Lone transient orca spotted in Victoria's Inner Harbour

The sight of an orca in Victoria’s harbour enthralled people who happened to be looking in the right direction Friday morning.

Capt. Jackie Cowan of Earth Ocean Adventures, a whale-watching company, said she saw the whale next to Laurel Point about 10 a.m. Friday.

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“It was right at the rocks there,” she said, noting that a large group of whale-watching boats had gathered.

Mark Dayton of Victoria International Marina said he spotted the whale passing by the facility’s outer docks after hearing that one had been seen entering the harbour area.

“Then it proceeded to go all the way into the Inner Harbour and circle just out front of the Empress and the Harbour Air docks,” he said. “The whole thing took probably about 15 minutes and then it was headed on its way back out.

“It was pretty incredible,” he said. “It was pretty awesome.”

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Cowan said the whale is a male transient born in 2004. Experts told her it is known as T065A2, but has been given the name Ooxjaa, which means “windy” in the Tlingit language.

It is a Bigg’s killer whale, also known as a transient killer whale.They are genetically distinct from the southern resident killer whales and primarily hunt mammals. Unlike the southern residents, which number only 73, the transients are not considered endangered.

Ooxjaa is part of a family known to frequent the Victoria area.

Last June, four or five orcas spent close to an hour in the harbour, delaying both floatplanes and vessel traffic. They even ventured under the Johnson Street Bridge.

Cowan commented on that incident at the time, saying the whales were likely looking for a meal -- perhaps featuring the seals and sea lions her friend had just seen at the mouth of harbour.

She said that “everything stopped” during the whales’ visit.

Two weeks later, another pod of at least four orcas came into the harbour on a Sunday night and stayed for about half an hour.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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