Killer Whales “Ruin” Our Day of Porpoise Study – 17/5/20

We study porpoises around the world, but obviously, every living thing in the ocean gets our attention. Big and small, black and white or the simple, stylish grey of our favourite small cetacean, the Harbour Porpoise, we get to see it all. Sometimes, though, we are a little more conflicted about those sightings, and this was one of those days.
We were so excited to return to our study site in West Vancouver after a COVID-19-imposed break, and, honestly, a bit of fresh air and the sight of the ocean would have been enough to make our day. Then again, a day without porpoise has no purpose (ha-ha-ha), so, naturally, we were delighted to see our target species make an appearance as well.
But then everything got very quiet. We spotted no porpoises for a while, and even the seals and sea lions seemed to have disappeared. And then it happened, a gang (apparently the PC term for this is “pod”, so, fine, *pod*) of Killer Whales appeared in the distance.
The T123s seemed to be on the hunt as they made their way through our study zone. And they did get lucky when they managed to get a Harbour Seal that hadn’t gotten the memo.
Bigg’s Killer Whales are a frequent visitor to Howe Sound, and we’ve seen the T123s there several times.
What, I don’t sound excited enough? Well, don’t get me wrong, killer whales are big, splashy and impressive (and OMG a calf!), but the appearance of Bigg’s killer whales always means that porpoise won’t be spotted for a while, adding to the many, many hours of waiting for, well, anything, to happen.
So while killer whales do get us excited, they’re not what we’re looking for, and we like to joke that our day “has been ruined”. It’s not quite as dramatic, but do you see why killer whales make for a “bad” day when you are researching porpoises?
We managed to get some good pictures of the encounter, though, so there’s that ─ and it’s a reason to share the story of this encounter with you. Enjoy.
-Marcus and the Porpoise Conservation Society

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