For the past 25 years, every morning G. Benoit heads down to Nexen Beach to practice shooting stones with his sling.
But on Friday (June 3), his morning turned out to be a little different.
“I thought I better stop chucking rocks,” he said with a smile.
Out in Howe Sound, across from Shannon Falls, Benoit saw what he guessed was a young humpback whale. It surfaced a couple of times and then with a few flicks of its tail, waved goodbye.
“There were no waves. It was so big, but swam so smoothly,” Benoit said.
Benoit's whale tale was the second of its type last week, Vancouver Aquarium research analyst Chad Nordstrom said. The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network received another report of a humpback on Tuesday (May 28). The whale was spotted by an employee at the Howe Sound Pulp and Paper mill in Port Mellon, behind Gambier Island.
“That's not too far for it to swim down to Squamish,” Nordstrom said.
This is the time of year that humpbacks enter into B.C. waters for summer feeding, he said. The network received its first humpback-related sighting of the year six weeks ago in Haida Gwaii.
Last week's two reports from Howe Sound mark the first of their kind for this area in 2013. It's likely an individual whale, prospecting the sound for food sources, Nordstrom said. If it finds small school fish, krill and other tasty treats, the whale might stick around for a few days before moving on, he noted.
“Last year was the first year that there were more sightings of humpbacks than killer whales,” Nordstrom said.
It's a good sign, he said. The baleen whale species' population is on the increase after being extirpated from many years of whale hunting, Nordstrom said. There were no reports of humpbacks in Howe Sound in 2012, he noted, although the area was a popular playground for the Pacific white-sided dolphins.
Since 2009, there have been 11 reports of humpbacks in the sound, including three each in 2009 and 2011. The reports were fairly close together so it could have been the same animal, Nordstom said. Most of the sightings have occurred around Bowen Island and partway up Gambier Island.
The humpback whale has distinctive long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. They're known for frequent breaching, Nordstrom said, adding the underside of the fins are white. They can be confused with minke whales, he noted.
To aid researchers and scientists with monitoring of cetaceans, aquarium officials ask that people report sightings of marine mammals to the network at 1-866-I-SAW-ONE or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.vanaqua.org.
Humpback whale feeds near Vancouver Island -