A95, better known as Fern, is one very lucky killer whale. The 6-year-old orca appears to be the latest victim of a boat strike off Vancouver Island. Despite slices down its side, the animal is acting as if nothing has really happened, according to biologists.
Researchers with the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are now monitoring a juvenile killer whale off the north coast of the island after first spotting Fern’s wounds on Aug. 22.
Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, of the Vancouver Aquarium, and NOAA researchers John Durban and Dr. Holly Fearnbach, saw Fern in the Johnstone Strait on Saturday. That’s when they saw cuts to its flank and dorsal fin.
“The wound appeared extensive but superficial, consistent with an injury inflicted by a propeller, and quite fresh, likely from the same morning,” the aquarium wrote on its blog on Tuesday. “As they observed the whale, it was vigorous, engaged in social activity and apparently behaving normally.”
Biologists also took images with a drone to help assess the extent of the injuries. The whale will continued to be monitored, but is expected to recover.
“Although rare, incidents of boat strikes on killer whales do happen,” aquarium research biologist Meghan Moore noted. “Twelve years ago, A95’s great uncle A60 (Fife) was spotted with a series of deep, parallel cuts on and just below the right side of his dorsal fin; we believe they were caused by a boat propeller. They’ve since healed and Fife is alive and doing well today.”
Fern’s injury appears “superficial” could have been much worse, Moore added.
Officials took this incident as a good chance to remind boaters not approach whales and dolphins any closer than 100 metres.