Humpback whales in a region of British Columbia doubled in number between 2004 and 2011, a study finds. The Gil Island waters, a labyrinth of fjords, has been proposed as critical habitat for the creatures and intersects shipping routes to ports slated for expansion.
Prior to a whaling ban in 1966, the North Pacific humpback population fell from an estimated 15,000 individuals to 1,400; a study published in 2011 suggests numbers have rebounded to 20,000.
Researchers surveyed the Gil Island whales over eight summers, using small boats to navigate the fjords and taking photographs of humpbacks.
The team reports September 11 in PLOS ONE that the number of humpback whales visiting the area increased from 68 to 137 individuals. The researchers argue that the boost in whale visits is reason to preserve the area.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on September 20, 2013, to correct an error regarding the location of ports in British Columbia.