(CHATHAM, Mass.) — A rare orca sighting off the coast of New England has caught the attention of marine researchers because the killer whale is usually spotted closer to Canada.
Charter fishing boat captain Bruce Peters spotted the killer while about 12 miles off Chatham, Massachusetts, on Monday, according to ABC affiliate station WCVB-TV.
Officials at the New England Aquarium used photos provided by Peters to confer with colleagues in Canada and determine the whale is likely an orca nicknamed “Old Thom.”
“The way you can identify the individual is they have a very distinctive dorsal fin and ‘Old Thom’ has probably close to a six-foot tall dorsal fin and he’s got a notch near the top of that dorsal fin,” the New England Aquarium’s Philip Hamilton told WCVB.
“Old Thom” is typically spotted in the waters off Labrador and Newfoundland, according to Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium. LaCasse described Monday’s “Old Thom” sighting as “way outside of what’s his normal range.”
Peters, owner of Capeshores Charters, has said he spotted the orca alone in the water. Hamilton said “Old Thom” could have traveled to New England to mate, but because he is alone he is most likely there for food.
“The main drivers are often food and reproduction and given the fact that he seems to be alone most of the time, I would bet on food, so probably a fish population would be my bet,” Hamilton said.
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