Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Wildlife of the Week!

© Five Star Whale Watching/ Andrew Lees. A California Sea Lion breaks the surface, spotted in the Salish Sea.

Welcome to another Wildlife of the Week! So far, we have done a feature on every pinniped along this coast, except for the California Sea Lion! We think this is a species feature we surely can’t pass by.

The California Sea Lion (like the Steller Sea Lion) is an eared seal, unlike “true seal” pinnipeds like the Harbour Seal and Elephant Seal. The California Sea Lion is famous for its noisy antics, voicing distinct barking sounds that are heard around haul-out areas. You can learn more at our website www.5starwhales.com #welikeourwhaleswild

Center for Whale Research confirms new Calf!

We are pleased to report a NEW calf in J pod! J35's new calf appeared healthy and precocious, swimming vigorously alongside its mother in its second day of free-swimming life.

Awesome news! A new baby in Jpod :)

PWWA Cautiously Optimistic for New Jpod Baby
Prolonged Absence, Lack of Critical Prey Remain Key Concerns

FRIDAY HARBOR, WA (September 6, 2020) – The Pacific Whale Watch Association and every one of our professional members are thrilled by the addition of a new baby orca in Jpod. We are proud and pleased to have been the first to spot the new addition, playing a significant role in alerting researchers to the calf’s presence and coordinating efforts to locate and identify the new baby.

“"As we were watching the greeting ceremony between J and L pods unfold Saturday, it felt like a special day on the water,” said Sarah McCullagh, a professionally trained captain and naturalist for San Juan Safaris of Friday Harbor. “We first saw J35 and her son J47 off by themselves away from the main group, then as we watched we quickly realized that there was a very small fin tucked in next to them. We called the Center for Whale Research over to investigate and sure enough they confirmed that J35 had a new calf J57. I was obviously elated, so excited for J35 after the incredible loss she suffered a couple of years ago, but also for the Southern Resident community as a whole. I definitely cried."

Researchers from the Center for Whale Research confirm the new Jpod was born to 22-year-old mother J35, Tahlequah, who two years ago made international news when she carried her dead calf for 17 days throughout the Salish Sea, highlighting the plight of the Southern Resident Killer whales (SRKW) and the devastating lack of Chinook salmon, critical to their survival.

The PWWA community plays a vital role as ‘Sentinels of the Sea,’ providing real-time sighting and reports of whales to researchers, enforcement agencies, the maritime shipping industry, military vessels, ferries, and private boaters alike.

While the PWWA is committed to providing our expertise for the protection and public education of whales, we remain concerned that the SRKW are spending little to no time in what was once a significant traditional and historical summer fishing grounds here in the Salish Sea.

We are relieved to hear from research colleagues on the outer coast of Vancouver Island that the SRKW have been finding critical food sources off Swiftsure bank and Chinook salmon habitats to the north. Researchers are reporting that the whales are generally looking robust and healthy, finding food in areas outside the Salish Sea.

As we remain cautiously optimistic for the health and survival of this beautiful new addition to Jpod, we hope this news does not distract or detract from the real issues and threats these whales face in this region.

Although there have been significant increases in Humpback and Biggs mammal-eating killer whales in the Salish Sea in recent years due to prey abundance, this year there were no SRKW reported in their summer fishing waters during the entire month of May, June, and August. These are months that in the past were once filled with the presence of boisterous, happy, well-fed salmon-eating whales consuming Chinook salmon, now critically endangered themselves.

Chinook salmon stocks in this region are crashing due to decades of commercial scale overfishing, dramatic reductions in critical salmon habitat throughout the region due to increasing human populations, and unless something is done to return Chinook salmon populations to their historic numbers we fear the continued absence of SRKW in the Salish Sea will continue.

With the new addition to Jpod, the PWWA remains unified with our partners at NOAA, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Transport Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the research community in asking vessels to please keep their distance from the new calf and the critically endangered SRKW.

