Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Killer Whales in Burrard Inlet

Where's the best place go whale watching in Vancouver?

Ruffles the patriarch orca of J-pod in the San Juan Islands, 2003.
Apparently Stanley Park!

A pod of orcas have been swimming around downtown Vancouver today, past Stanley Park, under the Lion's Gate bridge, and all the way over to Port Moody at the eastern-most end of Burrard Inlet.

What are they doing here?

Good question.

Just like that grey whale that swam into False Creek practically a year ago today, it could mean that industrial Burrard Inlet's ecosystem is actually improving *or* perhaps it means that the food sources where they'd normally be hunting are diminishing. I'm actually thinking the former... and I'm also thinking, I'm no expert, it could be anything, really.

I used to work for a Steveston-based whale watch company for a summer back in 2003. There are 3 pods of residential orcas that are here from May until about October/November, but they typically stay within the Gulf Islands/San Juan Islands region, rarely venturing north of the mouth of the Fraser River. Seeing orcas even remotely close to downtown Vancouver is practically unheard of.

But these are apparently transients - not residential J-pod, K-pod, or L-pod. These orcas don't have regular travelling patterns or a seasonal home base. They go wherever they go. And unlike the residential orcas that feed off salmon, transients hunt seals. Having done a walk around the Stanley Park seawall the other week, I can vouch that Burrard Inlet sustains a very healthy population of harbour seals!

What does it mean?

I don't know... but I hope it's a sign of good things to come.

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