SEATTLE — While it may sound like some April Fools’ prank, the Pacific Whale Watch Association confirmed Friday that there were more than 70 Bigg’s killer whales seen throughout the Salish Sea on Thursday.
The number is a new record, according to the group, and comes after a record-breaking year in 2021 when more than 790 sightings were reported.
Mark Malleson of the Center for Whale Research, who has also been a long-time guide for Prince of Whales in Victoria, B.C., said that there have been some days in the last 10 years or so when there have been about 60 Bigg’s killer whales spotted, but never more than 70.
Overall, the association said at least 72 Bigg’s killer whales were seen from Puget Sound up through the southern parts of British Columbia.
Over the course of Thursday, 10 groups of whales were reported.
They were seen as far south as Hood Canal and as far north as Vancouver Island’s Campbell River region, with the largest group being seen by the association’s own operators near the northern part of the San Juan Islands. The group contained 18 whales.
“We were watching a group of four whales when, out of nowhere, 14 more materialized. It was magical,” said naturalist Sam Murphy of Island Adventures Whale Watching in Anacortes.
Among the whales spotted on Thursday was the popular “Chainsaw,” an adult male whale over 40 years old whose dorsal fin is distinctly jagged.
Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals and are thriving due to the large number of seals and sea lions in the area.
Last year also saw a baby boom for the whales with 11 calves being born. Experts said it bodes well for the future of the species in the region.