The PWWA has for over the past quarter-century developed and maintained world-class standards for whale-watching best practices, including: slowing to under seven knots at a half-mile from all whales; not crossing or stopping in the paths of whales; remaining at legally defined safe distances from whales; limiting vessel numbers when in the presence of whales; reducing viewing times with whales; and alerting private vessels —which account for nearly 90% of all whale harassment incidents—to the presence of whales.

The PWWA remains committed to the protection and restoration of Southern Resident Killer whales and the conservation and restoration of Chinook salmon populations they need to survive.

We ask the public to join us in our efforts to protect the whales and wildlife we all care so deeply about.

To learn more visit www.pacificwhalewatchassociation.com.

Photo cutline: Mother J35, center, surfaces with her ten year-old son J47 along with her day old baby J57 off the San Juan Islands in Washington state Saturday, September 5, 2020. J35 is the mother who made international headlines when she carried her newborn dead calf for 17 days and over 1,000 miles in 2018, bringing the plight of the SRKW to the attention of the world. Photo credit, courtesy Sarah McCullagh/Pacific Whale Watch Association

Media Contact:
Kelley Balcomb-Bartok
PWWA Communications Director
o. 360.378.ORCA (6722)
c. 360-298-0147

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Wildlife of the Week!

Welcome to another Wildlife of the Week which brings an opportunity to learn about another excellent Salish Sea species! What species have we chosen this time? Well, it is a small and quite common (but equally elusive) cetacean that you may or may not have caught a glimpse of before. The animal is not a dolphin, though it may appear as one, due to a few key differences.

The Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is an important component to the Salish Sea ecosystem. Has anyone seen a Harbour porpoise before? Was the animal alone, or in a group? The Harbour porpoise is often seen alone or in small groupings (6-10), however occasionally large “superpods”can be spotted. These are estimated to possibly number a hundred or more! To learn more about this mysterious creature, check out our blog at www.5starwhales.com. #welikeourwhaleswild #fivestarwhales #wildlifeoftheweek #harborporpoise


Monday, August 24, 2020

Wildlife of the Week!

© Five Star Whale Watching/ Andrew Lees. A male Elephant Seal lounges on the warm rocks of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.

The ocean is composed of many moving parts; marine mammals cooperatively hunting prey, seabirds gathering and flocking around a bait ball, small invertebrates living in dense forests of green kelp, migrating whales and more! But did you know that some marine mammals, other than whales, may also migrate? Let’s take a look at one such species for this week’s Wildlife of the Week. 

The Elephant Seal is the largest of the true seals, meaning it is not a Sea Lion or a fur seal. To help imagine what features of a true seal set it apart from other pinnipeds, think of the more common Harbour Seal (small fore-flippers, no ear flaps, type of swimming). The Northern Elephant Seal that we occasionally spot in the Salish is slightly smaller than its relative, the Southern Elephant Seal. To read more about the Northern Elephant Seal, read on!

The Northern Elephant Seal may measure an impressive 4,400 pounds (males) or 1,300 pounds (females). Length for this animal ranges between 10-13 feet long. The animal is dark brown, tan or grey. Perhaps the most noticeable characteristic of the species is the large “proboscis” that only male Elephant Seals have; a large inflatable nose that hangs over their lower lip and appears a shorter version of an elephant’s trunk. 

Females do not carry this adaptation, which is primarily used for breeding purposes. Males will emit vocalizations through their nose, creating threatening noises to ward off other competitor males. Adult males also have a thick, wide neck as opposed to the females. 

Northern Elephant Seals, as their name suggests, are majorly found in higher latitudes of the globe, but as they are migratory they are also spotted in mid-latitude/southern areas for breeding. They can be spotted as far north as Alaska and as far south as California and Mexico. Feeding is generally between moulting and breeding seasons, which are respectively spring/summer and winter. Males and females even show distinct differences in geographic feeding habits, with females showing preference to more southern grounds. 

