Rare marine mammals sighted in Salish Sea
The Salish Sea has been alive with rare cetaceans lately. Risso’s dolphins were sighted Friday near Nanaimo in the Strait of Georgia, and last week a fin whale was spotted foraging for food near a popular beach in North Seattle.
The Risso’s dolphins were first seen Thursday morning in the waters off Campbell River and again later in the afternoon near Nanoose. Almost a dozen of the dolphins were observed to be travelling south in Strait of Georgia near Nanaimo Friday morning.
“They’re a very gregarious species and often they can travel in groups of 50 to 100 or so,” said John K.B. Ford, research scientist emeritus at Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific Biological Station Nanaimo.
“They’re found mostly in warmer waters like off California.”
Ford says in the summer months the Risso’s dolphins can be spotted off the west coast of Vancouver Island and near Haida Gwaii. He says they are rarely found in the inshore waters of Vancouver Island, especially in the Strait of Georgia.
“The last sighting that I’m aware of is a series of sightings in August and September 1978,” said Ford. “This is the first series of sightings in the Strait of Georgia since the late 1970s.”
Ford says the Risso’s dolphin is large and is sometimes called a “small whale.” They have a very distinctive look. He says as they age, they get more white in colour and appear to have “teeth rakes” all over their bodies, which makes them unique.
“This is quite unusual to see them and this time of year and to see them in the Strait of Georgia,” said Ford. “They’re not a very common species for British Columbia generally because they’re found mostly further off shore and rarely come to inside-waters.”
Ford says the dolphins he saw near Nanaimo Friday appeared to be healthy animals and were behaving normally. How they came to be in the strait is unclear.
“Probably they came down through the north end of Vancouver Island through Johnson Strait,” said Ford. “We left them heading south and no doubt they’ll be seen again in the coming days.”
Ford says he’s not sure where the Risso’s will end up, but he hopes they continue through Juan de Fuca Strait and go back to California.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen them in the Strait of Georgia (and) it’s just a real treat to be able to watch them,” said Ford. “They looked in great shape, healthy, so for such a rare event it’s just a fascinating thing to witness.”
The sighting of the Risso’s dolphins hasn’t been the only sighting of a rare cetacean in the Salish Sea this month. From Jan. 9 to 16 a fin whale was spotted foraging for food in the waters off a popular beach in North Seattle.
The confirmed sighting of the fin whale is so rare that it is only the third time the species has been seen in Puget Sound since 1930.
“Fin whales are a lot more common off-shore, but in coastal waters they are still quite rare, especially in Puget Sound,” said Bay Cetology director Jared Towers.
“Fin whales travel long distances and they need to move around in open waters,” he said. “In coastal waters, they may be prone to attacks from killer whales.”
Towers says that the large cetaceans are also likely to be hit by ships if they remain in coastal waters.
“Almost half of the fin whale sightings in costal waters off southern B.C. and northern Washington unfortunately have been of dead fin whales,” said Towers. “One thing that is for certain, the population is increasing and as it’s increasing we’re more likely to see a few here and there in coastal waters.”
Towers says the fin whale is a threatened species in Canada and is still recovering after the numbers of whales were greatly diminished by the whaling industry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“There were literally thousands taken by whalers in the late 1800s and early 1900s,” said Towers.
The fin whale can reach lengths of more than 27 metres and can weight as much as 74 tonnes. It is the second largest animal on earth after the blue whale.
Despite their size, fin whales are sometimes prey for killer whales. Fin whales are baleen whales that feed primarily on krill and occasionally small fish.
With only three confirmed sightings of the massive cetacean in the Salish Sea in more than 90 years, the sighting in Puget Sound is rare. Though the animal hasn’t been spotted in Puget Sound for a number of days, it could still be in the area.
“It’s January, there’s not a lot of people on the water compared to the summer time, this fin whale could be anywhere in Juan de Fuca Strait or Puget Sound (and) it’s only a matter of time before it’s seen again,” said Towers. “It also could’ve just as easily swam back out Juan de Fuca Strait and is back in offshore waters.”
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Fourth-grade teacher Irma Garcia was killed in her Texas classroom on Tuesday, massacred along with her co-teacher and 19 students. Two days later, a family member says her brokenhearted husband died.
The gunman who massacred 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school was inside for more than an hour before he was killed in a shootout, law enforcement authorities said Thursday amid mounting public anger and scrutiny over their response to the rampage.
Man fatally shot by police near Toronto elementary school after reportedly walking streets with rifle
One man is dead after being shot by police near a Toronto elementary school on Thursday afternoon. The incident sent hundreds of students into lockdown.
The Edmonton Oilers defeated their Alberta rival Calgary Flames 5-4 in overtime in Game 5 of their second-round NHL playoff series Thursday night to advance to the Western Conference final.
A 10-year-old boy in a classroom just down the hallway from the room where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday said the experience of hiding during the shooting was 'terrifying.'
