West Coast whale watching association reporting unprecedented sightings near Victoria and Port Angeles, Wash.
Once thought to be near-extinct along the B.C. coast, humpback whales now appear to be thriving in the Salish Sea. According to the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA), whale numbers in the area are "unprecedented", especially around Vancouver Island’s southern tip.
Although whales typically travel in groups of two or three in the Salish sea, PWWA executive director Michael Harris said 20 are now being observed, similar to conditions only found in Alaska and Hawaii. "They were listed under the Endangered Species Act for many years, and they were down to about 1,600," Harris said.
Humpbacks were virtually gone from the area by 1966, the year commercial whaling was banned. It is part of an upward trend that's been taking place for three or four years. "Now they have bounced back to about 21,000 in this north Pacific population that we see. That's a lot of whales."
It's difficult to say if the population increase will endure but for now, experts are calling the "humpback comeback" a success. According to Harris, the Pacific Coast saw a similar bounceback with grey whales, to the point that some experts believed there are too many of them given the amount of available food. "They're ... exploding out of the air and acting like they're comfortable and they belong here," Harris said.