Offshore Orcas of the Pacific Northwest

On August 26, 1990, a new group of killer whales were discovered near Victoria, Canada. The dorsal fins and saddle patches did not match any of the ID catalogues for resident or transient orcas. There are approximately 200 individuals that have been identified and each new encounter adds a number of new whales to this number.

The characteristics of offshores include:

  1. Offshore pods are found in groups of 30-60 individuals.
  2. They are seldom seen in the protected coastal waters and most encounters have taken place near the Queen Charlotte Islands and 20 to 30 miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
  3. They have been photographed all along the Pacific coast from Southern California and S.E. Alaska
  4. Offshore Orca's appear to be fish eaters, feeding perhaps on schooling fish.
  5. Offshores share a set of calls completely different from those of any other community

On Sept. 6, 1992, Orca Survey received a call from Seacoast Expeditions that there were a group of approximately 70 whales off Victoria that they could not identify from the ID manuals. Ken Balcomb, Astrid van Ginneken, Diane Claridge, and Dave Ellifrit immediately went over to the locality to get ID pictures. They photographed 67 whales.

This was only the second time they had an offshore killer whale encounter. The first time was on Aug. 20, 1990, and these whales were found 25 miles west of Barkley Sound on the west side of Vancouver Island. 48 whales were photographed during this encounter.

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