Giant humpback whales, a once-threatened species, are making a comeback off B.C.’s South Coast, according to local whale-watchers and researchers.
“They have just come back like gangbusters. They're in this area and people are seeing them more and more frequently,” said Cedric Towers of Vancouver Whale Watch. “One or two whales we’ve been seeing now for five or six years in a row.”
A pair of humpback whales was spotted near Galiano Island as recently as Wednesday.
“We’ve certainly noticed that humpbacks have been increasing in B.C. waters,” said Jessica Torode, a co-ordinator for the BC Cetacean Sightings Network.
The animals’ resurgence is likely due to an increase in food for them around the South Coast, she said.
“They eat small schooling fish, so they like herring, sandlance, things like that, so it could just be this herring is increasing,” Torode said.
She said the whales’ return the region has only been taking place in the last 10 years or so.
“The historical effects of whaling have made a huge impact on these humpback whales and their numbers were very low and they were listed as threatened, so it's nice to see that they're coming back again,” Torode said.
Meanwhile, there are growing concerns surrounding Southern Resident killer whales. Only 76 of those animals remain and all of them are endangered.
Chinook salmon, their primary food source, has been dwindling.
“They're retuning looking for that food source. They're not finding it, so there's a concern that they're starving,” Torode said.
Scientists, industry, Indigenous groups and government officials met in Vancouver on Wednesday and Thursday during a symposium aimed at finding a way to save the species at risk.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Maria Weisgarber and The Canadian Press