A Whale's Worth

Killer Whales of the Coast

Besides humans, killer whales are one of the most widespread mammals in the world, found in every ocean on the planet. They are also among one of the most socially and ecologically complex species on the planet. Although at first glance they may all appear very similar, there are 10 different types of killer whales that exist.  Throughout the coast of British Columbia, 3 ecotypes can be found: Biggs (aka Transients), Residents, and Offshore.  Besides their appearance, each ecotype is so distinct from the other, that scientists are trying to designate them as different species altogether due to their differences, among many things, in genetics, diet, behaviour, vocalization, mating, and family structure. These iconic animals of the coast not only play an important role in the marine ecosystem, but have also served for millennia as an important cultural and spiritual symbol in First Nations, as much in their visual works as in their oral traditions.


Conservation Issues

Killer whales are seeing an increasing amount of threats such as pollutants, acoustic and physical disturbance and diminishing food supply in their marine environment. As these mammals rely heavily on sound in order to to hunt, feed and communicate, the increasing noise from ships, sonar, and seismic testing is creating a stressful environment. Recent approval for large-scale development projects in BC will see a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic per month starting from Burnaby, BC, further increasing the acoustic and physical disturbance as well as pose threats of potential oil spills in critical killer whale habitat in the Salish Sea. In recent years, the fish-eating Southern Resident killer whales, currently listed as endangered, have been seeing a decline in their primary food supply, Chinook salmon. In order to fully protect some of these majestic creatures from disappearing from our coastline, a recovery plan that addresses prey shortages, vessel disturbance, reduction of shipping noise, commitments to marine protected areas and longer term action on marine pollutants needs to be addressed. 

What You Can Do

  • Learn more about killer whales in BC and share what you’ve learned with others.

  • Visit the city of Vancouver website for more ways you can help right now to protect against one of the largest development threats to killer whales in BC.

  • Let your MP know how you feel - Contact information can be found here.

  • Tell the Federal Government to strengthen its killer whale Action Plan - Take a look at the final plan for 2019 measures to protect southern resident killer whales here.

  • Report any whale sightings here.