New state-of-the-art ship to help reduce noise and environmental footprint

VICTORIA – The Salish Sea Dream, Prince of Whales’ new $3.5 million environmentally-friendly custom-built catamaran has had such a successful inaugural season running unique whale watching day trips between Vancouver and Victoria and Victoria and Butchart Gardens, that the company has just placed an order for another state-of-the-art ship that will be even more environmentally friendly.

“It’s very stable, very reliable and it’s proved to be an amazing platform for tours so we’ve had rave reviews from our guests,” says Prince of Whales Whale Watching owner Alan McGillivray. “Business was up more than 30 per cent on these tours; we had many sold-out days and we saw whales every single day.”

McGillivray says the 2017 season was the best whale watching season they’ve ever had in terms of sightings, especially for humpbacks and transient killer whales.

“We had lots of humpback sightings and an abundance of other sightings as well,” McGillivray says. “They think there are about 300 transients between Mexico and Alaska and we believe we saw more than 100 unique transients this season, which is quite phenomenal.”

Protecting the environment is a top priority for Prince of Whales,

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Sightings Report September 10

Wow. Whales! All the whales!

We almost reached the point today where there were more whales than we know what to do with!

Things got started with transient killer whales waaay out west. Like, about as far as we can go in three hours…and then a little bit more. Mark took his passengers to Point No Point and beyond (yes, that’s really what it’s called) to catch up with these mammal eating orca.

Next we picked up a couple of humpbacks heading west also in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Our favourite, Split Fluke and his new traveling buddy MMX0028! These guys appeared to be having a nap, taking shallow dives and spending lots of time at the surface.

Later on in the day, the residents started to come back. They were likely transiting the middle of the strait in the morning and were located around noon as they closed in on the shoreline. We picked them up on Ocean Magic II’s 12:15 trip. Captain Jeff, myself, Tom, and Rowan were all ecstatic to see these guys! They were travelling in a tight family group, close to shore. The group we saw was the majority of J-pod,

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Sightings Report September 9

Today we had whales to the south, and whales to the north. This divided up the whale watching industry, with the Vancouver boats and Americans stay north, and the Victoria fleet going south. Both north and south though, the whales were the same: humpbacks!

Between late August and early October is the best time to see humpbacks, and today they did not disappoint. There were two animals reported near Spieden Island (the same ones we got a glimpse of yesterday!) and a solitary fellow in the Juan de Fuca Strait.

Our Vancouver boat, Ocean Magic, crewed by Anthony, Brittany, and Wilma, visited the pair of humpbacks on the Whales & Gardens Tour, while our Victoria departures went to check out Split Fluke (aka BCX1068) hanging out by himself in Juan de Fuca.

Mark, Rush and Torin were our zodiac skippers today, and Ocean Magic II was crewed by Captain Scott, First Mate me, and Naturalists Tom and Rowan. We all visited Split Fluke and then branched out to try our luck elsewhere. Cause if you don’t go looking for things, you don’t find them!

Among the things we found: Harry the sea otter (in his favourite spot), 

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Sightings Report September 8

Residents and transients and humpbacks, oh my!

We started out the morning with our residents taking off to the west. Mark caught up with L-pod as they were leaving on his first trip, but luckily we picked up some transients later in the day, so it was killer whales all around!

Ocean Magic had a lovely crossing from Vancouver spying three bald eagles and lots of harbour seals near Saturna Island. Anthony, Brittany, and Laurenne also found some frolicking harbour porpoise in the area! This is not a word I would normally use to describe harbour porpoise, so it must have been cool to witness.

Ocean Magic II was out at 12:15pm and 3:30pm (which will be our standard schedule from now until the end of October). Aboard we had Scott, myself, Tom and Claire, and we went straight for those transient killer whales! They were super close by, just a few miles off Trial Island, which gave us lots of time to have a great look at what can sometimes be elusive mammals.

Ocean Magic noted that they were likely hunting, observing spy hopping, fast swimming, and the juveniles’ porpoising! The group was identified as the T060’s.

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Where are the whales?

A question I get probably every tour (along with “how deep is the water here?” because for some reason everyone is fascinated by depth…) is “So, do you ever come out and not see whales?”

Yes. Of course! These are wild animals we’re talking about, and an absolute reality of working with wild animals is that they’re unpredictable. Even though the ongoing research being done on killer whales is one of the longest studies conducted on a mammal ever, and we’ve been observing their movements for decades, sometimes they still elude us. Not only that, we’re operating on one of the most diverse and dynamic environments on the planet: the ocean. So even when we know where whales are, that doesn’t always mean we can see them.

First of all it’s important to understand that cetaceans* are always moving. Literally. Always. Even when they’re “sleeping,” they’re moving. Some of the animals we see can travel well over 100km in a day, so every morning we start from scratch and go looking for these guys. Between May and the end of September, we find them about 95% of the time.

