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The Fisheries Department says it's monitoring and patrolling ocean waters off northwest Vancouver Island to ensure boat traffic doesn't interfere with an orphan killer whale calf's ability to reunite with her extended family.

The department said in a statement Friday it will be monitoring the location of the young female orca as she searches for her family in ocean waters near Zeballos, B.C., located more than 450 kilometres northwest of Victoria.

The killer whale calf, named kwiisahi?is or Brave Little Hunter by the area's Ehattesaht First Nation, left a remote tidal lagoon for the ocean last Friday where she had been trapped since March 23 after her pregnant mother became stranded on a rocky beach at low tide and died.

The Fisheries Department said kwiisah?is's chances of meeting up with members of a transient pod of Bigg's killer whales, of which she is related, are good, but she should not be further habituated to people or boats.

"Brave Little Hunter now has the chance to meet up and join a passing Bigg's pod," said the statement. "Bigg's pods are very adaptable and open to adopting young animals and we remain optimistic about her chances of survival."

The last sighting of Bigg's killer whales from her pod was more than three weeks ago in waters south of Zeballos near Ucluelet, B.C.

"Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to work with First Nations, whale watchers and researchers to monitor the location of Bigg's killer whales," said the statement. "DFO will be patrolling and monitoring the area to ensure there are no boats trying to locate her, which will impact kwiisahi?is's ability to join up with a passing pod. The team is also monitoring the location of the juvenile whale while she seeks out her family the T109A pod."

The Bigg's killer whale pod that kwiisahi?is is a member of is known to spend much of its time off the west coast of Vancouver Island, but roams farther north to Haida Gwaii and as far south as the Salish Sea near Victoria, marine scientist Jared Towers said earlier.

Towers, who studies and records the movements of whale species in B.C.'s coastal waters, has been in Zeballos for weeks participating in the rescue efforts.

The #Fisheries Department says it's monitoring and patrolling #ocean waters off northwest #VancouverIsland to ensure boat traffic doesn't interfere with an #orphan killer #whale calf's ability to reunite with her extended family. #BC

The Fisheries Department said disturbing marine mammals is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Regulations and could result in fines of up to $100,000.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

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