Orcas and belugas spotted off Cape Breton are rare sights

You might say it has been a ‘whale of a time’ in the waters off Cape Breton.

A pair of belugas, along with a pod of seven killer whales, has been spotted recently off the island’s shores.

The orcas were a spectacular sight, one that thrilled even seasoned fisheries workers who captured the travelling pod in a video off the coast of Cape Breton.

“Seeing orcas is pretty rare in the Maritimes region,” says Corey Webster, an ecosystems planning coordinator with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “Since 1963, there has been about forty or so sightings. 26 of those have come in the last 10 years.”

The latest close encounter happened last month about 25 nautical miles offshore when fisheries officers were conducting regular surveillance.

“They seemed really interested in the boat,” said Webster. “Our guys were staying back away from them, and the group approached the boat. We took that opportunity to collect a lot of information on the pod of whales.”

As for why the orcas appeared off Cape Breton, fisheries officials say they are migratory animals and were probably looking for food. These whales likely moved on towards Newfoundland.

Earlier this week, another rare species of whale was spotted off the coast of Cape Breton – even rarer for these parts than a killer whale.

On Tuesday, a couple from Connecticut spotted two belugas off Ingonish.

Friday at the ballast grounds in North Sydney, there was lots of chatter among fishermen on the wharf.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Aaron Anderson.“It’s rare to find them around here, because our waters aren’t warm right?  So it’s pretty strange.”

All of this amid news that there are still no reported right whale deaths this year in Canadian waters.

In a media update today, DFO and Transport Canada said there have been several sightings in the past few weeks in the St. Lawrence River and Grand Manan Basin.

“We need to better understand when they arrive, where they go, where they don’t go, when they’re going to leave,” said Jean Landry, the director of marine mammal science at DFO.  “So it’s very difficult to predict when they’re going to leave.  But based on the information we’ve gotten in the past, they will likely stay for a few additional months.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.

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