Humpback whale populations are bouncing back in a big way in British Columbia.
They’re back! Whales that is. Specifically, humpback whales, so called because they have a very slight hump where the dorsal fin is located. Most baleen whales have the same hump, so we’re not sure why the humpback got this distinctive name and not any other whales.
But anyway, the humpback whale, like every other whale, had been in steep decline during the 19th, 20th, and most of the 21st century. They were hunted heavily to the point where there were believed to be as little as 700 individuals in the North Atlantic in the 1980s.
Commercial whaling was banned in 1966 (unless you’re Japan, in which case you can continue murdering whales for “research purposes), however, whale populations remain stressed out due to human activity such as water pollution and overfishing.
Unless you’re a humpback whale in sunny British Columbia, Canada. There, humpback whale populations around northeastern Vancouver have bounced back from as few as 7 individuals in 2003 to 86 whales in 2018.
"We are looking definitely at a huge increase," said Jackie Hildering, a researcher at the Marine Education And Research Society. She spoke to the CBC about the Society’s efforts to catalog the humpback whales around British Columbia, something that hadn’t been performed in well over a decade.
The last full census of humpback whale populations in around Vancouver Island had last been performed back in 2006. Then, whale populations were only in the mid-30s or so, but humpbacks continued to come back to Vancouver year after year, with researchers keeping track by identifying individuals in photographs.
Humpback whales often have unique markings on the underside of their tails and on dorsal fins that help Society researchers tell who they are. Unfortunately, some of those markings are scars left when whales come into contact with humans, usually in the form of fishing nets or boats.
Approximately 50% of all humpbacks around BC have some sort of scarring as a result if entanglements with humans and that number will only increase as the whale population increases as well.
You can read the full report over on the MERS website here.