First humpback calf of 2024 spotted in Salish Sea

Submitted by Clint William, Eagle Wing Tours, PWWA.
Black Pearl and her 2024 calf.

A humpback calf and its mother were spotted along the Haro Strait, along with famous “Big Mama” humpback whale last week.

The Pacific Whale Watching Association (PWWA) says the calf, which is believed to be around three to four months old, and its mother, “Black Pearl,” were seen in the Haro Strait on April 18, with several sightings of the pair since.

The humpbacks were spotted by Eagle Wing Tours, based out of Victoria.

“This is still pretty early in the season. They’ll start to show up in the next couple of weeks and months and they’ll stay usually about November or December,” said Erin Gless, executive director at PWWA.

Black Pearl has been seen in B.C. waters since 2013.

Black Pearl and calf. Submitted by Brooke McKinley, Outer Island Excursions, PWWA

Humpback whales frequent B.C. waters with their babies to feed in cooler areas, but whales prefer to breed and give birth in warmer water near Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America. Gless says humpbacks also do this because of B.C.’s predator whales, such as Biggs Killer Whales.

“When you’re a little baby humpback you don’t have all that blubber to keep you warm,” Gless told CHEK News on Wednesday.

Another famous humpback whale, “Big Mama,” was spotted this past weekend. Big Mama is hailed as the “whale who started it all,” after whale sightings virtually stopped after decades of whale hunting.

“In the 1800s and early 1900s, like many whale species, humpback whales were hunted commercially,” said Gless.

“So the population went from 30,000 humpback whales down to possibly as few as 1,000, and there were no humpback whales left here in these inland B.C. waters.”

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Big Mama returns to the Salish Sea. Submitted by Clint William, Eagle Wing Tours, PWWA

Photo of Big Mama. Submitted by Clint William, Eagle Wing Tours, PWWA

Big Mama was first spotted in the Salish Sea in 1997, marking a comeback of the humpback whales. It’s unclear how old she is, but Big Mama has given birth to seven calves over the year with a grandchild of the humpback being spotted last year.

In 2022, nearly 400 humpbacks were spotted and Gless estimates that number will persist with thousands of sightings.



Oli Herrera

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