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More sightings of whales in Vancouver likely due to seals, expert says

Last Updated Jun 15, 2019 at 9:49 am PDT

FILE - A Bigg's killer whale is shown in Vancouver in this recent handout photo. Several Bigg's killer whales have been hanging out in Vancouver Harbour, entertaining onlookers and feeding on seals, sea lions and other cetaceans. Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, the director of Marine Mammal Research at Ocean Wise, says the predators are discovering hotspots where they've found an abundance of harbour seals and Vancouver's harbour may be one of those areas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Ocean Wise

The whales were spotted in False Creek on June 12

An increase in the harbour seal population is drawing the Bigg's killer whales into city waters

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Whales appear to be getting closer to the shores of Vancouver more often and researchers say it’s not a bad thing.

Caitlin Birdsall with Ocean Wise says an increase in the harbour seal population is drawing the Bigg’s killer whales into the waters of False Creek and Burrard Inlet.

“We’ve actually seen them over the last decade really utilizing the waters around southern British Columbia and the Strait of Georgia area just outside Vancouver more and more,” she says. “These are the marine mammal eating type of killer whales, so they feed on seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, sometimes other whales.”

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She says the seal population is growing after a cull ended in the 1970s.

“The killer whales have figured this out,” Birdsall says. “All of a sudden they realize that there is plentiful food in this area and so they’re utilizing this area, they’re moving through areas that they can reliably find harbour seals, which are an easy prey item for them.”

The Transients were spotted in False Creek on June 12 and Burrard Inlet has been the site of several sightings in the last three months.