Though the Elephant Seal may appear inefficient on land, the contrary is true under the water. An excellent agile swimmer the Northern Elephant Seal spends about ¾ of its life in the sea. Capable of reaching diving depths of 1,000-25,00 feet, they search for prey such as squid, fishes, sharks and rays. 

The Elephant Seal forms complex breeding societies in which males defend a “harem”, or a group of females in which he will mate with. Males can often be aggressive, violent and very territorial to each other while in competition. Females need only wean their pup for about a month before they will return to their home in the water usually impregnated with another calf. They return the following year after about 11 months to again give birth on land in the wintertime. 

The Elephant Seal is known to form massive colonies during breeding seasons, especially in California. The animal has rebounded well from near-extinction due to commercial sealing; it continues to be a fascinating example of an extensive yearly migration (some travel 13,000 miles round trip). 

To test your knowledge on the Northern Elephant Seal, try out some trivia below! 

  1. True or False? The Northern Elephant Seal undergoes a “catastrophic moult” for 4-5 weeks in which their outer layers of fur and skin are shed. (ANS: TRUE). 
  2. The Southern Elephant Seal has a larger proboscis than the Northern Elephant Seal. (ANS: TRUE). 
  3. Female Elephant Seals have multiple pups born at one time. (ANS: FALSE). 


What is the scientific Latin name for the Northern Elephant Seal?

Mirounga angustirostris. Can you think of any tricks to help remember this complicated name? 

Author: Alexa D./ Five Star Whale Watching.

View our Reference to read up on more about the Northern Elephant Seal! 

“Northern Elephant Seal.” NOAA Fisheries. U.S. Department of Commerce. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/northern-elephant-seal#:~:text=NOAA%20Fisheries%20is%20committed%20to%20protecting%20northern%20elephant,of%20entanglement%20in%20fishing%20gear%20or%20other%20stressors.


T10's hunting Seals on Aug 16th!

Warning ⚠️ Graphic Content! Yesterday we witnessed some breathtaking action during our encounter with the T10’s! This included them punting a hapless Seal clear in the air, it was an unbelievable sight and showed the power and skill of these apex predators. #welikeourwhaleswild #fivestarwhales #explorebc #explorevictoriabc #explorelocal #explorecanada #discovercanada 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Wildlife of the Week!

©Five Star Whale Watching/ Andrew Lees. A Steller Sea Lion pokes its head out of the water in the Salish Sea.

Welcome to another Wildlife of the Week! Fortunately for us we have a lot of local marine species to talk about every week! As for this week, we’re going to discuss another very impressive Pinniped we often see on our coastlines. You may have spotted some varieties of pinnipeds before! Perhaps a Harbour seal or Sea Lion? Can anyone identify the species of Sea Lion in our photo here? It is the largest species of the “eared” and “fur” seals (not true seals).

You might notice in the image that this Steller (Northern or Alaskan) Sea Lion (Eumatopias jubatas) has some noticeable ear flaps. This is a major physical difference between true seals (e.g. Harbour seal) and all Sea Lions. Can anyone name some other differences? Learn more about the Steller Sea Lion below.

The Steller Sea Lion is a massive marine animal, and is one of the largest pinnipeds we get on our coast along with the Elephant Seal (true seal). The Steller Sea Lion weighs up to 2,500 pounds (~1100 kg) as males, whereas females are much smaller at approximately 800 pounds (~360 kg). The animal has a blonde/tan to red colored coat, their flippers typically darker than the rest of the body. This being said, they are fantastically fast, agile and graceful swimmers while in the water. 

The species is sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females are easily told apart by physical characteristics. As mentioned, males range much larger in size but also have a more broad and robust body; their chest covered with thick, long hair. 

Sea lions can be found throughout the North Pacific, distributed in temperate and subarctic regions. The Steller Sea Lion may be seen from southern California through to Alaska as well as northern Japan through to the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea. It is believed that some mixing may exist between a Western and Eastern population of Steller Sea lions. As Sea lions require marine and land habitats, they tend to frequent coastlines but can occasionally be spotted in open sea regions. 

