Easter weekend 'hopping' with 56 orcas spotted off B.C. coast: researchers

Whale researchers in the Vancouver Island region say Easter weekend was “hopping” with orca activity, with 56 killer whales spotted in the waters of B.C. and northern Washington state.

Naturalists reported four separate pods of transient Bigg’s killer whales in the Strait of Georgia, Haro Strait, Puget Sound and San Juan Islands, as well as members of the J pod of southern resident orcas.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association says 32 Bigg’s orcas were sighted on Saturday, including “Chainsaw,” a well-known orca recognizable by his distinctive jagged dorsal fin.

Another notable orca named “Tl’uk” was among the mammals identified this weekend. Tl’uk, named after a Coast Salish word for “moon,” has a distinctive grey and white colour pattern, according to researchers.

"It's a pretty fabulous day out there whenever we see whales,” said Val Shore, a professional naturalist and photographer with Eagle Wing Whale and Wildlife Tours of Victoria. “But to have multiple groups including two ‘celebrities’ in the neighbourhood is an extra special treat.”

Researchers say the coastal Bigg’s killer whale population numbered 349 in 2018 and had been growing at roughly four per cent per year throughout the 2010s.