The return of humpback whales to the Salish Sea after an absence of almost 100 years is absolutely incredible. It is a story we love to share when we are out on the water on our whale watching tours. In this episode we talk in detail about the amazing humpback comeback with our guest, Tasli Shaw, co-founder and project lead of the Humpback Whales of the Salish Sea. Tasli is also a captain and professional guide with Ocean Ecoventures in Cowichan Bay, BC.
We discuss the history of humpback whale presence in the Salish Sea and how they were extirpated in this region from commercial whaling by the early 1900’s. They were absent for nearly 100 years. They've since come back to the area in dramatic numbers, with the 2022 Humpbacks of the Salish Sea ID catalogue including 801 humpback whales. The regional humpback comeback began in the late 1990's with the iconic humpback whale "Big Mama", who brought her 7th calf back to the Salish Sea this spring. We discuss the humpback comeback at length, including Tasli’s dedicated work on the 2022 regional ID catalogue.
We always ask all of our guests to share some memorable encounters and Tasli had an encounter with a humpback whale named “Windy” in 2014 that sounds like a once in a lifetime experience. She was able to get an incredible photo of Windy's eye (see photo below)! This turned to a discussion about how on rare occasions, humpback whales can become curious and approach vessels. We clearly noted this is a rare occurrence for us to experience and it is always initiated by the whale and never the whale watchers.
We also talk a bit about the humpback whale "Flint", who has been documented in breeding grounds in Hawaii and Mexico in the same year!
We think it is important to add information about the threats humpbacks face as their numbers continue to increase, including entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes. If you encounter an entangled whale please contact the Marine Mammal Stranding Network 1-866-767-6114 or the BC Marine Mammal Incident Response Network at 1-800-465-4336.
We then discuss a question sent in from one of our listeners asking about interactions between humpbacks and killer whales. We tell a few stories about these interesting interactions and how humpbacks seem to try to intervene when killer whales are hunting other marine mammals.
We conclude the episode discussing recent sightings. We have an update on the ongoing saga of young Bigg's killer whale T34A1, who we've been discussing on our last few episodes. Last episode she was traveling with a related orca, T37A1. We also talk about the new calf in the Bigg's killer whale family, the T36As!
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