Ecosummer’s Contribution to the Cetacean Sighting Network

Did you know one of the jobs of our guides at Orca Camp is to help log cetacean sightings to the Vancouver Aquarium and Department of Fisheries & Ocean’s Wild Whale program?

Cetacean Sighting Log

Each time we see whales, dolphins and other marine life we make note of the date, the species, their location, behaviour and other observations to help researchers understand the status of the species (extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened, at-risk or not at risk), and whether that population is improving, maintaining or in decline.

So, just how do we identify individual whales? Well, it helps to have a camera at the ready to fully document the sighting because Killer Whales are identified by the white saddle on their backs and the size and shape of their dorsal fin. When you’re getting a fleeting glimpse at a distance it’s hard to capture the detail, so a camera definitely helps!

ID Killer Whale

You can read about individual whales and their distinct markings on the Killer Whales of the Northern Resident Community blog.

Similarly, Humpbacks are identified by the shape and markings of their tail flukes, which are as individualized as a finger print. Notice the difference in size, colouring and shape of these four individual’s flukes:


Humpbacks are making a resounding comeback in our territorial waters and we know this thanks, in part, to the sightings recorded by those who live and work near, or on, our coast.

One of the benefits of our guides returning year over year to our base camp waters is the ability to see the same individual whales over and over again. For lead guide Jacqui, seeing a familiar fin on the water’s edge feels like she’s welcoming back an old friend – you can read Jacqui’s story about her beautiful encounter with matriarch Orca, Tsitka, or you can register to take part in Orca Camp this summer and have a beautiful encounter of your own to log with the cetacean sighting network.

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March 12, 2015