At least 72 Bigg's killer whales were spotted in the Salish Sea on Thursday, a new single-day record.
“There have been days in the last decade with around 50 different Bigg’s killer whales reported, maybe 60,” says Mark Malleson, researcher for the Centre for Whale Research. “But, Thursday was certainly the most so far.”
The Pacific Whale Watching Association (PWWA) shared the news on Friday, saying whale watchers in Washington and southern British Columbia saw 10 distinct groups of whales.
The largest group spotted by PWWA operators was in the northern San Juan Islands, where 18 killer whales were seen.
One of the most notable sightings was “Chainsaw,” an adult male born in 1978 known for his jagged dorsal fin.
“We were watching a group of four whales when out of nowhere, 14 more materialized,” says Sam Murphy, a naturalist with Island Adventures Whale Watching, in a statement.
“It was magical,” says Murphy.
Other whales made appearances in the Hood Canal in Washington’s Puget Sound, and as far north as the Campbell River region.
Monika Wieland Shields, director of Orca Behavior Institute on San Juan Island, says the number of whales spotted is astounding.
"We wonder how long this increase in Bigg’s killer whales will continue, but they keep setting records," she says.
Bigg’s killer whales hunt marine mammals and are thriving currently due to an abundance of seals and sea lions in the region.
The Bigg’s population is growing at more than four per cent a year, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Eleven new Bigg’s calves were born in 2021.
With a file from Times Colonist