August 6, 2017

A Playful and Curious Humpback - Spotted Near Moresby Island

[Lauren Fritz, M/V Kittiwake, 08/04/17, 5:30 pm Charter]

What an amazing day on the water! We had a charter this evening, and we were lucky enough to encounter an amazing humpback whale who was curious and playful - it swam right under us a few times! Check out my favorite photos from the trip. We are so lucky here in the Salish Sea to experience these encounters, there's nowhere else in the world quite like it!

Humpback whales in the Salish Sea have rebounded dramatically from a very low count back in the 1960's - they were almost to the point of extinction. There were several whaling opperations that targeted these whales in the Salish Sea until they were nearly annihilated. They were commercially extinct, meaning that there were no longer enough humpbacks for the whaling operations to remain profitable. This was also around the time that several pieces of legislation were passed here in the U.S., including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Thanks to the International Whaling Commission, an International Moratorium on commerical whaling was passed, and we have been able to witness the remarkable recovery of these animals firsthand! Their numbers have gone up from an estimated 1,500 in the 1960's to upwards of 24,000 today. 

A big part of this recovery is due to the fact that female humpbacks are able to produce calves every year (although it is more common for them to take a few years in between pregnancies). We estimate we have a summertime population of 75-100 whales here in the Salish Sea, which is made especially exciting by the fact that prior to the early 2000's, we hadn't seen these whales in roughly a century!

Because of this recent population growth, we are seeing more and more of our humpback whales in the area, leading to an exciting peak viewing season in the spring and fall and adding to the already incredibly diversity of wildlife we have a chance to see here in the Salish Sea.

Humpbacks, we love you!

Naturalist Lauren Fritz, San Juan Safaris