As a predator, the Steller Sea Lion is a hunter with a diverse diet, capable of diving to great depths while hunting in-shore. Their menu includes an array of fish such as Salmon, Cod, Pollock, Mackerel, Herring and Rockfish, among others. The species will also prey on cephalopods such as squid and octopus.  The Sea lion’s sharp canine teeth present clear evidence of an efficient and lethal predator for smaller marine prey. 

As with many other pinnipeds, the Steller Sea Lion operates within strict breeding schedules during the year. “Rookeries” will be formed and usually a few dominant males will sire pups to large numbers of females, females reaching maturity between 3-5 years old. Births typically occur in spring and summer months, and pups will nurse with their mother for 1-3 years. They will not enter the water right away, but are still able to swim when born. 

Steller Sea lions, among with other pinnipeds, depend on land and water both for survival. When pinnipeds “haul out” on shorelines or rocky outcroppings, they will rest, breed, give birth, thermoregulate (warm up) and moult when needed. This also provides some refuge from predators that prey on these animals themselves, such as Bigg’s Killer Whales. 

If you are feeling like a Steller expert, check out some trivia below! 

  1. Sea Lion adults may eat up to 6% of their body weight a day. (ANS: TRUE). 
  2. Sea Lions swim and steer mostly with their large fore-flippers, as opposed to selas who use body undulations. (ANS: TRUE). 
  3. Steller Sea Lions are also known as California Sea Lions. (ANS: FALSE. These are two species both frequently seen along the West Coast). 


Where does the Steller Sea Lion get its name from?

Georg Willhelm Steller, who was a scientist, zoologist, physician and botanist in the 18th century. 

Authored by: Alexa D./ Five Star Whale Watching

Check out some of our References to learn more!

  1. “Steller Sea Lion Biology.” Marine Mammal Research Unit, MMRU. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. http://mmru.ubc.ca/biology/steller-sea-lion-fast-facts/
  2. “Steller Sea Lion.” NOAA Fisheries. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. U.S. Department of Commerce. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/steller-sea-lion


Sunday, August 09, 2020

Wildlife of the Week!

 ©Five Star Whale Watching/ Andrew Lees. Pacific White-Sided dolphins leap through the waters of the Salish Sea; this dolphin species is extremely social and acrobatic.

Welcome to another “Wildlife of the Week”. Since our series has begun, what has been your favourite feature? Our feature today involves a Salish Sea species that is certainly more elusive to waters around southern Vancouver Island, but when seen, the sightings sure are amazing! Take a look at our photo; how many dolphins can you count just in this photo? 

The Pacific White-Sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) is a cetacean that is sure to charm and excite any audience with their fast and graceful swimming, acrobatics and occasional “superpods”! Both a predator and prey (the latter to Bigg’s Killer Whales), this dolphin must meet several demands in order to survive in the Salish Sea.

What is a species you would like to see featured on our next “Wildlife of the Week”? Comment below!

The Pacific White-Sided dolphin is both an active and agile cetacean, capable of swimming at high speeds. They are often uniquely known for their frequent “bow-riding” behaviour around ships. They are lively acrobats that may be witnessed leaping and porpoising above the surface. The species is not very large compared to some of its other cetacean relatives; measuring 5.5-8 feet long (just over 1- 2 metres) and weighing approximately 300-400 pounds maximum (136-181 kg). 

Perhaps their most identifiable feature is their coloration pattern which displays a black ring around the eyes, black lips, a bright white belly and bands of cream and grey atop a dark black body. Their dorsal fin is majorly cream colored with a frontal outline of black. Based on the similar colors to that of a Killer Whale, Dall’s porpoise or Common Dolphin, some may mistake this dolphin for another species. 

The melon area is round and the Pacific White-Sided dolphin has a blunt, short beak. The dorsal fin is broad, curved and short which is characteristic of many dolphins. 

