Awesome orca season one to remember

Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
An orca breaching this season.
Camera IconAn orca breaching this season. Credit: Supplied

The Bremer Canyon orca season has wrapped up for the year after months of precious insight into the powerful predators and their lives in the Great Southern ocean.

Whale Watch Western Australia, which runs tours to the canyon from January to April, noticed some new faces and interesting patterns.

Running the tours with her family, Gemma Sharp said this year they noticed three new calves, one of which was only one week old when they spotted her in February.

“The season was incredibly consistent as we re-sighted familiar family pods and also pods we have not seen in a few years,” she said.

“Every season is unique and in season 2020 we noticed the food source seemed harder to find in January, with orca pods needing to work along the edges of the continental shelf and traverse through hunting grounds more frequently.

“This may be linked to the very unusual and early start to summer we had this year.”

The tour company keep record of what they experience when they journey to the canyon off Bremer Bay, helping them to study their movements and hunting grounds.

“This was one of the reasons we could see the extra amount of travelling and foraging the orca were performing in January this year compared to January last season,” she said.

“Orca pass down their hunting skills to every member in their family, so by recording their movements each season, we are learning the invaluable lessons from the families’ matriarchs, which are passed down from one generation to the next.”

While the Bremer Canyon orca population has never been tracked for a full 12 months, local knowledge from the fishing industry and others gives some understanding of their movements for the rest of the year.

“Orca have been sighted throughout the entire year in the waters off Bremer Bay and surrounding areas, but their movements are not as consistent and harder to follow as it is believed the foraging envelope expands even further with the change of seasons,” she said.

Along with evidence of new life in the orca population, Ms Sharp said the team had experienced some special moments at the canyon this year.

“An enormous pod of 100-plus bachelor male sperm whales travelling along the continental shelf was one of the highlights of the season,” she said.

The blue whale season has now started as the ocean giants migrate to the Perth Canyon.

The south coast will soon see humpback whales as they head towards the Kimberley from May, then minke and southern right whales as they move north in June and July.

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