Herring spawn brings hungry grey whales to feed close to shore in Barkley Sound


WATCH: Some fantastic footage was captured in Barkley Sound of grey whales on Monday. A big spawn of herring eggs happened in the Toquaht Bay area about two weeks ago and as Luisa Alvarez shows us, the magnificent creatures are still reaping the benefits and putting on a show while feeding close to shore. Raw video courtesy of Justine Curgenven. 

It’s not every day you get to see grey whales feeding so close to shore. Some were caught on camera by Justine Curgenven, just 20 meters offshore in Barkley Sound.

Marine Mammal Zoologist Dr. Anna Hall says its a sure sign of spring.

“Of course these animals overwinter in Mexico and then return northward on,one of the longest mammal migrations on planet earth,” said Hall.

A recent herring spawn attracted the hungry whales who are stocking up on food after a lengthy voyage.

“They don’t feed very much, if at all, during the winter months and so these animals are hungry and they are needing to stock up on their food and fat reserves at the moment, and so we don’t want to do anything that could disrupt those feeding behaviours,” said Hall.

And it’s a behaviour that’s pretty neat to see. The whales, who according to Hall are mostly right-handed “dive down, turn on their right hand to scoop up the mud and feed belly up.”

They are called bottom feeders. The toothless giants will expel the mud through their baleen keeping in all the small creatures to feed on.

And while in the video they are seen in a group, they are likely not together unless they’re a pair of mother and calf.

“It has been said of the grey whale that all of the grey whales do the same thing at the same time separately. You can get groups of animals interacting in an area, but they are not necessarily a cohesive group, they are just individuals taking advantage of the resources in a bay or an inlet,” said Hall.

It’s an incredible sight to see and one many are fortunate enough to get here on Vancouver Island.

“We will have grey whales along Vancouver Islands coastline at least for the next six months and some are transitory but others will remain here,” said Hall.

So keep your eyes peeled next time you’re in the area of Barkley Sound and if you’re fortunate enough to encounter one of the magnificent creatures. take note of their markings, because according to Hall: “grey whales are individually recognizable by their unique pigmentation patterns and the scars and the barnacles that they have on their bodies.”

Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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