Thriving transient orca population cause for concern off Vancouver Island: experts
Transient killer whales are thriving off Vancouver Island and human encounters with the majestic mammals are becoming increasingly common.
A Campbell River man was kayaking on Aug. 19 near Sayward and Telegraph Cove when he was surprised by a transient whale swimming right beside him.
"I didn't know if they were going to play with our boats or had just come to check us out,” said Michael Hack.
Then on Sunday, a man was on a jet ski with a friend near Cattle Point when a transient whale swam right up to the pair.
Marine experts and whale researchers are stopping short of warning people that the whales will attack, but they are saying it's better to be safe than sorry.
“It is a remarkable video without question, but it is also a little bit concerning of what could potentially happen,” said marine biologist Anna Hall.
There are 350 whales in the transient population and that number has been growing by an average of 4.1 per cent per year since 2012.
Jared Towers, a researcher at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said an average of one calf is born every two weeks in the transient population.
“One of the reasons this population is doing well at the moment is because there are a lot of pinnipeds in the Salish Sea. There are a number of harbour seals, there is California sea lions and steller sea lions and elephant seals,” said Towers.
When hunting their prey, transients will often use techniques that involve the prey animal being sent into the air, hitting their prey with their tails or ramming them with their snouts.
“They are quite amazing to watch and quite dramatic,” said Towers. “They are certainly becoming more and more habituated to human activities.”
Hall and Towers are both asking people to be careful around the animals and to make sure to respect their space when swimming.