Sighting of a Rare "Ghost" Orca

A ghost whale was spotted in the ocean near Campbell River recently.

It’s not only a rare sighting, but it’s a rare occurrence, this white orca. Rather than the monochromatic combination we’re used to seeing of ocras, this one is quite faded (yet still has the eye patch markings).

A white killer whale swims off the coast of Nanaimo, B.C., on May 28, 2019. (Vancouver Island Whale Watch)

A white killer whale swims off the coast of Nanaimo, B.C., on May 28, 2019. (Vancouver Island Whale Watch)

Reports of the pale orca came in about a month ago near Nanaimo, BC and federal scientists say that this is the first time a pale orca has been spotted in British Columbia waters in a decade.

“It is very rare to see a whale like this. I’ve never personally seen one in the five years I’ve been doing this,” Shea Majbroda with Campbell River Whale Watching told CTV news. “It’ has a rare pigment in their skin that almost makes them look albino, like a ghost.”

The whale is guessed to be about one-year-old and is traveling with a family of transients.

It is unknown exactly what causes the faded pigmentation, although albinism could be a cause. It could also be a temporary skin issue, according to Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian.

“The whale looks like it has – for lack of a better word – what we’ve been calling grey patch disease or grey patch syndrome,” Dr. Martin Haulena told Global News. “It’s really extensive and it’s really, really grey, so it’s difficult to say if it’s the same thing.”

Haulena went on to say it might possibly be the equivalent of acne in teenage humans. Which means to say the paleness may not last forever.