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New humpback whale calf spotted south of B.C. in Salish Sea

Black Pearl is seen with her new calf. (Clint William/Eagle Wing Tours) Black Pearl is seen with her new calf. (Clint William/Eagle Wing Tours)
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A new humpback whale calf has been spotted in the Salish Sea, just south of B.C., marking the first calf of the 2024 season, the Pacific Whale Watch Association announced Wednesday.

The PWWA said the calf, which was seen for the first time near San Juan Island on April 18, is probably three or four months old. It was with its mother, Black Pearl, when it was spotted.

"It's always fun to see which mom and calf will make it back first," said PWWA executive director Erin Gless in a news release. "Black Pearl tends to spend her summers near north Vancouver Island. This year we were lucky enough to spot her in the Salish Sea."

The PWWA said a "local whale celebrity" named Big Mama was also in the area last week, along with a handful of other humpback whales. Big Mama has given birth to seven calves over the years, the PWWA said. Her first, Divot, was born in 2003 and her most recent, Moresby, was born in 2022.

"Simply put, she's the whale who started it all," Gless said, explaining Big Mama has at least six "grandcalves" and two "great-grandcalves" so far.

"For decades after whaling stopped, there were virtually no sightings in inland B.C. waters," Gless said in her statement. "But that all changed when Big Mama made her first appearance in 1997. She's been returning to the Salish Sea ever since, and now hundreds of humpback whales visit each year."

The PWWA explained humpback calves aren't born locally, but usually near Hawaii, Mexico and Central America. Black Pearl usually spends her winters in the Hawaiian Islands and has been spotted several times near Maui. She's given birth to at least three other calves, including one born in 2022 named Kraken.

More humpbacks are expected to return to local waters in the coming weeks as they feed on small fish and crustaceans into the fall. 

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