A blue whale (file image)
A blue whale swimming in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California in January 2018. Image by PR HANDOUT

Experts blow hole in claims of blue whale off Canadian coast

William Summers June 15, 2022

A photo shows a blue whale swimming under a boat off Vancouver Island in June 2022.


False. The image has circulated on the internet since at least 2014. Canadian researchers are not aware of any blue whale sightings in the area in 2022.

It’s the largest creature on the planet and among the rarest. Despite the blue whale’s scarcity, social media users have posted that one was spotted off Canada’s west coast in early June.

The posts include a purported photo of one of the giant mammals swimming underneath a small boat with a caption locating it off the Vancouver coast.

However, the claimed sighting is false. The image dates back to at least 2014 and questions have previously been raised about its authenticity. Whale experts from the region of the supposed sighting told AAP FactCheck they are not aware of any blue whales spotted in the area in 2022.

The image has been posted to dozens of Facebook accounts since early June, including here, here, here, here, here and here

The photo of the blue whale posted on social media.
 The photo of the blue whale beneath a small boat has been posted numerous times on social media. 

Most of the posts claim the whale was sighted near Vancouver Island, a 31,000 square km landmass off the coast of Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia

Similar claims have been made on Twitter, including this viral tweet from June 7 that said the whale was spotted off Vancouver Island “yesterday”. At the time of writing, the tweet had racked up more than 180,000 likes and retweets.

The tweet’s author later admitted the post was inaccurate: “Sorry, everyone. The sighting wasn’t yesterday, it was around this time a few years ago ÔǪ Also, this photo is not from that event.”

The origin of the picture is uncertain but it appears to be at least seven years old. A reverse image search shows it has been circulating on the internet since at least December 2014. 

In April 2015, US-based fact-checking website Snopes investigated the image’s origins after it was posted to Reddit

Snopes found the image’s authenticity was ‘unproven’ but suggested it may be related to the production of the 2015 movie, In the Heart of the Sea, a dramatisation of a whaling ship’s sinking in 1820 which inspired Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick

A promotional poster for the movie used a similar picture of a whale swimming under a boat. AAP FactCheck has been unable to confirm any link to the movie. The movie’s production company, Warner Bros, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Early uses of the image did not specify a purported location. However, social media users have linked it to Vancouver Island since at least September 2019

Blue whales are occasionally spotted off British Columbia’s coast, but any claims about sightings in early June 2022 appear to be false. 

Andrew Trites, director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia, told AAP FactCheck that he is unaware of any sightings throughout 2022.

“A group of 5-6 blue whales were seen in 2019 in BC (British Columbia) waters and I was told of another sighting of a single blue whale in 2021,” Professor Trites said in an email.

“Blue whales have been slow to recover following the end of whaling in BC. I have seen them in California and Mexico, but have yet to see one in BC. Sightings of blue whales in BC waters are extremely rare.”

Vancouver Island-based whale researcher Jackie Hildering, who took part in Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) marine mammal surveys off Canada’s Pacific coast, also told AAP FactCheck she was not aware of any recent sightings. 

“There have been sightings of blue whales about 68 nautical miles (125km) off Cape Scott (northern Vancouver Island), the last of which was during DFO’s 2018 Pacific Region International Survey of Marine Megafauna (PRISMM) survey,” Ms Hildering said in an email.

She said blue whales were more often seen off Haida Gwaii, a nature-rich archipelago about 250km north of Vancouver Island

“The last known sighting off the west coast of Haida Gwaii was in June 2021 by a DFO research team. Prior to that, it was a July 2019 sighting during a DFO survey,” Ms Hildering said. 

AAP FactCheck could find no evidence of a blue whale sighting near Vancouver Island in 2022. 

Blue whales are listed as endangered in Canada. WWF Australia says blue whales may have numbered around 250,000 prior to commercial whale hunting, but the global population is now somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000.

AAP FactCheck has previously debunked other fake whale photos including a huge whale swimming under a Malaysian bridge and a whale and surfer enjoying the same wave.

The Verdict

The claim a photo shows a blue whale off Vancouver Island in early June 2022 is false. The image has been published on the internet many times and dates back to at least December 2014. Its origins and authenticity are unclear. Experts told AAP FactCheck sightings of the endangered mammal off Canada’s Pacific coast are rare and they are unaware of any sighted in 2022. 

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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