Friday, March 28, 2008


Adopt a wild killer whale on behalf of a friend or family member!

By becoming a member of the B.C. Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program you will be directly supporting research on wild killer whales. Continuing research will lead to a better understanding of the whales, their place in the ocean ecosystem, and the conservation measures necessary to protect them.

Join the Killer Whale Conservation Team!
Adopt a wild killer whale today!

Killer whales, or orcas, are found in all the world's oceans, but nowhere are they more
accessible for viewing and studying than in Canada's west coast waters.

Learning everything we can about killer whales
is the best way to protect them.

  • How do new pods form?
  • Where do resident killer whales go in the winter months?
  • Why do 50 per cent of newborns die in their first year?
  • How do killer whale dialects develop over time?
  • Are killer whales particularly susceptible to environmental toxins?
  • Is increased boat traffic affecting killer whale behaviour?

Researchers in Canada and the U.S. have been investigating groups of killer whales that frequent the area annually for more than 25 years and are trying to answer these questions and others. Once widely feared, killer whales are now understood far better than they were only three decades ago.

Some of the projects funded by the program include:

Population genetics: Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre has been using DNA analysis to answer questions like how do resident killer whales avoid inbreeding and how do female killer whales know how to choose a mate.

Acoustics: Killer whales rely on sound to communicate and to navigate through the water. Researchers are studying the sounds killer whales make to learn more about their social structure and monitor their movements along the B.C. coast.

Photo-identification: Photo-identification is one of the most useful tools of whale biologists. It is an invaluable method of monitoring the health of British Columbia's killer whale populations.

Adopt a wild killer whale for yourself or someone else. A gift membership in the B.C. Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program is a unique and thoughtful gift for people of all ages.

The B.C. Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program is hosted by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, a non-profit organization. All contributions go directly to research and conservation of killer whales in the wild. Contributions are tax-deductible both in Canada and the USA to the extent of the law.

How Do I Adopt a Whale?

To symbolically adopt a whale and support our field research program, you simply choose the type of adoption package that suits you best, and select the whale or whales you would like from a list of transient and resident killer whales living off the coast of British Columbia. Choosing your whale is the hardest part. Some people select a whale born in the same year that they were or the year their child or grandchild was born. Others select whales because they like the sound of their name. Still others choose their whale because its picture appeals to them. To get started on adopting your whale, click here.

What Do I Get with My Adoption?

We have a variety of adoption packages, but they all have something in common. With all packages you will receive a photograph and biography of the whale you've chosen, an adoption certificate, and the most recent issue of our annual journal, the Blackfish Sounder. For more details, click here.

Contact us:

B.C. Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
P.O. Box 3232
Vancouver, BC, Canada
V6B 3X8

PHONE: (604) 659-3430

Saturday, March 8, 2008

White Killer Whale Spotted Off Alaska

March 7, 2008 -- The white killer whale spotted in Alaska's Aleutian Islands sent researchers and the ship's crew scrambling for their cameras.

The whale was spotted last month while scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research ship, were conducting an acoustic survey of pollock near sea lion haulout sites.

It had been spotted once in the Aleutians years ago but had eluded researchers since, even though they had seen many of the more classic black and white whales over the years.
Further observation showed that while the whale's saddle area was white, other parts of its body had a subtle yellowish or brownish color.

It likely is not a true albino given the coloration, said John Durban, a research biologist at NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. Durban said white killer whales have been spotted elsewhere in the area twice before: in 1993 in the northern Bering Sea around St. Lawrence Island and in 2001 near Adak in the central Aleutians. There have also been sightings along the Russian coast.

The scientists observed several pods over a two-week period. The white whale was in a family group of 12 on a day when the seas were fairly rough. The ship stayed with the whale for about 30 minutes.

The whale appeared to be a healthy, adult male about 25 to 30 feet long and weighing upward of 10,000 pounds.

Mary Pemberton, Associated Press

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pink or Blue - Only Mom Knows!

The Orca Network announced the sighting of a new baby orca off Whidbey Island in Washington State. The baby orca is a member of "J" pod, often seen in Johnstone Strait in the summer.

The baby has been named "J43". For those of you who feel that the name leaves something to the imagination, rest assured it is temporary. Baby orcas are not assigned a name until they survive their first year of life. I'm thinking it should be named "Webster".

It will be exciting to be on the lookout for this new arrival in 2008 when kayaking in Johnstone Strait .

Anyone planning a baby shower - mother orca requests, in lieu of money or flowers, that salmon would be an appropriate gift.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

kayak trips -- what did that whale say?

On one of our kayak trips in Johnstone Strait, you'll see orcas swimming together in pods. Just like the photo above. They're always talking, being very social creatures. Which means, of course, that our adopted whale is also very social.

We know this thanks to the research done by scientists, including those at
Whales talk to each other using their own form of words, which are whistles, squeaks and whines. And in each pod, they have their own "dialect". There are groups of pods with similar dialects, and these groups are called clans.

Our own adopted whale is part of the D1 pod, and the D1 pod belongs to the A-clan. The A-clan is made up of 10 pods with related dialects.

If only we knew whale talk, we'd be off to talk to our adopted whale pretty darn quick. Unfortunately, we need the scientists as interpretors.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

kayaking trip -- and visit the Titanic exhibit too

Kayaking with Orcas has an added advantage this year -- the Titanic exhibit is at Victoria's Royal BC Museum.

We travel to Vancouver Island on our kayaking trip, so it's easy to make your way over to that end of the Island.

I visited the exhibit this past weekend, and was handed the pass as I entered. On the reverse was info on an actual passenger who boarded the ill-fated vessel. It wasn't until the end of the exhibit that I found out whether I survived or not. Given I was a third class passenger, I didn't have a lot of hope.

Great display. Starts off with artifacts and information on the building of the Titanic and how passengers of all classes traveled.

Things turned sinister as I walked further along. But we expect that, right?

I won't list any spoiling details, but sure seems fated to have happened given all the circumstances that came together.

And the best news of all was that even though I was in third class, I survived!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

kayaking trip bc -- Mom's the word

OK, back to our adopted whale from Remember, before the big reveal of who exactly our adoptee is, we're going to be giving a few clues.

When you go on one of our kayak trips in Johnstone Strait and encounter the beautiful orcas, you'll have to think of Mom. Because resident killer whale pods are family groups structured around mothers. Yup, mom's are household leaders in the orca world. Sons, daughters (and her daughters' kids) stay with mom throughout their lives. No moving out and making it on your own in this tough underwater world.

Our own adoptee is the first calf of... Cascade. Our adoptee also has 3 aunts and a couple of female cousins.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Guiding a Kayaking Trip in BC – what exactly is involved?

I have always been struck with the use of the word “guide” to describe what we do. It’s limiting, in the sense that it leaves the perception that our role is getting from point A to point B.

The word “facilitator” seems more appropriate. Although not as adventurous, it more accurately defines the spectrum of knowledge and duties that our leaders must possess.

Not only are we focused on skills such as technique, safety, knowledge of weather, currents, tides, navigation, route finding but must be aware of group dynamics, individual goals, be empathetic, patient. Couple all this with being a good chef, offering a natural, cultural, historical database and you get an idea of the complexity of our role.

And why do we accept this demanding role? That’s the topic of our next posting. (And no, we haven't forgotten about our adopted whale. We'll soon get back to that important topic.)