Watersports

Tour boat stunned as killer whales take down large whale in Juan de Fuca Strait

A rare attack by a pod of transient orcas on a decades-old minke whale was an incredible but challenging sight for tour boat guests and their captain on southeast Vancouver Island last week.

Jeff Friedman, captain of Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching based in Friday Harbour, Wash., said he left for a tour on Friday near Partridge Bank in the Strait of Juan de Fuca after hearing reports that a pod of killer whales passing or Bigg was present. .

“A few minutes after we got on stage with them, it all kind of opened up,” Friedman told CHEK News on Tuesday. “We started seeing killer whales porpoising, and we weren’t sure what was going on. I mean, we knew they were hunting.

But it wasn’t porpoises or marine mammals that the killer whales were looking for, made up of members of groups T65A and T99.

“Within minutes we saw the minke whale come out of the water and realized it was chasing a minke whale,” Friedman said.

He said it was ‘very unusual’ to see such a chase in the wild as an adult minke can rival an adult Bigg’s killer whale, in terms of size, measuring up to nine meters in length and 10 tonnes in weight .

But the minke was outnumbered and no match for the orchestrated orc attack, succumbing to it in about half an hour.

“Everyone on board, all the guests and us too… everyone had mixed feelings about what we were seeing. I mean, there’s, there’s definitely the wonder of seeing wild killer whales hunting, it’s definitely an amazing thing to see,” he said. “But you are also somewhat in favor of the minke whale. And it’s kinda hard to watch.

Researchers also realize how familiar this minke whale was in the area.

Although the whale’s identity is still being confirmed, it is believed to have been part of a seasonal Salish Sea population that was first spotted in the area in the early 1980s. which makes it at least 50 years old.

“Minks are thought to only live to be around 50 years old, so despite a dramatic end, this whale lived a full life,” the Pacific Whale Watching Association said in a Facebook post.

While Bigg’s killer whales are known to take on larger and tougher prey than their cousins, the endangered southern resident killer whale, they are commonly seen hunting marine mammals like harbor seals and lions. sea.

But it is the second time in weeks that a group of passengers have tackled a large whale, another rare occurrence taking place on September 29 near the Canada-US border 40 kilometers west of Victoria.

Several tour boats have documented a pod of 15 passing orcas chasing a humpback whale – a sight one captain described as “absolutely incredible”.

While some may be upset by images of the minke whale receiving body blows, tooth rakes and ultimately drowning by orcas, Friedman says in the grand scheme of things, attacks like these may be an indicator that some species of whales are thriving. in the Salish Sea.

“I think there are a lot of whales, some are predators, some are prey, and especially with Bigg’s killer whales, there’s a healthy growing population, and the humpback whales, we see more every year,” he said.

“I think a good takeaway is that there are a lot of whales out there. And there are parts of that ecosystem that are thriving.

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