Written by Simon Pidcock
Vancouver Island Humpback Whale Invasion
While we have been lucky enough to have Orca sightings almost every day for the past two months it’s been the Humpbacks sightings that have been hard to fathom.
For the past five years the Salish Sea Humpback population has been exploding. This year has been phenomenal, I have never seen so many humpbacks so early in the season. It isn’t uncommon for us to have groups of 15 humpbacks traveling together in feeding aggregations in the late fall months. This year we have already documented more new humpbacks in the Salish Sea than any other year and we haven’t reached our peak season yet. With groups of over 20 humpbacks spread over a few miles the foraging action has been non-stop. We are seeing dramatic lunge feeding from multiple humpbacks at the same time and lots of surface activity.
These kinds of sightings are a far cry from 10 years ago when we had our first humpback become a regular in the southern Salish Sea. BCY0324 or more commonly as “Big Momma” has now brought six calves back to our waters since 1997. Her calf this year is just a little rambunctious and when she isn’t nursing she is cavorting with mom feeding close by.
It is a blessing to have these gentle giants feeding throughout the Salish Sea and re-populating their traditional feeding grounds after they were nearly wiped out by commercial whaling, which ended 1967. Hopefully the North Pacific Humpback population continues to thrive and very soon we will be documenting three generations of humpback mother and calf pairs.
Not to be out done by the humpbacks the Bigg’s Killer Whales have also taken up residence in the southern Salish Sea. Their population is also thriving due to the abundance of marine mammal prey in our waters. All in all the spring and early summer sightings have been fantastic and we have seen whales everyday for the past two months except for one Sunday in May. We have tours departing daily from Cowichan Bay!