The Tale of the Humpback Whale
The population of humpback whales has seen an amazing recovery of recent. There are now estimated to be upwards of 21,000 humpbacks in the northeast Pacific Ocean alone. In September of 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took nine of 14 populations of humpback whale off the list of protected species.
Recent Strange Behaviour
But all may not be well with the Humpback Whale population. According to Popular Science report in March 2017, Humpback whales are now congregating in groups of 20 to 200 off the coast of South Africa. This is unusual as Humpback whales are normally pretty solitary (groups of 10 to 20 are typically considered large).
Something is going on here, but so far scientists are still at a loss to fully understand why. One theory is that the whales could be shifting their behaviour in response to changes in the available prey. Only with more time and research will we actually know what is going on.
Below are a few things we do know about humpback whales.
4 Interesting Facts about the Humpback Whale *
- Size – one of the largest whales commonly seen in British Columbia, humpback whales are typically around 15 metres long and 40 tonnes.
- Habitat – Most humpbacks spend summers in cool, temperate waters and winters in warmer, tropical waters. Calves only stay with their mothers for about a year. As such, they only have one chance to learn migration routes from summer feeding grounds to winter breeding areas.
- Diet – Humpback whales primary food source is krill, a miniature version of prawns, and small fish. They are known for their unique hunting technique called bubble net feeding. As a group of whales circle a school of small fish they use a team effort to disorient and corral the fish into a net of bubbles. Once one of the whales has sounded a feeding call the whales simultaneously swim upwards with mouths open to feed on the trapped fish.
- Altruistic tendencies – Humpbacks have been seen rescuing seals, sunfish and other species from attacks by other mammals.
People saving Humpbacks from Fishing Gear
People are both enthralled with encountering a humpback whale as well as concerned about their well being. One of the greatest threats to the species is getting entangled in fishing gear. When detected, humans are quick to respond to a whale in dire straits. Here are a few notable accounts of people freeing Humpback whales from fishing gear:
- 6-hour rescue frees trapped humpback whale near Klemtu, B.C. – 35-foot humpback whale entangled in an anchor line near one of the empty aquaculture sites
- Humpback whale “anchored” by fishing gear rescued off Boston – juvenile humpback whale “anchored” to the sea floor by fishing ropes rescued by the US Coast Guard
- Two humpback whales freed from fishermen’s nets – Crab fisherman Calder Deyerle and his five-year-old son Miles called the California Whale Rescue (CWR) who managed to free the mammals after seven long hours