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Humpback Rebound

By March 17, 2014No Comments

whaleMy brother-in-law and his wife had one big hope for their trip to Sitka – to see a whale. They live inland in Virginia. On day one we motored out on a flat calm ocean headed for salmon fishing 2 miles offshore. As we approached the grounds I spotted something odd looking on the horizon – dots of white water on the surface, puffs of steam in the air. These are obvious indicators of whales, but what threw me was the abundance. Dozens of blows and splashes. We proceeded toward this lively horizon and were treated to the sight of roughly 40 humpbacks. This group turned out to be the vanguard of a massive inshore movement of humpbacks. For a month we fished amidst feeding humpbacks for hours on end. We saw countless breeches, tail slaps, pectoral slaps, bubble curtains, and rolls – all driven by a massive krill bloom.

Those of us born during the dark days of commercial whale harvests remember a time when seeing a whale was an exceptional treat. Now, not seeing whales on a fishing trip in Southeast Alaska is the exception. The North Pacific humpback population was estimated at 1,000 in 1967 and 21,800 in 2014. That’s over 5000 more than swam the North Pacific a century ago. The State of Alaska has requested delisting humpbacks from the Endangered Species Act.

So, if you have the urge to see whales, watch them feed, or witness a breech – these are the good old days.

How much does a 40 ton warm blooded animal swimming in cold water eat? We’ll look into that in a future blog.

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