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Dolphin day in Squamish

Orcas follow their smaller prey into Squamish and draw onlookers to the waterfront

First came the dolphins then orcas followed and for people on the Squamish waterfront the marine mammals put on a spectacle.

More than 200 dolphins swam up Howe Sound feeding on herring late in the morning on Saturday, March 15. A pod of at least ten orcas followed and many who flocked to Nexen Beach watched as the large whales preyed on the smaller dolphins.

Howe Sound Secondary student Ashley Ganske was there with her camera and she captured one of the most spectacular shots of the day, an image of an orca breaching in the middle of the sound.

“There were so many dolphins, like countless,” said Ganske. “It was amazing.

“It was pretty exciting because we don’t get this stuff happening in Squamish all that often.”

As word of the nature show spread more people arrived at the Squamish waterfront to take it in. Video cameras were recording. Photographers captured a huge number of still images and many published their pictures and videos to Internet sites.

Jack Cooley of the Squamish Streamkeepers was there and he captured video then posted his material to social media websites.

Cooley learned from someone at the southern end of Howe Sound that the dolphins were headed north. He went to Nexen Beach to see if he could spot the pod.

“I got my eyes filled with dolphins and orcas,” said Cooley.

“I think they were chasing the herring and the orcas were chasing them,” Cooley said of the huge dolphin pod.

According to Cooley, the dolphin and orca show is an indicator of a healthy herring population in Howe Sound.

“There’s lots more herring than there is dolphins so I’m sure Mother Nature has designed it so that the herring will spawn somehow,” said Cooley.

Cooley and other members of the Streamkeepers group have been working for years to increase herring survival rates in Howe Sound by putting protective coatings over pilings in the Squamish area. The coatings protect the eggs laid on the pilings from being harmed by creosote.

Since the start of the project the number of herring returning to Squamish to spawn each year has been growing.

Check back with Pique for more on the ongoing recovery of natural life in and around Howe Sound.