May 28th, 2024

Trapped B.C. orca calf seen taking ’40 pounds of seal’ from First Nation members

By The Canadian Press on April 19, 2024.

Deckhands from the Homalco First Nations ready a seine boat out front of the Ehattesaht First Nation's band office in Zeballos, B.C., Thursday, April 18, 2024. The arrival of a large seine fishing vessel capable of casting a net strong enough to hold an almost 700 kilogram killer whale calf has arrived in Zeballos, B.C. to participate in the expected latest attempt to rescue a young orca stranded in a remote tidal lagoon. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

ZEBALLOS, B.C. – A young killer whale trapped in a B.C. lagoon appears to have fed on chunks of seal meat thrown into the water, as preparations continue for a rescue attempt.

A video posted on Facebook shows the young female whale with distinctive pale skin taking two large pieces of meat, then diving below the surface.

The person who posted the video late Thursday says it shows members of the Nuchatlaht First Nation feeding the whale “nearly 40 pounds of seal.”

Veterinarians have been closely monitoring the two-year-old whale for any signs she is feeding in the lagoon, 450 kilometres northwest of Victoria, where she has been trapped alone for four weeks since her mother became stranded and died.

An initial attempt last Friday to corral the 700-kilogram orca so they could take her to the open ocean failed when the calf refused to leave the deep parts of the lagoon.

A seine netting vessel has arrived in Zeballos, B.C., ahead of another expected attempt to rescue the whale, which has been named kwiisahi?is, or Brave Little Hunter by the Ehattesaht First Nation.

The flat-bottom aluminum netting vessel has a built-in crane-like device for lifting heavy nets, and it’s expected to be deployed as part of a new rescue effort that could happen at any time.

Ehattesaht First Nation Chief Simon John says the next attempt to rescue the calf will “happen eventually.”

Additional equipment and resources, including marine experts from the Vancouver Aquarium, the Fisheries Department and Indigenous nations, have gathered again in Zeballos for the second planned rescue attempt.

One of the Facebook videos shows the orca surfacing and circling near shore as a person chants, “Hello kwiisahi?is, hello kwiisahi?is.”

After one chunk of meat splashes down in the water, the whale quickly plucks it from the surface, then dives away.

“She got it! Good girl,” says one observer.

In a second video, the whale takes a piece of meat floating still on the surface.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2024.

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