A young orca whale with a sizeable flesh injury has been spotted in Johnston Strait, off the northern coast of Vancouver Island.
According to researchers with the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the whale has been identified as a six-year-old Fern, tracked as A95, of the northern resident population.
The mammal was seen on Saturday with a wound on its flank and dorsal fin. Photographic evidence shows that the injury is large and fresh, possibly by a boat’s propeller during the same morning it was seen, but it is superficial and likely to heal.
“Although rare, incidents of boat strikes on killer whales do happen,” said Vancouver Aquarium research biologist Meghan Moore in a statement.
“Twelve years ago, A95’s great uncle A60 (Fife) was spotted with a series of deep, parallel cuts on and just below the right side of his dorsal fin; we believe they were caused by a boat propeller. They’ve since healed and Fife is alive and doing well today.”
Boaters should provide whales and dolphins with plenty of space; refrain from positioning or approaching the boat closer than 100 metres to any whale or dolphin. If the boat is closer than 100 metres away from the mammal, you are advised to place the engine in neutral.
A drone flying a hundred feet over the whale documented Fern’s injuries. The usage of drones to spot and document the health of local whale populations is a relatively new method, providing scientists with an unique perspective different from a boat.