That means that 5% of the time,

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Sightings Report September 4

I love my job. But days like today make me surprised that I get paid. Incredible.

More eerily flat calm conditions permeated the straits today, which makes spotting much easier. Plus summer is making a comeback, with sunshine forecast for the next week solid!

It was Gavin, Sandy, and Wilma who brought Ocean Magic over on the Ultimate Day Tour this morning. As they transited Georgia Strait passengers were lucky enough to site some elusive harbour porpoise, and again in Boundary Pass! They also spotted harbour seals at East Point, where they haul out on some rocks off of Saturna Island. The spot is called boiling reef because the water is constant churning!

Then it was on to the whales! The same two humpbacks we saw yesterday, hanging in abour the same spot in the Juan de Fuca Strait. It was Split Fluke and the newcomer, temporarily known as MMY0028. Just rolls off the tongue eh?

Starting in Victoria we got to sleep in a little this morning, with our first trip out at 11am. We decided it’s only fair to let some of the other companies try their hand at finding whales!

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Sightings Report September 3

Wow, what a day on the water. And not just compared of the torrential rain yesterday! Today was truly spectacular in its own right. All the notes the drivers left for me included a variation on Torin’s phrase “Beauty day!”

I try to stay away from using words like “cooperative” and “putting on a show” when it comes to describing whale behaviours, because that implies that part of what they’re doing is for our benefit. These whales are doing what they’re doing, regardless of the humans watching them. But sometimes things just work out so well for us, you just want to thank the whales for being so darn cooperative!

Today was one of those times. The whales were within range of the Vancouver boat in the morning, and the Victoria boats in the afternoon, and some trips even saw killer whales AND humpback whales!

The Vancouver based Ocean Magic vessel was first to spot whales on their Ultimate Day Tour, departing at 9am. They found the T065A’s by Spieden Island and they spotted them hunting! While Anthony, Sandy, Wilma, and Brenley watched, the whales made a kill and they witnessed tail slapping and porpoising behaviour.

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Sightings Report September 2

We ran the whole gamut of possible weather today; just a little bit of everything the west coast has to offer!

While the rain doesn’t stop us, lightning sure will, so unfortunately the conditions did not allow us to go out past 3:30, but we got in a solid, and spectacular day of whale watching before that happened.

On the Vancouver side of things, Captian Anthony, First Mate Sandy, and Naturalist Wilma, guided Ocean Magic through Active Pass and down Haro Strait this morning. In Active, they spotted a bald eagle perched atop a dead tree with harbour seals all around, including a pup!

Next it was on to San Juan Island where they picked up members of J–pod! J27, J16, and J26 were all in attendance. The group was traveling, and foraging, making for great viewing.

In Victoria, Skipper Mark was first out on the zodiacs, followed by Rush, Torin, and Matt E. These guys also went for San Juan where they picked up not only J-pod, but also members of K and L! There was a Super Pod in the area yesterday and it looks like everybody has stuck around!

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Sightings Report August 26

Setting out in the morning with no reports of whales, and no resident orca in the area, can be a scary thing. People’s faces often drop when I tell them we we’re going to look for whales, but the reality is, we’re ALWAYS looking for whales!

And we find them.

A lot.

Today we decided to go west in the morning, and quickly caught up with the T18’s, a charismatic group of 4 transient orca, easily recognizable because of T19B. He’s about 19 years old, and hasn’t quite grown in to his fin, to the point where it leans dramatically over to one side. Jeff, Lindsay, Tom and I on Ocean Magic II had a wonderful morning following these guys west.

Meanwhile in Vancouver, Anthony, Sandy, Wilma, and Brenley were looking at different transients! They found a huge group consisting of at least 20 whales. Likely the T36A’s, T37A’s, T65A’s, plus another unidentified group.

In the afternoon the T18’s were too far west to check out, and the big group of transients split in to more normal sized groups and headed our way. We caught up with them in San Juan Channel.

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Sightings Report August 23

Today was a perfect example of why we go out in the fog.

I know you think we’re crazy people, bombing around in limited visibility, but we had two zodiac drivers come in today and write essentially the same thing on the trip summary sheets they fill out at the end of the day. Casey wrote “Have faith!!! Socked in fog trip turned into a beautiful trip with rezzies in front of Victoria!” Matt, slightly more cheekily wrote “Fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, WHALES!”

Once the fog lifted, all of our Victoria based trips spotted all of J-pod! They were first seen milling around Constance Bank off of Victoria and travelled towards San Juan Island throughout the afternoon. Scott, Lindsay, Tom and I had a beautiful mid-day trip on Ocean Magic II when we spotted literally the ENTIRE pod (that’s 25 J’s, plus Onyx, L87) travelling together in a tight bunch. But Lindsay and I had tears in our eyes at the end of that one.

With the whales so close to Victoria, we were thrilled as always to check out Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, which reeks of sea lion.

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