Nova Scotia

Pod of orcas spotted swimming off Canso

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans has released video of a pod of between seven and 10 orcas swimming off the coast of Nova Scotia.

'We do have a population in the northwest Atlantic and we do get occasional sightings'

A male orca is shown near Twillingate, N.L., in 2007. (DFO)

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans has released video of a pod of between seven and 10 orcas swimming off the coast of Nova Scotia.

The distinctive black and white whale is best known as a West Coast species, but they are also seen in Eastern Canadian waters, says Hilary Moors-Murphy, a Halifax-based DFO whale biologist.

"We do have a population in the northwest Atlantic and we do get occasional sightings throughout the year off the coast of Nova Scotia," Moors-Murphy said.

The orcas were sighted on the morning of June 9 in an area known as Canso Bank, about 30 nautical miles southwest of the port of Canso.

Crew members on board the mid-shore fishery patrol vessel G Peddle spotted the pod that was travelling in a northeast direction.

The exact population of orcas on East Coast is not known.

Between 1975-2015 there were up to 400 sightings.

The Department of Fisheries in Newfoundland — where most sightings occur — is collecting a photo catalog.

100 orcas in catalogue

Jack Lawson, a biologist at DFO in St. John's, said about 100 individual orcas, also known as killer whales, on the East Coast have been identified in the catalogue, but there could be more.

"Unlike many of the whales in the Pacific Northwest, the [northwest] Atlantic killer whales seem to sport fewer scars and obvious injuries, which would make distinguishing animals easier," Lawson said.

"I always considered this a good thing for the whales, but it makes our job harder."

Lawson said similar catalogues are being developed in parts of the Arctic and Greenland as well as Iceland and the UK.

"So far there have not been matches between them, but a killer whale satellite tagged in the Eastern Arctic several years ago swam almost to the Azores before its tag stopped transmitting, so they can certainly move great distances in a few weeks."

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