2019 a record year for Whale Sightings in the Salish Sea!

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WCA Certified Responsible Whale Watching Operator Five Star Whale Watching is here to give us an update on a brilliant year of sightings from 2019!

In 2019 the Whale sightings in the Salish Sea set a new record, especially for Bigg’s Killer Whales and Humpback Whales. 

We had over 740 Bigg’s killer whale sightings in the Salish Sea in 2019, 75 more sightings than in 2018. This increase in Bigg’s Killer Whale Encounters is obviously due to the abundance of prey in the Salish Sea including Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Porpoise and they have occasionally been seen preying on Minke Whales. Word must be out about the bounty of Pinnipeds in the Salish Sea as we had Bigg’s Orcas travelling from California and Alaska to enjoy the feast!

We had several new Bigg’s Babies in 2019, the most famous of all being T46B1B, or Tl’uk, see the drone footage below; 


This rare “Ghost” Orca has a unique pale pigmentation and has become an instant favourite. We encounter the  T46B’s  in the Salish Sea as late as Dec 28th and T46B1B was as playful as usual. T46B1B has been identified as a male and we wish him a long and healthy life.

© Five Star Whale Watching, Bigg’s Orca calf T46B1B

Apart from the increase in Bigg’s Killer Whales we also had another incredible year for Humpback Whale encounters. The first Humpback Whale was encountered in the Salish Sea in early May by Five Star Whale Watching and Humpbacks have continued to be spotted as this article is written, Jan 20th! This is a remarkable comeback from a population that was almost wiped out by Whaling in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Thankfully in the mid 60’s the killing of Humpback Whales was banned in Canada and since then their numbers have increased.

© Five Star Whale Watching

Just over 15 years ago, “Big Mamma” was the first Humpback sighted in the Salish Sea near Race Rocks. “Big Mamma” has returned every year since and brought at least 7 Calfs to the Salish Sea, spearheading the “Humpback Comeback”. One of her Calf’s, “Split Fin”, who was born in 2006, has been in the Salish Sea every year since and it has been marvellous to see “Split Fin” grow up over the years. 

We have also recorded some incredible vocalizations in the Salish Sea, here is just one short example;

In November & December, we had some breathtaking encounter with Humpback Whales with lots of Lunge Feeding, Breaching, Cartwheels and other amazing encounters. Here are a video of an incredible encounter on Christmas Eve, Dec 24th 2019 with “Two Spot” MMZ0013


We also continue to see the endangered Southern Resident Orcas, who continue to struggle due to a lack of Chinook Salmon. Efforts are ongoing to restore Chinook Stocks in the Salish Sea to try and recover the SRKW’s.
Other Whales encounter in 2019 include Minke Whales, Gray Whales and a rare sighting of a Fin Whale.

The real story of the Salish Sea is the amazing increase in encounter of Bigg’s Killer Whales and the Humpback comeback. 

Killer whale presence in the Salish Sea by Orcas Behaviour Institute

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