Rare sight: Large groups of humpback whales seen near Victoria
A whale watching tour operator is reporting an increase in humpback whale sightings near Victoria, after posting a stunning video of the animals just a few kilometres south of the capital city.
Five Star Whale Watching posted a video on Facebook of three humpbacks lunge feeding on July 9.
The amount of activity hasn’t been seen during this time of year in about a century, the company said.
In the post the group said it saw up to eight whales lunge feeding in an area close to its boat and up to 15 other humpbacks. “This type of humpback action has not been seen in our local waters during the summer for about 100 years,” the group added.
Association executive director, Michael Harris, says whales usually travel in groups of two or three, but the latest sightings are unique because they are in groups of up to 20, mirroring conditions he says occur only off Alaska or Hawaii.
Rhonda Reidy, a naturalist and whale watching boat captain, will soon begin a PhD study of what are being called the "comeback humpbacks" of the Salish Sea, stating changes in oceanographic and ecological conditions may be affecting the food chain.
She says humpbacks can feed on krill and small schooling fish, such as sardine, anchovy and herring, but their exact diet isn't known, and she believes more research could determine the return.
The Pacific Whale Watch Association says researchers believe there are now more humpbacks in the eastern North Pacific than in the past – the number hitting 21,000 whales, up from about 1,600 when whale hunting was banned in 1966.
The PWWA consists of 38 whale watching and ecotourism businesses dedicated to research and education. The companies depart from 21 different ports in B.C. and Washington State.
You can watch the extended video here.
With files from the Canadian Press