Salish Sea Welcomes Back Humpback Whales

humpback whales Salish Sea

Fifty years after their hunting was banned, the humpback whales return to the Salish Sea.

The humpback whales had been once extirpated from the Salish Sea by commercial activities. However, in the last years, the massive creatures came back, and they are probably set to prove something.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association has reported an increased number of mammals in the Salish Sea waters, with up to 20 individuals living in active communities near the North American coasts.

Twenty years ago, there were no humpback whales in the Salish Sea. The situation changed in the last couple of years when the monitoring crews of the association had seen them all the time.

While in Hawai’i and Alaska the marine creatures can be seen in small groups, in the American eastern coast they are now spotted in large numbers.

„One humpie after another, just an expanse of whales filling the seascape. They’re breaching like crazy, pec slapping, rolling at the surface, vocalizing, and most importantly, doing a lot of lunge feeding. They definitely seem to be finding plenty to eat, especially off Port Angeles and Victoria, and that may be a good sign,” said Michael Harris, the director of Pacific Whale Watch Association.

Marine experts think that the humpback whales are coming back because of different events that overlapped.

One of these reasons is that the population exploded, and the northern feeding areas are no longer sufficient for a large number of whales.

A second reason could be the fact that oceanographic conditions changed in time, and the food chain was affected. This could mean that their favorite meal, krill, and small fish, may no longer be available in the northern areas.

This year, the Southern Resident killer whales were not present on the Pacific coasts, and the scientists suggest the cause may be similar. A scarcity in salmon could have made orcas look for food elsewhere, and along with the orcas went the killer whales.

A new study is prepared to investigate the eating habits of the humpback whales, in order to assess the impact of the predators in the Salish Sea. They usually feed off sardines, sand lance, herrings, and anchovy, but they may be quite flexible in choosing their fish.

A captain from Port Angeles says watching whales had become quite common in the Salish Sea. The sightings are expected to continue into the fall.

The humpback whales migrate each spring, going from Mexico, Central America and Hawai’i to Alaska. On their way to the north, they sometimes stop in the Salish Sea. In the last years, they started to extend their stay.

Their presence is also a conservation success story. In the eastern North Pacific, the total number of humpback whales rose from 1,600 in 1966 up to 21,000 in the present. There are 85,000 whales worldwide.

Image Source: Flickr