In the wake of a horrific mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signalled that the Canadian government will be moving ahead on new gun-control measures 'in the coming weeks.' In previous Parliaments, the Liberals have made changes to Canada's gun laws, but in the 2021 federal election, Trudeau promised to go further.
A massive Russian plane that was grounded at Toronto Pearson International Airport back in February is racking up a substantial parking bill.
There are now 26 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Canada, according to an update from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the virus has been detected in a new province, with one case in Ontario.
The number of job vacancies across Canada reached an all-time high in March, ending a five-month decline, Statistics Canada said Thursday.
'We're starting to see some of those worst-case scenarios': Fraser Valley residents warned to be prepared for potential spring flooding
The Fraser Valley Regional District is urging those living in low-lying areas to have "go kits" ready and important documents easily accessible should homes have to be quickly evacuated.
Fewer than half of COVID-19 deaths reported since B.C. changed counting methods were caused by the disease
Data released Thursday by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control provides some insight into just how much overcounting of COVID-19 deaths the switch to "30-day, all-cause mortality" has created.
Waiting for passports has been stressful and heartbreaking for the family of a B.C. cancer patient who wants to travel with her grandchildren to Disneyland while there's still time.
The spring sitting of the Alberta Legislature wrapped up two weeks earlier than expected Thursday with the NDP continuing to hammer the government on a promise to deliver utility rebates to Albertans.
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has two weeks to provide a new plan to the province, after the justice minister accused him on Thursday of "not providing or maintaining adequate and effective policing services."
A woman from Hamilton, Ont. is now a multimillionaire after she won the $60-million Lotto Max jackpot.
An Indigenous man living in what is assumed to be Toronto’s last “tiny shelter” in a downtown park says police have acted unfairly in their effort to remove and arrest him.
A Calgary judge has sentenced a young man who shot and killed another man to life in prison with no chance of parole for 12 years.
The CFL Players' Association ratified its new collective bargaining agreement with the CFL on Thursday night.
Quebec says it is ready to vaccinate people who have come into close contact with monkeypox as soon as Friday.
The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) announced late Thursday it has hired a legal firm to start a legal action to contest the validity of Bill 96, An Act Respecting French.
Quebec Premier François Legault may not have expected quite this type of fallout from Bill 96, but he found himself hammered by questions on Thursday -- about Quebec independence.
A retired senior Mountie has described to an inquiry his dismay that it took five hours before anyone told him about eyewitnesses who had encountered a mass killer while fleeing the 2020 shootings in Nova Scotia.
Halifax Regional Police is investigating a report of "multiple shots fired" in a neighbourhood in Dartmouth, N.S.
Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting a decrease in new deaths, cases and hospitalizations in the province's weekly COVID-19 update.
A man told court Thursday he was ready to accept punishment after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his three-year-old daughter.
While his job was to keep the school's hallways clean, his impact went far beyond that – touching the lives of the students who walked within them.
The province says it hopes to reopen Highway 75 in the 'near future' but said it all depends on safety.
A Kitchener family has raised concerns about a recent act of vandalism and they're frustrated with the response they received from the Waterloo Regional Police Service.
The driver of a tractor trailer is facing multiple charges after the vehicle struck a concrete barrier on the Conestoga Parkway in Kitchener.
The Guelph Nighthawks are facing off against the Scarborough Shooting Stars in their home opener Thursday night, and some fans are also hoping to see a different kind of star.
A 57-year-old man from the R.M. of Lajord is dead after the road maintenance vehicle he was driving collided with a train on Thursday afternoon.
A Saskatchewan woman’s granddaughter is being recognized for helping save her life and minimizing the effects of stroke after she called 911.
Another tentative deal between the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the Canadian Football League Players’ Association (CFLPA) has been reached.
The teenager who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the stabbing death of another teen inside a Barrie, Ont. group home in 2019 was in court Thursday for a sentencing hearing.
Police arrested a Newmarket man accused of a violent sexual assault on a senior.
Wasaga Beach residents want their voices heard as they seek transparency from the town over plans to sell portions of beachfront property.
'We will have to deal with the issues': Saskatoon condo residents at odds with city over public washroom plan
Outcry over the planned location of public washrooms caused Tuesday's city council meeting to stretch late into the evening.
PGA Tour Canada is getting back into the swing of things this weekend after more than 990 days since the last shot, and the third stop on the tour is in Waskesiu at Elk Ridge Resort.
For the last three terms, NDP's John Vanthof has been Timiskaming Cochrane's MPP.
The Progressive Conservative provincial election candidate in Sault Ste. Marie is taking issue with a suggestion from the New Democrats that he does not live in the riding he’s running to represent.
The Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce honoured 10 of Greater Sudbury’s outstanding entrepreneurs and businesses Thursday at the 25th annual Bell Business Excellence Awards gala.