DFO studies suspected increase in Nunavut killer whales

Fisheries launches study after reports of more killer whales and fewer prey species.

Local hunters notice decrease in prey populations as Orcas move in

Killer whales are trapped in ice near Inukjuak in this recent photo.

Federal researchers want to work with Inuit to find out more about killer whales in the Eastern Arctic.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) wants to determine whether orcas are becoming more common around Nunavut.

There have been many Nunavut killer whale encounters posted to YouTube.

Pond Inlet elder Joanasie Mucpa believes orca numbers are on the rise.

"I assumed since there are more killer whales that other animals would also be more prevalent, but there seems to be less animals." Mucpa said.

The concern is that increased numbers of killer whales means increased pressure on its prey - narwhal, belugas and seals.

The department wants more data.

Steve Ferguson is leading the effort to identify as many individual orcas as possible.

Ferguson says the whales may just be moving into new areas.

"They also have a bigger playground, because of a loss of ice during the summer, they have a lot bigger area to wander about in.  So it might just be the killer whales being seen more often and having more time, more opportunities to move about in that region." Said Ferguson.

DFO researchers plan to work with Inuit this summer in Pond Inlet.

The plan is to put satellite tags on orcas and take skin samples.

Ferguson is also asking people to take still photos instead of video - because they're easier to analyze to identify individual whales.