Researchers are closely monitoring a young killer whale with an injury that may have been caused by a boat strike off the coast of Vancouver Island.
The whale was spotted with a fresh wound on its flank and dorsal fin on Saturday in Johnstone Strait.
“The pattern of the wound looks like it was potentially caused by a boat propeller,” said Meghan Moore, a research biologist at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.
“It’s a series of parallel cuts down the side of the body and couple of parallel cuts that trail up to the dorsal fin,” she said.
Researchers from both the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre and the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believe A95 had been injured on Saturday. The wound does not look very deep, so they are hopeful the whale will recover.
The researchers assessed the wound using images taken by a drone, which flew more than 30 metres above the whale.
They did not intervene or give treatment but will try to monitor A95’s recovery, Moore said.
“For killer whales, this is pretty rare,” she said.
“But we do want to stress the Be Whale Wise guidelines and make sure when vessels are operating around whales and dolphins that they are cautious, slow and get no closer than 100 metres,” Moore said.
Northern resident killer whales are listed as a threatened species.
About 12 years ago, A95’s great-uncle A60 was spotted with almost identical wounds, Moore said.
“At the time they also believed it was caused by a boat propeller,” Moore said.
“That whale did recover and is alive and travelling with the family today. That leads us to hope the same will happen for this young whale.”