These majestic orcas swim off the coast of Vancouver Island. The largest members of the oceanic dolphin family, their first scientific description was in 1558. Originally given the name Killer Whale by ancient sailors who observed groups of orcas hunting and preying on larger whale species, we now know that not all of them prey on other cetaceans. Orca has become the more commonly used word.
Orcas are complex, highly social and have different cultures, with family groups of up to 40 individuals staying and hunting together. The younger orcas acquire their knowledge from their elders, such as what to eat, where to find and how to catch it, species to avoid, and their vocalizations and calls.
Two distinct populations exist on our coast: Resident and Transient. The Resident population is one of the most intensively researched and studied marine mammals in the world.
The orca features prominently in First Nations culture, in their oral tradition and in their visual works.