It’s normal for humpback whales to travel in clusters of two or three. This year groups of up to 20 are being spotted off the south coast of British Columbia. Just 20 years ago a sighting was rare at all. Sources say the whales are making their presence known more than ever with some playful activity and being more vocal than seen before. Food is in abundance and the whales are finding plenty to eat say researchers who say a shift in habitat that may be due to oceanographic or ecological conditions.
Inland waters are enjoying the site of them much more often than they have been able to in the past.
The Pacific Whale Watch Association says the number of humback whales spotted off the southern end of Vancouver Islandhas increased significantaly.
Association executive director Michael Harris says humpback whales were a rare sight off the south coast just 20 years ago, but have become increasingly common over the last three or four years.
He says whales usually travel in groups of two or three, but the latest sightings are unique because they are in groups of up to 20, mirroring conditions he says occur only off Alaska or Hawaii.
Some say it has been near a century since this many whales were seen together and so often. Whales make their meals of small schooling fish such as sardines and herring but with the new numbers researchers are looking to learn more about their eating habits.
“First, as the population of humpback whales recovers to pre-whaling levels, the population may be nearing the carrying capacity of the traditional northern feeding areas, with more whales exploring these southern habitats along their migration route,” Reidy tells KOMO News. “Second, their sudden increase may represent shifts in oceanographic and ecological conditions, affecting the local food chain.”
Some say the whales are currently nearing 21,000 when the population dropped to just 1600 in the mid ‘60s which prompted a ban on whale hunting. Whale watching tour operators say business is better than ever thanks to the regular presence of the large mammal.