Northern Resident Killer Whales A34's off Tofino

On Sunday morning John and I heard reports on the radio of a large group of killer whales off Lennard Light. We jumped into the boat and headed out off the Glory Hole to meet up with the fleet and the whales. We knew this large group of killer whales were not Transient Killer Whales but likely Northern Resident Killer Whales. The last time we had Northern Residents in Tofino on a whale watching tour was the H5's in August 2014. We spent some time photographing them. Our Tofino Whale Watching Tours and our Hot Springs Tour were able get some good looks at these killer whales as they made their way up the coast past Tofino. The NRKW we saw yesterday day were the A12 Matriline (A34's) and this was a first meeting for us since we have been document killer whale sightings in our area!  They were moving slowly (3.6 knots) up the coast. We observed them tail slapping, spy hopping and traveling. They are a beautiful family of whales to watch. 

Northern Resident killer whales generally travel in large pods of closely-related individuals within predictable ranges and exclusively feed on fish, primarily salmonid species. The Northern Resident population roam the waters off northern Vancouver Island and the mainland coast as far north as southeast Alaska.

This week Whale Watching in Tofino has been absolutely amazing! We have had several orca sightings on our whale watching tours, humpback whales off Long Beach and lots of Grey Whales, even today we had a mother and calf spy hopping at Tonquin Beach. 

TOFINO KILLER WHALES - U073 Killer Whales of Lennard Lighthouse

On Thursday, March 29th we got word that there was a group of Transient Killer Whales off Lennard Lighthouse near Tofino. Our afternoon Whale Watching Tour was able to get some good looks at about 8 killer whales. John and I decided to head out on the Eco to get some photos ID's to see who they were. When we arrived on scene we immediately recognized the T068's with about 6 other killer whales. 

The T068's have been in the news recently for being documented for the first time drowning and killing an infant of the same species. The researchers who watched the orca infanticide as it unfolded off the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island on Dec. 2, 2016,  published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports this week. 

When we arrived the whales were milling in the same spot for the 60 minutes that we spent with them. They were tail slapping and spy hopping. One whale swam by the boat with seal meat hanging out of its mouth. John and I were able to get several good ID shots of these gangs.  When we left the whales they were still in the same spot just milling about. 

After going through our photos we did not recognize these whales. We reached out to Jared Towers, a researcher from Fisheries and Oceans who identified this gang as the U073's. This group has never been properly photographed. We were pretty excited to have had the opportunity to spend time with a new (to us) group of whales and were able to get some good photo ID's of them.