There’s a baby boom in the Salish Sea’s humpback whale population.
Humpback whale (calf of Slate) off coast of Gabriola Island – July 2021
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Naturalists aboard whale-watching vessels have reported 21 new calves this summer and fall — the largest nursery batch on record and nearly double the previous high of 11 identified last year, said Mark Malleson of the Center for Whale Research in Washington. He said late summer and autumn bring the peak of humpback activity, as the whales gorge on small fish and krill before traveling to warmer waters in Mexico, Central America and Hawaii to give birth and breed, then returning in late spring.
An adult humpback can eat about 900 kilograms a day, straining huge volumes of ocean water through their baleen plates, which act like a sieve.
“It has been a banner year for female humpbacks coming into the Salish Sea with new calves,” said Wendi Robinson, a naturalist with Puget Sound Express based in Port Townsend, Washington. “Calves only travel with their mothers 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.”
The baby boom is being credited to an abundance of food, and the growing population of adult humpbacks.