Taken from the Times Globe, Wednesday, August 25/99
Killer Whales in
By Brian Kemp & Deborah
Some other boats in the bay were on a more serious mission - looking for two North Atlantic right whales entangled in fishing gear.
A fisherman spotted the orcas on the weekend and word quickly spread through coastal communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, said Laurie Murison, a researcher with the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station.
"There's some sort of intrigue to orcas," said Ms. Murison. "It's a novel event."
The species hasn't been seen in the bay since 1985.
Killer whales have not lived here permanently since the 1940s, said Ms. Murison, who saw one of the pods of 8 whales off Grand Manan on Monday, the same day another pod of 8 to 10 whales was spotted off Brier Island, which is near the southern tip of Nova Scotia.
There were no reports of the killer whales yesterday, or of the entangled right whales.
Ms. Murison said one of the rare right whales was spotted Monday with fishing rope caught in its mouth and more rope wrapped near its blow hole. The other whale has fishing gear around a fin and is hauling a buoy.
"They do get tangled quite easily," said Ms. Murison.
The gear can dig into the whale's flesh and cause infection or it can cause them to stop eating and they starve.
Losing any right whales would be a disaster.
Once plentiful, there are only 325 North Atlantic right whales left in the world.
If these whales are found, a rescue team will try to get near enough to cut the gear away. An experienced team of researchers from the New England Aquarium, which has a summer base in northern Maine, was out looking for the whales as were some Bay of Fundy fishermen. A plane was also used in the search.
Meanwhile, a group of American tourists also got a rare glimpse of the killer whales in the Bay of Fundy near Brier Island.
8 to 10 killer whales were sighted about nine kilometres north of Brier Island during a Monday morning cruise on the Cetacean Quest, a 52-foot whale watching boat owned by Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises.
Some whale experts are guessing the abundance of bluefin tuna has attracted the whales this far north.
"They're chasing food, there's a lot of tuna out there," said Brier Island whale researcher Lisa Peters. "There is a lot of feed in the bay right now. It's warm, it's awfully warm in the bay, which is a big change. There are a lot more whales in general out there."
A crew member on the Cetacean Quest, Kari Forbes, spotted the other pod of orcas from the deck of the boat Monday morning.
"It was amazing," she said.
Ms. Forbes says the Brier Island tour company has been doing whale research in the area for 14 years, but had never documented killer whales in the Bay of Fundy.
"That was pretty exciting for us because of all the years we've been photographing and surveying the area, we've never seen them and I don't know if anyone had documented them that close to Brier Island," she said.
Centre for Coastal Studies naturalist Scott Landry says biologists don't know much about killer whale habits in the wild - he says some like to roam and travel in search of food, some stay in the same place and some travel and then remain in the same stretch of ocean for months or years at a time.
The Massachussets-based environmentalist says killer whales can be found in waters around the world - from the Gulf of Mexico to Iceland - but admits it is unusual to see them swimming around in the Bay of Fundy.
"We see them sporadically," he said.
He says warmer water can cause a population explosion among bait fish like herring which attracts bluefin tuna further north than it normally ranges, which then can draw large predators like killer whales. But he says killer whales have different personalities and different cultures among pods, so their movements are hard to predict.
"We're beginning to understand that killer whales everywhere act differently. In other words, the killer whales that you see outside Seattle are completely different from the killer whales you see outside of Iceland. And even within the ones in Seattle, we're learning that there are different cultural groups. Some stay in the same place for years, but other travel around like vagabonds."