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120A Hayimiisaxaa Way

Hartley Bay, BC

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© 2019 by Pacific Whale Society. 

 Orcinus orca

The iconic and fascinating Killer Whale is the main reason why ‘Whalepoint’ was founded almost 20 years ago. It was the curiosity of their abundance along the north coast of BC that drove Hermann Meuter to search for a perfect location to listen and watch out for them.

Northern Resident Killer Whales

August 1, 2019

These whales form extremely close family bonds, called matrilines. These matrilines are based on a matriarch system, which has the mother and her offspring form a unit that will last a lifetime. It is a family bond that is uniquely close in the world of all mammals. They will spend each day together in close proximity, never separated as far as not to be in acoustic contact. Interestingly, the family structures are very similar to the First Nation clan culture along the BC coast. 

There are three different acoustic clans that are identified within the northern resident community: A, G and R. Together, the community has a healthy population of about 300 and has a slow growth rate of about 1% annually.

The main diet of northern residents are salmon. Of the five species of pacific salmon they focus on the biggest one, the chinook salmon. The fish can be larger than 50pounds and are the reason why the whales migrate to the coast each year to find their favourite prey. The whales will follow migrating salmon from south-east Alaska to mid-Vancouver Island. 

Peek abundance of northern residents in Gitga’at territory is from May-July.

Transient (Bigg's) Killer Whales

August 1, 2019

Transients are marine mammal eaters. They do not eat fish. Their diet along the BC coast consists of mainly harbour seals, sea lions and smaller cetaceans such as Dall’s porpoises and Pacific white-sided dolphins. 

They also form close family ties, similar to northern residents with the bond between a mother and her first born son, seem to be the closest bond. Adult males sometimes wander off by themselves and join other pods for short periods of time. Their acoustic tradition seems to be not as complex as the ones for northern residents. The community of more than 300 seem to share a common acoustic dialect. 

Residents and transients do not have a social relationship, in fact both eco types seem to avoid each other if present in the same close geographic area.

Transients can be found in Gitga’at waters throughout the year, however, their abundance annually is less than that of residents.

Offshore Killer Whales

August 1, 2019

Offshore killer whales have only been sighted a handful of times in Gitga’at territory in the last 20 years. Their habitat is mainly in the open Pacific Ocean where they feed on bottom fish such as sleeper sharks. It is estimated there are about 300 whales in the offshore population, which roams the Pacific all the way from northern Mexico to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. They're smaller in size than the residents and transients, and their dorsal fins tend to be more nicked and notched.