Vancouver Island Whale Watch tourists saw a white orca during a tour on May 28. (Vancouver Island Whale Watch Facebook)

Rare white orca seen in the strait near Nanaimo

Vancouver Island Whale Watch naturalist suggests orca is white due to genetics

While Captain Ahab wasn’t present, a whale-watching tour did happen to find a white whale close to Nanaimo during an excursion yesterday.

Vancouver Island Whale Watch posted photos on social media after coming across a white orca Tuesday, and Val Watson, a marine naturalist with the Nanaimo-based company on the mid-day tour, said it is not an everyday occurrence.

“For the tour we saw humpbacks and on the way back, about five minutes outside of Nanaimo, we came across a pod of orca and within that pod of orca there was a white individual,” said Watson. “It’s very rare. The last time it was recorded in our population was about 10 years ago, so it’s happened before, but it’s very uncommon.”

RELATED: Rare white raven seen on Vancouver Island

RELATED: Blonde raccoons remain elusive on Newcastle

Watson said it’s hard to determine whether it was an actual albino and the reasons why it was white, but genetics could be the reason for the orca’s complexion.

“There’s a couple of thoughts to it,” said Watson. “Nothing’s confirmed yet because it takes sampling, that we just don’t have access to, so what people are suggesting to us is that it’s Chediak-Higashi syndrome, which is a genetic condition that can cause albinism in mammals.”

As a white orca sighting doesn’t happen often, Watson said the tour was abuzz.

“There was a ton of excitement,” said Watson. “It’s really rare so it’s really incredible to get to see it. We weren’t really expecting to find something like that, so we were definitely excited.”



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Karl on Twitter and Instagram

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Blockades violating people’s rights to move freely

Too many protesters clearly believe their rights supersede other citizens’ rights, says letter writer

Quarterway, Cilaire have the right touch in football playoffs

Nanaimo Elementary Teachers’ Physical Education Association organized leagues this past fall

Students projected to be in new wing of École Hammond Bay in two years

Project to expand north-end French immersion school to add 13 classrooms

Crimson Coast Dance Society salutes African dance during Black History Month

Dancers from Mozambique, Rwanda and Cameroon to give demonstrations and lessons

Nanaimo Clippers, clad in Snuneymuxw jerseys, win in OT

BCHL team wins both its weekend games to stay in contention for first place on the Island

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

Nanaimo a capital city in the beard business – Wildman Beard Co.

Wildman Beard Co. gained early success with Nanaimo mill workers

Nanaimo a capital city in the beard business – Big City Beards

Big City Beards inspired by an itch that had to be scratched

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Captain says nothing beats VIU volleyball program

Graduating player Andrea Cankovic has three national titles and isn’t quite done yet

Most Read