Humpback whales make huge comeback off east Vancouver Island


WATCH: Humpback whales are making a comeback off Vancouver Island and this weekend, researchers are looking closely at their behaviour and numbers north of Nanaimo. The species came to near extinction from whaling but within the past decade, a surge in sightings has been taking place.

Packed with all they will need for three days of research, a boatload of whale watching enthusiasts set off from Nanaimo Friday to learn all they can about the humpback comeback off the east coast of Vancouver Island.

“It’s a new area for all of us,” said Keta Coastal Conservation member Natalie Reichenbach.

“And we’re very excited to get out there and see some new animals.”

“The amount of life returning to this area is spectacular,” said fellow member of Keta Coastal Conservation, Ashley Keegan.

“So it’s nice to be able to do this work and yeah it’s really a privilege,” said Mike Campbell of Vancouver Island Whale Watching, who donated his boats to the cause.

Keta Coastal Conservation Foundation is a non-profit aimed at protecting coastal wildlife and through Sunday, they’re exploring the Salish Sea from Nanaimo north to beyond Campbell River to add their observations to a growing catalogue of humpback whales that have been seen here. The species is making huge comeback in waters it was nearly hunted to extinction in some 50 years ago.

“This is a relatively new thing,” said Vancouver Island Whale Watch‘s Jilanne Campbell.

“So we think that they’re likely recolonizing the area since the moratorium on whaling.”

Sightings of Humpbacks by whale watching boats, sailors and fishermen have skyrocketed over the past five years off the east coast of Vancouver Island.

There were as few as 10 catalogued humpbacks then, now there are over 100 regularly seen here.

“In July and August, we’ve had more encounters than ever before,” said Reichenbach.

“So it’s pretty exciting to see they’re a regular occurrence now in the Salish Sea.”

So over three days, this group will track the movements and behaviour of the humpbacks they come across and with their cameras and onboard technologies, they hope to find new animals never recorded before.

“And how they’re interacting with each other,” said Reichenbach.

“What’s attracting them here and what can we do to make sure they’ll be here in the long run.”

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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