PHOTOS: Residents rescue dolphins stranded near Powell River

About 20 people helped rescued 16 dolphins that were chased into shallow water by transient orcas, Monday near Powell River. Susan MacKay photo

About 20 people rescued a group of stranded dolphins that had been herded by a pod of transient orcas, Monday near Powell River.

Rescuers believe the orcas had pushed the 16 Pacific white-sided dolphins into an old fishing trap close to shore.

Susan MacKay — founder of Whales and Dolphins BC, a publication of the Wild Ocean Whale Society — praised the efforts of community members who saved the dolphins with tarps and blankets.

“They jumped in right away. The majority were from the Tla’amin Nation,” MacKay said. “By the time I found out they were getting stuck, and I communicated with DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), there were only a few left still stuck in that pool. It (rescue) went very quickly.”

She credits the rescuers who remained with the dolphins to ensure their safety after they had carried them into deeper water.

“They all got out, and they all grouped up and continued south, which was the opposite direction that the orca went in,” MacKay said. “Everyone was absolutely thrilled they managed to swim away OK, and they weren’t stranded for any horrific length of time.”

Being meat eaters, MacKay said transient orcas will sneak up on dolphins, and then disperse them.

“They tend to stick with one group,” she said. “We’ve seen it happen where they’ve herded them into bays on a regular basis. Sometimes it becomes a mass slaughter, if the dolphins are totally stuck. These dolphins were looking for any method to hide. They were able to get shallower than the orca, but the orca were back and forth. They were really quite relentless. Just waiting for them.”