Humpbacks, endangered for the last 25 years, are returning in record numbers

“2021 has been a banner year for female humpbacks coming into the Salish Sea with new calves.”


For the last 25 years, humpback whales have been on the endangered species list, but recently a record number of calves have been seen off the coast of Washington and British Columbia this year. 

These sightings mark a significant rebound for a species that was endangered just a couple of decades ago. Nobody is sure exactly why there’s been such a humpback baby boom, reports CBC News. PWWA executive director Erin Gless says it might be due to an abundance of food in their feeding grounds off Alaska and B.C.’s north coast, or simply an increase in adult whales since whaling was banned in the 1970s.

“25 years ago, here off of inland B.C. waters, we had zero humpback whales, so this is a new phenomenon in our waters … they’ve made up for lost time. We are seeing lots and lots of whales, which is super exciting,” says Gless. 

“2021 has been a banner year for female humpbacks coming into the Salish Sea with new calves. Calves only travel with mom for a year or so and then they’re on their own. Once they’re familiar with our waters, they will often return year after year to feed,” says Wendi Robinson, naturalist with Puget Sound Express.

According to Good News Network, humpbacks have also bounced back in the South Atlantic. After the population had diminished to only 450 whales, 2019 research showed numbers have has rebounded to 25,000—an estimate now close to pre-whaling numbers.

Back in June, the Biden administration had vowed to protect 116,098 square nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean for the three populations of endangered humpback whales.


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