Sunday, April 14, 2024

Further attempts to save stranded orca whale calf near Zeballos unsuccessful


The orphaned whale calf who is stuck in a lagoon near Zeballos remains stranded, despite exhaustive efforts by surrounding First Nations and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). 

However, no one has given up hope at saving the calf yet.

On Saturday, March 23rd, the Bigg’s killer whale who has been named kʷiisaḥiʔis  (kwee-sa-hay-is)—roughly translated to Brave Little Hunter—was being taught how to hunt by her mother. 

Sadly the 14-year-old mother was beached and died on a sandbar at the mouth of the lagoon.

The Ehattesaht and Nuchalaht First Nations were working with the DFO all week on different plans to try to lure the calf out of the lagoon, but the sandbar that her mother died on remains the final obstacle kʷiisaḥiʔis is reluctant to get past. 

On Thursday, March 27th, a total of 11 vessels from the two First Nations and the DFO executed an operation while tides were ideal.

They set up oikomi pipes—long metal pipes that are lowered into the water and struck with a hammer to make a loud noise—to form a sound wall and create a path out of the lagoon. 

The DFO says that unfortunately, this operation was unsuccessful as the calf broke through the sound wall and moved back into the deeper waters of the lagoon. 

The involved First Nations and the DFO continue to monitor the calf and say that she has been observed with a bird in its mouth on two occasions now, which is part of Bigg’s killer whales’ diets, meaning they are hopeful she is getting enough sustenance to survive.

For the rest of the weekend, kʷiisaḥiʔis was being monitored, but no other attempts to lure the calf out were made.


On Sunday, March 31st, nearby whale watchers say they observed the T041s and the T109As, two pods which are directly related to the whale calf—one through her mother and the other being extended family. 

The DFO remains hopeful that they will be able to get the whale out of the lagoon and have her be reunited with related Bigg’s killer whales. 

They say they want to do so carefully and gently with a ‘trap-and-transport’ contingency plan, in which kʷiisaḥiʔis would be physically removed from the lagoon. 

The DFO will continue to provide updates as the situation unfolds. 

Curtis Blandy

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