The return of humpback whales to our research area has been dramatic. In 2004, 42 individual humpback whales were identified in the Caamano Sound to Douglas Channel region. By the end of our 2016 season this number was 420 individual identified and many of these return year after year and are referred to as seasonal resident humpback whales. We now sight humpbacks on a daily basis during the field season. Thanks to this high abundance we have been able to gain great insight into the social behaviour and habitat use of this robust cetacean.
Historically, humpback whales were commercially hunted from the late 1800s to 1965. During this time period an estimated 28,000 humpback whales were caught in the North Pacific. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) proposed that the population be listed as “Threatened”, based on low observed densities of humpback whales in British Columbia. This threatened status has recently been re-assessed by COSEWIC and humpbacks have been down-listed to a species of “Special Concern” due to the increase in the population. This re-assessment is being challenged by a number of researchers.
The social relationships humpbacks have developed with each other are through direct experience and by choice, and not necessarily due to family bonds. Humpbacks have displayed many aspects of their unique behaviour in our research area. Many of which are essential skills that mothers teach their calves, enabling them to survive independently into the following season.
Many people have shared with us their personal encounters with these gentle giants. Though each story is different, the theme remains the same, a moment in time where you feel completely connected and aware of the intelligence of these whales. This website is an effort to demonstrate the absolute wonder of humpback whales and an opportunity for you, the public, to play a role in the identification and protection of these magnificent creatures. Hopefully, the expansion of public awareness will create an overall global passion and understanding for humpback whales, thus to marvel at the astounding beauty of their size and the complexity of their mysterious song that has evolved over many centuries.
We are very fortunate in our research area as the most common form of foraging is bubble net feeding. During this feeding display they will cooperate in groups of 2 to 15 individuals.
The humpback whale is a migratory species feeding from spring through fall in high-latitude nutrient-rich waters. In early winter they migrate to sub-tropical and tropical waters for calving and breeding.