BC Spring Migration: Humpback Whale and New Calf Returns to Salish Sea

Humpback whales, accompanied by their newborn calves, are journeying back to the Salish Sea from their breeding grounds in the warm waters of Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America. Photo credit: Clint William, Eagle Wing Tours via Pacific Whale Watch Association

The Salish Sea is officially home to a new humpback calf as the first humpbacks migrate back here from their warm-water birthing grounds. Every Spring, BC residents can expect to see these gentle giants and their new calves as they seek out cooler temperatures.

The humpback mother, named “Black Pearl,” was spotted in Haro Strait with her three-month-old calf. They are the first pair to be observed returning to the area.

Black Pearl, also known as BCX1460, is known for spending summers near north Vancouver Island. In the winter, she moves to the Hawaiian Islands. She has had at least three previous calves, but the latest calf’s sex is still unknown. Many more will be joining her and her new baby as more humpbacks make the journey of thousands of kilometers back to these feeding grounds.

The humpback whale Big Mama is recognized for the role she has played in repopulating the Salish Sea. She now has at least six grandcalves and two great-grandcalves. Photo credit: Karac Lindsay Photography for Eagle Wing Tours

Another notable humpback, known as “Big Mama” or BCY0324, has also been sighted recently. Renowned for her reproductive success, Big Mama has birthed seven calves since 2003 and has been a significant figure in the repopulation of the Salish Sea following historical declines due to commercial whaling. First spotted in 1997, Big Mama returns annually and has witnessed her lineage grow.

These sightings, tracked and celebrated by the Pacific Whale Watch Association, highlight the ongoing recovery and dynamic life cycles of humpback whales in the Salish Sea. Since 1997, there are now over 500 humpbacks documented in the region each summer and fall, though they are still classified as being of “Special Concern” by COSEWIC. They continue to face threats from increased vessel traffic along their migratory routes as a result of new LNG projects along the coast. Some experts have estimated as much as a 30-fold increase in whale deaths as a result of collision with vessels.

To learn more about the humpbacks returning to BC, check out this article.