Killer Whale Northwest Atlantic / Eastern Arctic population
Scientific Name: Orcinus orca
Other/Previous Names: Killer Whale (Northwest Atlantic / Eastern Arctic populations)
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2008
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: Threats to this population include hunting in Greenland, acoustical and physical disturbance, which will become greater as shipping traffic increases in the Arctic, and contaminants. This population's small size (fewer than 1000 mature individuals and likely less than 250) and the species' life history and social attributes justify designation as Special Concern.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Species considered in April 1999 and in November 2001, and placed in the Data Deficient category. Re-examined in November 2008 and designated Special Concern.
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd):
Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.
Image of Killer Whale
The Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) is a member of the dolphin family, Delphinidae. It is easily recognized by its distinct black and white patterns. The Killer Whale is known as 'aarluk' in Inuktitut and has the following characteristics: • Tall, uniquely-shaped dorsal fin on individual whales; • Dorsal fin height of males is greater than that of females; • Pectoral fins and tail flukes are longer in males than in females; • Tail fluke tips curve downward in males; • Unique grey-white area at the base of the dorsal fin, known as the ‘saddle patch’, helps to distinguish individuals; • Longest male recorded at 9.0 m; longest female at 7.7 m; • Heaviest male weighed 6,600 kg (7.65 m); heaviest female 4,700 kg (6.58 m); and • Calves range from 2.2 to 2.5 m in length at birth.
Killer Whales are found in all of the world’s oceans. Their Canadian distribution includes the coastal waters of British Columbia from Haida Gwaii in the north to Vancouver Island. Little is known about the range and distribution of the Northwestern Atlantic/Eastern Arctic Killer Whales. Historically, they were common in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence estuary; however, they are now most often recorded in the coastal waters of Newfoundland, particularly in the Strait of Belle Isle. Sightings in the eastern Arctic have increased over the past few decades, particularly within the Hudson Bay region, whereas Killer Whales are uncommon in the western Arctic. The specific habitat requirements and life history in the Northwestern Atlantic/Eastern Arctic Killer Whales are not well understood. They can tolerate wide ranges of salinity, temperature and turbidity.
Little is known about threats to Killer Whales in the northwestern Atlantic and eastern Arctic. Degraded habitat quality due to physical and acoustical disturbances, and increasing levels of contaminants are likely threats to Killer Whale populations. Killer Whales on the east coast of Canada may also be vulnerable to toxic spills. In the Arctic, Killer Whales are also hunted.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
6 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Permits and Related Agreements (2 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
COSEWIC Annual Reports
COSEWIC Annual Report - 2009 (2009-08-28)2009 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.