One of our local pods of resident-type (fish-eating) orca whales has returned to the San Juan Islands and we look forward to kayaking with them soon – maybe today! L-pod, the largest of the killer whale families that reside in the San Juan Islands from spring through fall, appeared on the west side of San Juan Island yesterday.
This spring our killer whale sightings in the San Juan Islands of Washington have been notable for two things: a late return of the resident killer whales and a large number of transient killer whales. The labels “resident” and “transient” are a bit of a misnomer. The two types are finally being widely recognized by biologists as separate species. In our opinion the resident killer whale should be called “salmon orca” or “fish orca” as they eat almost exclusively fish and only live in regions where fatty fish such as salmon and herring are abundant. The transient killer whales should be called “seal orca” or “common orca” since they eat mostly marine mammals and live globally thoughout all the world’s oceans.
On the topic of common names, we should cease calling any of them “killer” whales! All marine mammals kill prey to survive – there are no exceptions. So singling out one species to be called the “killer” whale makes no sense at all! Their scientific name of Orcinus orca comes from the mythical Orcus – the Roman god of death and the underworld, who was also known as a punisher. This is at least more unique, and the common name “orca” has been used for centuries. English-speaking countries only began disparaging them as “killers” in the past century.
Welcome home L-pod! We are happy to have you back in the San Juan Islands to grace our kayaking tour routes with your awesome presence.