A pod of transient killer whales were filmed hunting porpoises off of Pender Island last week. (File photo)

Whales hunting porpoises off Vancouver Island thrill tourists

Pod spotted hunting porpoises near Pender Island caught on video

Watching a pod of transient killer whales hunting porpoises close to Pender Island last week was a thrill for Simon Pidcock and his clients.

Pidcock, owner of Cowichan Bay’s Ocean Ecoventures Whale Watching, came across several of the large and intelligent meat-eating mammals while out on his tour boat.

The whales began breaching out of the water as they tried to corral and toss the much smaller porpoises in the air in their apparently successful efforts to stun and kill them before they could be eaten.

Pidcock said he began taking a video of the melee as the whales tossed, turned and breached as they knocked the porpoises out of the water, sometimes within just a couple of hundred metres from his tour boat.

“We were lucky enough to be there to witness it,” he said.

“We don’t see this happen every day when we’re out there with our customers, but we always hope each time.”

Pidcock has been taking people on whale-watching tours for 16 years in the area and said the number of the transient, also called Bigg’s, killer whales in the Straight of Georgia has increased considerably over that time.

Pods of fish-eating resident killer whales dominated the strait for decades and their meat-eating cousins were much less common in the region.

But the number of transients have been steadily increasing since the 1960s when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada discontinued its bounty on harbour seals, one of the killer whale’s main prey species, in which it paid $5 per seal in an effort to minimize their effect on commercial fisheries.

RELATED STORY: ENTANGLED KILLER WHALE SAVED OFF B.C. COAST

There were fewer than 4,000 harbour seals in the strait when the bounty was discontinued, but their numbers have increased more than 10-fold since then, returning the harbour seal population to its historical levels and drawing in more transient killer whales to feed on them.

One day last week, four transient whales were spotted and filmed making an extremely rare visit to Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

“All the seals and sea lions now in the area are a real smorgasbord for the transient killer whales,” Pidcock said.

“Folks are coming from all over the world to see these encounters, but we’re not trying to encourage any false expectations. We can sometimes be on the water all day and not see any action at all.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Former B.C. gangster arrested for drug operation in India

Jimi Sandhu, deported in 2016, accused of owning drug-manufacturing facility

More than 150 tremors hit Vancouver Island in last 24 hours

Seismologists monitor to see if pressure will be added to major fault

Port Alberni women pack Women in Government info session

‘Gender is not a liability at the ballot box’

Canadian Cancer Society in Port Alberni closing doors

Access to support programs will remain unchanged

Celebrate National Aboriginal Day in the Alberni Valley

Plenty of events on Thursday, June 21, including at Paper Mill Dam

Port Day celebrates Alberni’s waterfront

Third annual Port Alberni event was a hit

BC Ferries posts strong earnings before rate cuts

Last year highest ever for vehicle traffic, most walk-ons in 20 years

Snapchat used to make mass shooting threat in Kamloops

RCMP did not dub the threat a hoax, instead called it “unsubstantiated”

B.C. groups file response to government’s fight against solitary confinement

B.C. Supreme Court judge suspended ruling for one year to give government time to draft legislation

National sports organizations have to report allegations of abuse immediately

Sporting organizations will lose federal funding if abuse goes unreported, says Kirsty Duncan

BC conservation officers release badger from wolf trap

Badger recovering after being caught in trap near Williams Lake

B.C. Christian school mulls covenant, future of law school after court ruling

The university still wants to open a law school, but is looking at its options.

Ultra-low cost airline to launch in B.C. this week

Swoop destinations include Abbotsford, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Halifax and Edmonton

Heat wave could lead to record-breaking electricity use: BC Hydro

Monday was a hot one, and many turned to fans and air conditioners for relief from the heat

Most Read