A video recently posted to YouTube of a humpback whale breaching in the waters of Howe Sound is proof the population is once again picking up after almost being wiped out 100 years ago.
The video is not very long, but as the camera pans to the left a large humpback whale can be seen breaching the water and crashing back down.
Caitlin Birdsall, co-ordinator of the BC Cetacean Sighting Network at the Vancouver Aquarium, says humpback whale sightings are not that common in the waters of Howe Sound, but since 2007 there have been a few more each year.
The whales were once abundant in this area until the early 1900s.
Birdsall says people used to watch the whales on their way to Bowen Island. But in 1907 a whaling station was built in Nanaimo and the whale population in that area, about 100 whales in total, were wiped out in a year. Commercial whaling in the area ended in the 1960s.
“It’s been really unusual to see a humpback around,” she says. “But they have made a comeback in the last 10 to 15 years.”
There was a sighting of a humpback in June in Howe Sound and one whale has been around all September.
“it’s still exciting for the residents to see a humpback,” says Birdsall.
Humpbacks come up to B.C. for the summer and in the late fall and early winter they travel down to either Hawaii or Mexico. Under the Species At Risk Act they are currently listed as threatened but Bridsall says they could be reclassified as special concern due to their comeback in recent years.
They still face challenges however.
“Humpbacks are vulnerable to things like ship strikes, both large and small vessels,” says Birdsall. “And any development that increases noise is going to be an impact on all marine life.”
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