This extremely social species can be found usually in mid-latitude waters of the North Pacific, i.e. they are not observed in polar or tropic regions. They are a coastal and pelagic cetacean (less frequently seen very close to shore) with a wide range extending from Alaska down to the tip of Baja California, Mexico. They also live in waters around Asia, namely the Kuril Islands down to waters in Japan (Sea of Okhotsk, Sea of Japan) and waters south of Japan (Yellow and East China Seas). 

This species of dolphin feeds on often small, oily and slippery prey; schooling fish such as sardines, hake and anchovies. They will though, prey on invertebrates such as squid. To aid the dolphin with their food, their teeth have evolved to be small and conical to catch and grasp. The animal can dive for its prey for up to six minutes at a time, working together as a cohesive unit to round up prey. 

Pacific White-Sided dolphins are not very large at birth, a modest length of only 3-4 feet long. Like most cetaceans, calves rely on their mothers for an extended period of time after birth, and Pacific White-Sided dolphins will nurse for a year and a half! Mothers will typically have a calf every three years; reaching maturity at 8-11 years (males at 10), with both females and males living to about 40 years. 

As mentioned, these animals are highly active out of the water- undertaking feats such as somersaulting, leaping or spinning. They are rarely seen alone, and their group numbers can range from ten(s) to thousands. They are a sought out prey item for Bigg’s (transient) Killer Whales, but are certainly a challenging prey item to subdue even for this equipped predator- due to their speed, agility and intelligence. 

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins are at prominent risk for by-catch in fisheries and entanglement in fishing gear; reporting any entangled marine life to marine rescue authorities is an important behaviour in assisting these cetaceans and others. 

If you are feeling confidence about your Pacific White-Sided dolphin knowledge, try out some further trivia below! 

  1. How much food (in weight) does an average adult Pacific White-Sided dolphin eat? (ANS: 20 pounds). 
  2. True or False? Female dolphins may be pregnant for about a year before their calf is born. (ANS: True. Gestation lasts 9-12 months). 
  3. What is the nickname that this dolphin has earned based on its Latin scientific name? (ANS: “Lags”). 


In what method does the Pacific White-Sided dolphin eat their food (Hint: which way is the fish swallowed)? And why?

Fish are always swallowed whole, head-first, to prevent the spines from catching the dolphin’s throat. 

To learn more about this special animal, read up on our References to learn more!

  1. “Pacific White-Sided Dolphin.” American Cetacean Society. https://www.acsonline.org/pacific-white-sided-dolphin

        2. “Pacific White-Sided Dolphin.” NOAA Fisheries. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. U.S. Department of Commerce.. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/pacific-white-sided-dolphin

Join Victoria's first certified Whale Watching Operator this summer!


Great article by the Center for Whale Research


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Wildlife of the Week!

©Five Star Whale Watching/ Andrew Lees. A Dall’s porpoise is seen racing through the waves of the Salish Sea; it was likely the expulsion of water from the animal’s fast surface swimming produced what is known as a “rooster tail”.

How is everyone’s long weekend? It seems to us like the weekend is already flying by as fast at this Dall’s porpoise! The Dall’s porpoise may often be confused with the Killer Whale, but it is in fact very different than its larger dolphin relative. Baleen whales and toothed whales (includes dolphins and porpoises) have common similarities, but many differences as well. What are some physiological and behavioural differences between a dolphin and a porpoise? Share your comments below.

The Dall’s porpoise is small in cetacean terms, measuring only between 6-7.5 feet (1.8-2.3m) long. It is a truly unique species of porpoise with a certain level of charisma we have all come to know. The species is an agile, playful and fast-moving cetacean capable of reaching speeds up to 55km/ hour (34m/hour or 30 knots). They typically weigh only a few hundred pounds at most (up to 250 pounds, 123 kg). 

The Dall’s porpoise is muscular and they are a relatively thick-bodied porpoise with a rotund shape and blunt face. As compared to dolphins, porpoises typically have a less pointed beak and melon area. 

