Killer Whales Spotted in Howe Sound Waters

SAMPLE Orcas

These Orca whales were spotted near Watts Point. Photo: Lily Ebrao

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: June 18, 2013

On Saturday, Al Price and his partner Lily Ebrao were on Howe Sound waters when they saw what seemed like a wind surfer in trouble, about hundred meters or so off the log sorts at Watts Point.  

But as they got near, they were treated to a beautiful surprise: Orca whale!

“To our amazement, a dorsal fin the size of a surfer emerged gently from the water about 20 meters in front of us,” said Al Price, who operates a boat tour company called Great Lynx Tours in Squamish.

Price said they drifted along the splendid creature for the next half hour.

The whale continued to move north up the Howe Sound as far as Darrel Bay, then turned with the tide and carried on at a leisurely pace back South toward Watts Point.

“We shut down our engine and drifted for a while to see where she surfaced next,” Price said.

“Our day couldn’t get much better than that.”

The whale surfaced again about 50m off the port bow, and suddenly a calf surfaced at her side, and swam alongside the whale, all within 10m of the boat, according to Price.

A third, much larger dorsal fin was also visible about 3/4 nautical mile south. 

The two swam out to meet the larger whale, and the three carried on up the Sound, giving the people in the boat enough time to take pictures and enjoy a close up view of the splendid creatures.

Price said they followed at a distance of a half mile or so, being careful not to disturb the whales.

“We followed as far as Defence Islands, at which point the Whales changed course to go up the east side of Anvil, and we proceeded up the west side,” he said.

They reported the sighting to Coast Guard and to the Marine Mammal Sighting of DFO. They also called Councillor Dale Harry of Squamish Nation to report this very special visitor to town.

In the past few years, sightings of killer whales in Howe Sound have increased.

The BC Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN) received 17 sightings of killer whales in Howe Sound in 2011, about 14 in 2010, and another 9 in 2009.

Two humpback whales were also spotted in Squamish last week, but the ones spotted by Price and his partner were killer whales, distinctively marked black-and-white.

They exist in British Columbia as three distinct assemblages (groups): residents, transients and offshores, according to a media release by Vancouver Aquarium.

There are approximately 300 northern and southern residents and 225 transients whales in B.C./Washington waters. At least 200 offshore killer whales have also been identified.

If you spot a whale, please report it to www.wildwhales.org