Humpback whales may be a common site in the waters off of Prince Rupert in the summer time, but did you know they can also be found here in the winter? Last week, one such winter humpback made a splash off of Ridley Island terminals. The whale is known locally as Thumbtack (BCZUKNC2014_02) named after the tack-shaped marking on the left side of the whale’s fluke. The unique shape and markings of the underside of the tail are how researchers distinguish different whales, which also receive an alphanumeric identifier. Thumbtack is a returning visitor and has been observed in this area by North Coast researchers in 2014, 2015, 2017, and now 2019.
The North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative, part of the Ocean Wise Conservation Association, has been cataloguing humpbacks with the help of local observers since 2014. To date, 180 individual whales have been recorded in Chatham Sound and surrounding waters. You can contribute to research on local humpback whales by sending in photos of humpback tail flukes via email (email@example.com) or reporting sightings of whales via the WhaleReport App or online at wildwhales.org.
It is not uncommon to see humpbacks like Thumbtack in heavily trafficked areas near Prince Rupert. Mariners should be on the look out for these animals and give them space when encountered. New marine mammal regulations require vessels to keep a distance of 100m from most whale species and 200m from killer whales. Boaters can watch for whale blows (exhalations), seabird aggregations (indicating prey and potential feeding), or splashes to indicate whale activity and reduce speed or alter course as necessary.
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