Written by Ashley Bachert, North Coast Coordinator
Every year in Prince Rupert, locals await the annual spring visit from a family of northern resident killer whales known as the A42s. The A42 matriline is led by A42 “Sonora”. Accompanying her are her 5 offspring and one grandchild. Over the last year, a young male known as A94, whose mother (A24) died in 2013, has also been observed spending time with this matriline.
Since our North Coast office was established in 2014, the A42s have been recorded entering the Harbour every year like clockwork in April. However, between 2018 and 2019, the A42s were only observed outside of Prince Rupert in Chatham Sound. This year, we were patiently awaiting their arrival as we heard news from our network of observers that the A42s were spending time up in the Khutzeymateen visiting the grizzly bears.
Being new to Prince Rupert, I was patiently waiting for the day the A42s visited. Finally, in mid May…the report was in! Sonora and her family were spotted heading up Tuck inlet in search of some tasty salmon. I grabbed my binoculars and camera and rushed down to the waterfront to get some ID photos! Sadly, by the time I got there, they were just out of sight.
Weeks went by, and – just in time for the 44th annual Seafest in Prince Rupert – they were back again! I grabbed my binoculars and rushed down to the waterfront. After snapping some ID photos, we confirmed it was in fact the A42s together with A94. In celebration of the Seafest theme “Surfs Up!”, the Ocean Wise booth highlighted A66 ‘Surf’, Sonora’s eldest son! Our event at Seafest was a hit, engaging over 300 people. It was fun to talk with locals who had seen the killer whales earlier in the week and share some of the reasons why these animals are so incredible and what local communities can do to protect them.
The arrival of these whales has become common knowledge for locals in Prince Rupert. Upon arrival of killer whales in the harbour, the news travels fast, resulting in an increase in number of vessels on the water near the whales. The Ocean Wise team wants to encourage land-based whale watching of these incredible animals, as vessel disturbance caused by underwater noise can be a serious problem for them when they are trying to communicate and find food. Ocean Wise recently installed a new Whale Trail Sign at Rushbrook Harbour, as it is great location to spot whales from land! This sign is part of The Whale Trail, connecting land-based whale watching locations all the way down through Southern California. If you are out on the water and do encounter whales, porpoises, or dolphins, be sure to be aware of the marine mammal regulations in your area. Learn more here! Next time you are in Prince Rupert, or if you are local, head down to Rushbrook Harbour and check out the North Coast’s newest land-based sighting location.
You can contribute to these research and conservation initiatives by reporting sightings any time you see a cetacean or sea turtle. Sightings can be reported through the WhaleReport app (Android or iOS) or on our website at WildWhales.org.