The most obvious characteristic of the Dall’s porpoise is perhaps their Killer-Whale reminiscent black and white patterning. The dorsal fin and flukes of the Dall’s are white-tipped, and they have a forward facing oval white patch on their belly and up each side. A noticeable feature is a small hump located between their dorsal fin and tail region. 

Dall’s porpoise may be coastal, pelagic, nearshore or offshore distributed and are most often found in several temperate and northern regions. On the West Coast, they range from Baja California, Mexico to Alaska. They are also found from the Bering Sea to the coast of Japan. 

The Dall’s porpoise is believed to primarily feed in the evening, as their prey migrates to the upper levels of the ocean. They sustain themselves on sardines, herring, hake, lanternfish and squid and even crustaceans. This prey is slippery, but dental adaptations help the animal to grasp its food. Their teeth are small, sharp and conical with ridges between them; this tooth shape is often characteristics of porpoises. 

Dall’s porpoise may live between ages 15-20 (normally), reaching sexual maturity at about 3.5- 8 years; the calf is usually in gestation for a little under a year to a year and is nursed for under a year. 

In the Salish Sea, Dall’s porpoise must be on the watch for predators such as Bigg’s (transient) Killer Whales that will seek to hunt them for prey. Dall’s porpoise may form short relations with dolphins and other whales. They are frequently seen to seek out the large waves created by a ship, and “bow-ride”. The explosion of water from their swimming movements and body create a unique “rooster tail” in their wake. 

Interestingly enough, you may one day spot a Harbour/ Dall’s porpoise hybrid. It would certainly be more challenging to identify that porpoise for a beginner! 

If you’re feeling confident about your porpoise know-how, try out some trivia below!

  1. How many teeth may be found in a Dall’s porpoise’s mouth? (ANS: 38-56). 
  2. True or False? Dall’s porpoise are only ever found alone. (ANS: FALSE. Dall’s porpoise may be observed in groups of 2 to several thousand). 
  3. True or False? Dall’s porpoise may dive to depths of over 1,600 feet. (ANS: TRUE. They can reach diving depths of 1,640 feet).


The Dall’s porpoise, like other toothed cetaceans, may use variable underwater vocalizations to locate prey and navigate their surroundings. This process is called ______. 


Author: Alexa Desautels/ Five Star Whale Watching.

August 2nd, 2020.

If you want to learn even more about this special species, visit our References to learn more!

1.”Dall’s porpoise.” American Cetacean Society. https://www.acsonline.org/dalls-porpoise

2. “Dall’s porpoise.” NOAA Fisheries. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. U.S. Department of Commerce. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/dalls-porpoise

Whale reporter recognition program!

Another proud First for Five Star Whale Watching:

Dear Five Star Whale Watching,

The BCCSN is pleased to inform you that you have achieved Top Reporter Status as part of our Whale Reporter Recognition Program for 2019. Congratulations!

Cetacean sightings reported to the BCCSN are used to inform coastwide research projects and support direct conservation measures such as the establishment of marine protected areas. They also help to inform targeted species conservation and guide outreach and threat mitigation efforts. Finally, they inform the WhaleReport Alert System (WRAS), an app-based system that helps to create safer waters for local-area cetaceans. The WRAS alerts Captains and Pilots of large commercial vessels about whales in their vicinity to reduce the risk of vessel strike and disturbance.

In your category of Ecotourism, your team stood out for having been consistent and diligent in your commitment to reporting cetacean sightings to the BCCSN. We recognize that reporting sightings takes time and effort; achieving Top Reporter status is a testament to your commitment to cetacean conservation. The BCCSN and our local whales thank you!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Wildlife of the Week - Humpback Whales

©Five Star Whale Watching/Andrew Lees. A magnificent Humpback Whale breaches high out of the surface of the Salish Sea; these animals may weight between 30-40 tons.

Today we have a very exciting feature for our Wildlife of the Week; we have been eager to highlight this major species! Some of you may be able to discern the species from the photo already. This animal has become a more frequent visitor to the Salish Sea in the past few decades, and its population is on a steady recovery. Look at that breach! Have you ever seen a whale breach before?

