The orca spotted swimming alone near the Comox Marina since Monday afternoon has been exhibiting unusual behaviour, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
DFO killer whale researcher, Jared Towers, says transient killer whales can travel over 100 miles a day, so it is particularly strange that this orca continues to swim back and forth inside the marina.
“They usually stay in one area until they’re finished feeding,” said Towers. “Sometimes that can be five minutes and sometimes that can be several hours and otherwise, they’re typically moving – on the go in one direction or another.”
He added that the Comox harbour has a lot of sand and sometimes that can make it harder for killer whales to navigate.
“He might just not be able to find his way out so far,” said Towers. “He certainly should be able to if he got himself in there, but we’ll see if he finds his way out.”
Though he said the orca has not shown any obvious signs of trauma or poor health, the DFO will continue to monitor it.
Prior to arriving in the harbour, the 27-year-old orca, known at T073B, was monitored swimming by the Gulf Islands with a group of killer whales. On Sunday, July 22, he split off from the group and arrived in the Comox marina around 4 p.m. the following day.
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.”
Peter Hamilton with Lifeforce Ocean Friends snapped some photos of the orca earlier in the week, 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.”
The recently updated Marine Mammal Regulations guidelines can be viewed at www.SeeABlowGoSlow.org