Many humpback whales have been recently spotted in West Coast waters and scientists regard this event as highly unusual but still a good sign that their population has finally become stable.
According to Michael Harris, a scientist at the Pacific Whale Watch Association, never in his career has he seen such a phenomenon in the Salish Sea.
Harris stressed that humpback whales were brought on the verge of extinction in 1966 when the local commercial whaling has been forbidden. Around 1,600 were still out there, so the wildlife officials listed these whales under the Endangered Species Act.
Based on the recent statistics, the number of humpbacks increased to 21,000 specimens in the north Pacific and there are most likely around 85,000 whales throughout the world. This species of whale migrate from Central America, Mexico, and Hawaii to Alaska every spring.
Thanks to the fact that they were no longer hunted, the humpbacks made a significant recovery over the last five decades. According to Rhonda Reidy, marine educator, captain for Prince of Whales Whale Watching in Victoria, and a 20-year naturalist, the comeback of the humpbacks might originate from various factors.
Reidy explained that because the numbers of whales have significantly increased over the last 50 years, the northern feeding habitat, which is practically their native environment, has become quite crowded so many groups of whales have begun exploring the southern areas as well during the migration period.
Also, this sudden population increase might have side-effects as well leading to a dangerous impact on the food chain from the southern habitats. These areas are usually home to killer whales which usually hunt big preys such as humpback whales.
However, there is a large variety of food consisting of salmon, which is the killer whale’s primary source of food. It means that orcas, which are highly intelligent mammals, prefer hunting smaller preys which are easier to catch, rather than going for the gentle giants that can defend themselves.
Regardless of the fact that humpback’s population stabilized, many specimens have been recently reported dead washed ashore by the ocean waves. For instance, a 50-ton female was found in Rye Harbor State Park beach a month ago.
The whale, known as Snow Plow, was 18 years old, and it used to be one of the tagged whales monitored by scientists. Experts have not been able to establish why these humpback whales have recently died.
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