales coddle their baby boys well into adulthood

After plying through photo-ID catalogues compiled by Fisheries and Oceans and the Center for Whale Research, researchers from the UK unearthed some embarrassing family history: Pacific coast killer whale males are huge momma’s boys.  It’s not all bad as it turns out the bond between mother and son has a big impact on the lifespan of resident male orcas and subsequently the number of off-spring they may be able to sire during their prime years.
The study, led by Dr. Emma Foster from Exeter University found that males whose mother’s survived to post-reproductive age (the granny stage) were far more likely to survive themselves.  For example, mortality rates can be up to 14-times higher for males over 30 that lose a post-reproductive mother compared to those who have their moms.  Interestingly, the study found that the lifespan of a matriarch had little impact on the survival of her adult daughters while it clearly affected her sons.  This led the authors to conclude that resident killer whales have evolved a prolonged post-menopausal life span in order to care for their sons and ultimately collect more grandchildren. 
The specific ways in which moms support their sons is unknown but may included assistance with foraging and managing interactions with other whales.  While the “how” remains a mystery, the benefits are clear: moms know what’s best for their boys and don’t encourage them to move out of the family basement.   

Loquillilla (I12) with her two sons Quatsino (I47) and Zayas (I78)
Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard
News story: Vancouver Sun


A massive visitor to the Strait of Georgia

In September a massive fin whale cruised up the Strait of Georgia to Johnstone Strait.  Fin whales are not uncommon along the BC coast but since they have a preference for the open waters of the central and northern coast, they are often unfamiliar to most British Columbians.  You can imagine the surprise then when the BC Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN) received a sighting of a fin whale off Nanaimo!
This is BCCSN’s the first report of a fin whale in the Strait of Georgia, but wasn’t the only sighting of this particular fin whale.  In fact, what was likely the same animal that was spotted a few days later in Hoskyns Channel and then again outside of Telegraph Cove in Johnstone Strait.
As long as two full-sized school buses parked bumper to bumper, the sleek, streamlined fin whale is an impressive sight to see.  While the fin whale may come in second to the blue whale in the size category, they are known as the “greyhounds of the sea,” capable of reaching speeds of nearly 50 kilometers per hour in quick bursts – that’s faster than any other baleen whale.
Help us learn more about fin whale distribution in B.C. – report your sightings online or call 1-866-I-SAW-ONE .  Learn more about fin whales and their identification here.
News Story: BCCSN; Vancouver Sun

Photo: Meghan McKillop