Record number of humpback whale calves born to Salish Sea population: researchers

Record number of humpback whale calves born to Salish Sea population: researchers
Val Shore, Eagle Wing Tours, PWWA
A humpback whale calf is seen breaching.

Nearly twice as many humpback whale calves as last year have been documented in the waters off B.C.’s coast — a new record for the region, according to researchers.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association said 21 calves have been born to Salish Sea humpbacks this season, with the calves being photographed by whale watchers and researchers in Washington State and B.C.

It’s the highest annual number of new births on record for the animals so far in the region. In 2020, only 11 calves were documents in the area.

“2021 has been a banner year for female humpbacks coming into the Salish Sea with new calves,” said Wendi Robinson, naturalist with Puget Sound Express. “Calves only travel with mom for a year or so and then they’re on their own. Once they’re familiar with our waters, they will often return year after year to feed.”

READ MORE: Humpback mother and calf swim up to Nanaimo boat in ‘coolest whale encounter ever’

Fall is peak humpback whale season in the region as the mammals’ final feeding opportunity before heading south for winter, researchers say.

One mom-and-daughter duo recently treated whale watchers to a show near the U.S.-Canada border south of Victoria, says a naturalist with Eagle Wing Tours.

“The calf started things off with a few tail slaps, which mom then joined in on,” says Val Shore.

The mother humpback, ‘Split Fluke,’ was born in 2006. Her new calf has not been named, but it is Split Fluke’s third.

Another 10-year-old humpback, ‘Dreamer,’ was spotted with her newborn in tow in Hawaii in March.

“Our community was excited to receive the March report from Hawaii,” says Erin Gless, Executive Director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, “and we’re thrilled to say that both mom and baby have arrived safely in the Salish Sea.”

Dreamer and her young calf were seen earlier this week by naturalists in the Strait of Georgia.

Researchers say they’re not completely sure of the reason behind this year’s baby boom.

“It’s possible the last two years had an abundance of food for the whales, or it could be as simple as the fact that as the number of adult whales in the population grows, so too does the number of calves we can expect to see each year,” says Gless.


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