The orca spotted swimming alone near the Comox Marina since Monday evening has been identified as a 27-year-old transient killer whale, known as T073B.
According to Jackie Hildering, education director with the Marine Education and Research Society, the whale is not sick or injured; it is common for transient killer whales to travel both on their own or in groups (or matrilines).
However, Hildering adds that it is atypical for an orca to stay in one spot for longer periods of time such as this. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans was unable to comment on this orca’s extended stay in the area, but DFO communications advisor, Janine Malikian, said in recent years, it has become much more common to see transient killer whales close to shore along the B.C. coast.
Ken Balcomb, founder and senior scientist with the Centre for Whale Research, said this type of orca used to be infrequent in the area but that has since changed.
“Since the seal population has done so well, they’re in the Georgia Straight, Comox area almost every day,” he said. “They’ll be in small groups and sometimes individual.”
With the orca swimming so close to the marina, Hildering says it is especially important for boaters to be aware of marine life and stay at least 200 metres away from all marine mammals.
Peter Hamilton with Lifeforce Ocean Friends snapped some photos of the orca on Wednesday from his boat, but said he was dismayed to see other boaters disrespecting and harassing the orca by getting too close. Hamilton said he has filed an official complaint to the DFO.
“This orca is being constantly harassed by boaters. The orca can be safely watched from the boardwalk. We must reduce boat traffic that could result in severe injuries. All boaters, including sailboats and kayakers, must stay 200 metres from orcas.”
In an email on Wednesday, Malikian said the DFO was not aware of any reports of this killer whale being harassed.
The recently updated Marine Mammal Regulations guidelines can be viewed at www.SeeABlowGoSlow.org