Weighing between 30-40 tons, the Humpback Whale is a magnificent leviathan of the Salish Sea, cherished by many. Though all species are important to the ecosystem and food web dynamics, the Humpback admittedly has a special place in our hearts at Five Star! What do you know about Humpback Whales? Share in the comments below!

The Humpback is a large Baleen whale, belonging to the Rorqual family.  This massive creature measures as an astonishing length of 16-18m, or 40-60 feet. The Humpback is one of the largest whales in the world! 

The Humpback Whale has a small, triangular dorsal fin roughly ⅔ the way down its back, large pectoral flippers (about ⅓ of body length) as well as tubercles and barnacles that stud the rostrum of the animal. The Humpback Whale is typically a dark grey or black colour with a white belly and white sides (extent on sides often depends on population). 

Humpback Whales are found in every ocean of the world and are seasonal migrators. They typically spend spring, summer (and even fall/ early winter) months in northern regions (temperate or polar) to feed. The species will migrate to tropical, warm and shallow areas to breed and calve, nursing their young until they are strong enough for the long journey. 

Some individuals will even migrate over 8,000km (5,000 miles) between their grounds. Several distinct populations of Humpbacks have been distinguished; the Mexican, Central America, Hawaii and the Western North Pacific populations are officially recognized in the North Pacific, whereas several others exist in the North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere. 

Humpback Whales feed on a variety of small prey species. As Baleen whales, they do not have teeth and utilize baleen plates attached to their jaw; baleen is a hair-like, keratin composed substance capable of acting like a massive sieve, to separate prey from a mouthful of seawater. The seawater is expelled from the baleen, trapping the small creatures inside. These include schooling fishes such as Pacific herring, Pacific sardines, Sandlance, Eulachon and crustaceans, like krill. 

The Humpback Whale has a large mouth and throat, the latter equipped with “ventral pleats” to help expansion when gulping huge volumes of seawater. 

The Humpback Whale nearly went extinct in the height of commercial whaling in the 1900’s, but the population has rebounded extremely well. 

We have witnessed several mothers bringing their calves into the Salish Sea to feed. Typically, a mother will have a calf every 2-4 years, each calf capable of measuring 10-15 feet at birth.

Who thinks they might be able to answer some Humpback Whale trivia? Try it out if you’re feeling knowledgeable about this creature! 

  1. True or False? Humpback calves nurse for up to 3 years. (ANS: FALSE. Calves nurse for roughly 1 year). 
  2. What is approximately the weight of a newborn Humpback Whale? (ANS: Up to a ton). 
  3. Is it true that the Latin name for the Humpback Whale is derived from the shape of its tail? (ANS: No. The scientific Latin name refers to the large pectoral flippers of the Humpback Whale, and roughly translates to “big-winged whale”). 

BONUS CHALLENGE: Humpback Whales are known for their beautiful, complicated and haunting ____. When huge numbers of people first heard these publicized on an album in the 1970’s known as ______, it drew attention and awareness to the creatures, promoting waves of conservation initiatives. 


Album: Songs of the Humpback Whale produced by Dr . Roger Payne. 

These songs are believed to be used for communication and mating purposes. 

To learn more, check out some of our References below!

“Humpback Whale.” 2018. American Cetacean Society. https://www.acsonline.org/humpback-whale

“Humpback whale.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/h/humpback-whale/

“Humpback Whale.” National Marine MammaL Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Centre (NOAA Fisheries). https://www.afsc.noaa.gov/nmml/species/species_humpback.php

“Humpback Whale.” NOAA Fisheries. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. U.S. Department of Commerce. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/humpback-whale#:~:text=%20At%20least%20four%20humpback%20whale%20populations%20occur,areas%20of%20Okinawa%2C%20Japan%2C%20and%20the…%20More%20

O’Dell, Cary. 2010. “Songs of the Humpback Whale.” The National Registry. https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/documents/humpback%20whales.pdf