Written by Nature Canada’s writing intern, Gabriel Planas The Fraser River Estuary is a large area of interconnected marine, estuarine, freshwater and agricultural habitats, near Vancouver. With almost 17,000 hectares of wetland, the estuary supports a variety of habitats such as salt and estuarine marshes, mudflats, and deep tidal waters. These habitats are crucial to the 560 species found in the Fraser River Estuary. Killer Whales, Townsend Moles, and even Sockeye Salmon depend on this area for migration and residential purposes. Some species, such as the Western Sandpiper, depend on the region so heavily that roughly 500,000 Western Sandpipers visit the mud flats of Roberts Bank every day. Sockeye Salmon is the most important commercial species among the hundreds found… read more →
This post was written by guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy. Known as “aarluk” in Inuktitut, the Killer Whale (Orcinus Orca) is featured as Nature Canada’s calendar photo for March 2018. About the Killer Whale One of the world’s largest animals, the Orca belongs to the Dolphin family (Delphinidae). Males can reach ten metres in length and 22,000 kilograms in weight. Females are smaller, but still considerable, at 8.5 metres long and 7,500 kilograms. Highly intelligent and distinctive for its black and white colouration, these magnificent creatures are also deadly. Poised at the top of the oceanic food chain, they are carnivores whose diet is often geographic and population specific. The Killer Whale’s menu could be fish heavy—such as salmon, herring, and… read more →
This guest blog book review was written by Sofia Osborne. The skull of Moby Doll, the subject of Mark Leiren-Young’s new book “The Killer Whale Who Changed the World,” was housed in the museum where I worked this summer. I also saw Moby’s relatives practically every day. J-Pod, a group of Southern Resident Orcas, would come by my post on Saturna Island’s East Point close enough to touch. Moby Doll was harpooned off the coast of Saturna Island, but surprisingly he lived. He was then dragged to a Vancouver dry dock where he spent the rest of his short life under the watchful eye of the Vancouver Aquarium director. Scientists learned a lot about Killer Whales by studying Moby, and… read more →
This blog is written by guest blogger Sofia Osborne. From the old fog alarm building on East Point, Saturna Island, I can see the buoy that marks the border between the United States and Canada. This is Boundary Pass where commercial ships come inbound to Vancouver and leave outbound towards destinations including Seattle, the Panama Canal, and Japan. It’s challenging to capture just how large these ships are. Most Saturna Islanders who live on Cliffside, the road that faces Boundary Pass, like to sit out on their decks and watch the humongous ships move by. Many look the vessels up on AIS tracking to see what they’re carrying and where they’re headed. But those who live on Cliffside are also… read more →
This month’s featured photo of an Orca comes to us from Eileen Redding, a winner from the Nature Canada 75th Anniversary Photo Contest. I was on a whale watching tour; east of Campbell River, BC, in the Strait of Georgia. It was a grey, gloomy day. We were only about 20 minutes out when we spotted the pod. I feel so fortunate to have seen them, and to get four breathtaking frames of one breaching in front of us. From all of us at Nature Canada, we also feel fortunate that Eileen was able to capture such a beautiful moment and share it with us. To learn more about Orcas, please visit our species profile.
What makes Orcas the top ocean predator? Sailors who witnessed killer whale attacks of larger cetaceans named them “whale killers.” The name eventually changed to “killer whales.” With the recent realization that they do not attack humans, and they live in highly co-operative social groups, they are more often called “Orcas”—a derivative of their scientific name, Orcinus orca. Adaptation to hunting in the ocean Odontoceti (toothed whales), which include Orcas, and the Mysticeti (baleen whales) are grouped under the order Cetacea. Cetaceans share the following characteristics: they have a streamlined body shape; paddle-shaped front limbs; internal vestigial hind limbs; no external digits or claws; tail flattened laterally bearing horizontal flukes at the tip; vestigial ear pinnae; hairless body; thick subcutaneous… read more →
Common name: Orca, or Killer Whale Latin name: Orcinus orca Status under SARA: There are several populations of Orca found in Canadian waters, some of which are considered “transient” and others that are “resident”. BC’s Northeast Pacific southern resident population is Endangered; BC’s Northeast Pacific northern resident, transient and offshore populations are each listed as Threatened. The Northwest Atlantic/Eastern Arctic population has been proposed for listing as Special Concern. Range: Members of the various populations are found in Canada’s Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic oceans both in deep offshore waters and in near shore, coastal and estuarine areas. Orcas are not known to occur in the waters of the central Arctic where sea ice is more persistent. Population Estimate: Fewer than 78 individuals are thought to… read more →
(Orca – Photo credit: Eileen Redding) Nature Canada and BC Nature are standing up for nature as the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the TransMountain pipeline and tanker project draw nearer. The 1,180 TransMountain project would increase capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day, and result in oil tankers moving almost daily through the Salish Sea past critical Important Bird Areas such as Boundary Bay. On February 26, 2015, our lawyers at the UVic Environmental Law Centre (ELC) filed a motion with NEB to compel full and adequate responses by the proponent Kinder Morgan to our second request for information submitted in January 2015. BC Nature and Nature Canada are arguing that Kinder Morgan did not respond adequately,… read more →