If you saw orcas in Victoria’s Inner Harbour Thursday, count yourself lucky.

“It was phenomenal. This is a rare event. [It] does not happen very often,” said Capt. Dan Kukat of Springtide Whale Watching.

They’ve been identified them as transient killer whales, whose population is considered healthy and growing. But on World Oceans Day, experts say Thursday’s sighting is a reminder of all the marine wildlife who aren’t doing so well.

“Over the last year and a half the sightings of southern resident killer whales in the inside waters in the Salish Sea has dropped dramatically,” added Kukat.

While transients feed on small mammals, the resident population eats salmon-a diminishing food source in recent years.

Kukat says there used to be daily sightings of resident orcas 25 years ago.

“We have not seen a single southern resident killer whale on the inside waters in the Salish Sea for nearly two months now.”

Those who work at the Robert Bateman Centre in the harbour’s old steamship terminal are all too familiar with threats to our waters.

“Everything from plastic, which as we all know is a real issue, and we’re so fortunate that the city has taken a decision to stop plastic bags starting July first,” said the Robert Bateman Centre executive director Peter Ord.

On Friday evening, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. the centre is having an artist known for his whale art on wharf street, Robert Wyland, paint a canvas that will be auctioned off for conservation efforts.

“[It’s] really as part of a celebration of World Oceans Day and the need to sort of figure out how we can stop plastic from polluting our waters,” added Ord.

While World Oceans Day only comes once a year, experts say protecting our oceans is an everyday effort.

Isabelle Raghem