May 16 – Gentle Giants in the Salish Sea

© Five Star Whale Watching/Katie Smith. Image — A humpback whale’s tail came out of the water just as the whale started to go for a deeper dive during our afternoon trip today.

Humpback Whales

We were fortunate to encounter gentle giants on both our trips today! The gentle giants we see in the Salish Sea are humpback whales.

Humpback whales are migratory whales and are known some of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom. These whales spend the winters in the warmer waters off Hawaii and Mexico where they mate and give birth. Following the mating season, they start moving northward to their feeding ground; Salish Sea being an important one. The cold, dark blue water of the Salish Sea are highly productive with strong upwelling currents. This causes the nutrients from the depths to mix up well with the surface layers. When there are sufficient nutrients in the upper layers, it attracts phytoplankton that feed on the nutrients, which then attract zooplankton, which in turn attracts small fish and bigger fish that feed on those small fish.

This nutrient cycle is the sole reason that humpbacks travel all the way to the Salish Sea for feeding in the summer time. During their time here, they feed on Pacific herring, pilchard, and other small schooling fish.

After watching the humpbacks, we also went to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve to show our guests some more of the animals that frequent the Salish Sea. There we saw Northern elephant seals, California and Steller sea lions, Ollie the sea otter, and harbour seals.

To view more photos from today’s trips, click on the following links.

May 16 – Morning with a Gentle Giant

May 16 – Afternoon with a Humpback


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