Killer whales near Cape Breton 'once-in-a-lifetime' sighting for fishery officers

Fishery officers on a routine patrol off Cape Breton, N.S., last month were treated to a sight that's anything but routine — a pod of seven killer whales swimming their way.

Pod of seven spotted last month caused 'extreme excitement', says DFO co-ordinator

DFO fishery officers spotted this pod while patrolling the St. Anns Bank protected area last month. They released a video of the encounter on Thursday. (Submitted by DFO Maritimes)

Fishery officers on a routine patrol off Cape Breton, N.S., last month were treated to a sight that's anything but routine — a pod of seven killer whales swimming their way. 

The adult and juvenile whales approached the boat as it passed near St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area on a calm day.

They swam around the boat as the officers quickly grabbed for their cameras and phones to record what was happening.

"It's something [that's] a once-in-a-lifetime, career kind of opportunity that they get to see," said Corey Webster, a DFO program co-ordinator.

Webster wasn't on the boat but he's spoken with his colleagues about the experience. 

"There was extreme excitement," he said. "They actually called the supervisor on shore to tell them what they'd seen and the supervisor was really jealous because he's been in the area fishing and working for DFO for almost 20 years and he's never seen it."

40 sightings in 5 decades

Since 1963, there have been about 40 reported sightings of killer whales in Maritime waters, according to DFO. Twenty-six of those were in the last decade.

But what's unique, said Webster, is to see a pod of this size.

The whales appear to be headed toward Newfoundland. (Submitted by DFO Maritimes)

"According to the stats, it seems like they're being seen a little more often," Webster said. "They're a bit of a transient species so they move around the water looking for food."

Webster is encouraging anyone who spots killer whales to call their local DFO office so they can record it. 

If you're planning to be in Newfoundland this summer, you might just be in luck. It appears that's where the killer whales are headed. 

Read more articles from CBC Nova Scotia

With files from CBC's Mainstreet