Killer whales spotted in Vancouver’s coal port, sign of return to balanced ecosystem, expert says

Robert Johnson’s shift was nearing completion at the Vancouver seaplane terminal in Coal Harbor when he saw something he had never seen before.

“All of a sudden there were these huge black creatures under the nose of the plane,” Johnson told CBC News.

Two killer whales breached the surface just off the terminal pier on Saturday around 5:30 p.m. and Johnson pulled out his phone and videotaped everything.

“It’s surreal to see that kind of incredible majesty. It was the biggest creature I have ever seen in my life. I can’t believe things like that live. It’s crazy,” he said. he declared.

Johnson has worked at the terminal for three years and said it was the first time he had seen whales at work.

WATCH | Killer whales burst onto the surface near the Coal Harbor seaplane terminal:

Killer whales spotted near shore

Killer whales have been caught on camera breaching the shores of Coal Harbor and Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver in recent weeks. (Submitted by Robert Johnson and Jason King) 1:17

“This is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, without a doubt. I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever see something like this again.”

Killer whales have been increasingly seen near shore in recent weeks, according to Andrew Trites, a professor at the University of British Columbia and director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit.

“What you are seeing is the return of marine mammals to the Salish Sea. Some of them have been absent for 100 years and they have returned,” he said.

In the early 1970s, Trites claimed that seals and sea lions had been killed in what he called a “mistaken belief” that they were competing with fishermen for the supply of salmon.

“Now that seals and sea lions have stopped being killed, populations have increased, attracting killer whales to a reliable food source near shore,” Trites said.

Due to the increasing number of killer whales, seals and sea lions that were previously concentrated in certain areas have started to spread to hide from predators, further attracting whales to a number of places around the coast. .

“Now we see that the whole Salish Sea has become one great hunting ground,” he said.

Trites noted that there may be an increased number of young seals and naïve sea lions in the waters since the mating season ended in August, providing easy prey for the whales.

It’s a change Trites says he didn’t expect to see in his 40-year career, but he’s encouraged by it.

“We now have the killer whales, which are here in large numbers because their food supply is there and stable. We are seeing a return to a balanced ecosystem unlike anything I have known in my lifetime and perhaps for the first time in centuries. . “

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Sightings around the coast of British Columbia are not limited to killer whales. Humpback whale sightings were filmed near Bowen Island, along with a rare sighting of a beluga in Puget Sound, Washington.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s West Coast Fisheries Region tweeted that it was tracking a beluga spotting hundreds of miles outside of the whales’ usual range.

“It came here from the Arctic, from Alaska, but it’s really weird because they’re not supposed to be here. It’s an arctic species,” Trites said.

He said the animal had probably moved away from its pod. He had no explanation as to why he would have done it, but says the whale probably won’t survive if it doesn’t come back to the group.

Trites says the sightings give those who witness the majestic animals a better appreciation for them in our oceans.

“There is a whole new discussion unfolding as we see this changing relationship with the Salish Sea. And I think that ultimately enriches the ecosystem, makes it more diverse and productive. But I think it also makes it healthier for you. and me.”

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