Everything You Need to Know About Orca
Whale watching is one of the most exciting and beloved activities in Campbell River, and nothing symbolizes this more than the majestic Orca. Guests on the boat are often thrilled and eager to spot this iconic species, also known as Killer Whales.
Did you Know that orca actually belong to the dolphin family, Delphinidae? They are the largest member of the dolphin family and are known for their distinct black and white markings, as well as their intelligence, social behavior, and hunting skills. Orcas are found in every ocean and are known to eat a variety of prey, including fish, squid, and marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even other whales. Despite their name, they are not considered whales but are categorized as toothed whales, which also include other dolphin species like bottlenose dolphins and porpoises. Orcas are apex predators and play an important role in marine ecosystems. Scientifically speaking, all Dolphins are Whales but not all Whales are Dolphins!
Our coast has two distinct types of Orcas: Residents that predominantly consume salmon, and Transients that hunt mammals. The Orcas move in groups called pods, each with its unique name, and every member is uniquely identified and named through alphanumeric codes.
Identifying these incredible creatures can be achieved by taking a closer look at their “saddlepatch”, the grey marking located behind their dorsal fin. We make sure to capture clear images of our sightings to send them to researchers, who can better understand these fascinating creatures. Orcas, as creatures that stay in the same pod for their entire lives, make excellent subjects for study and monitoring. You can see them moving swiftly along the coast, searching for their next meal.
Respect for these amazing creatures is important, recreational boaters are required to keep a 400m distance from all Killer Whales. We carry an exemption flag that allows us to keep a 200m distance from all Killer Whales, with the exception of Southern Residents (which are endangered). If a group of Southern Resident Killer Whales are identified, we will carefully leave the area and give them their space.
We like to take these opportunities to educate our guests about the situation, and how it’s important for us as marine mammal advocates, to help their recovery. Not to worry though, there are plenty of other whales and marine life to see during your tour!