Humpbacks make a comeback in British Columbia | Science News

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Humpbacks make a comeback in British Columbia

Whale numbers double at a feeding site in Canada

3:28pm, September 11, 2013

COMING BACK  Numbers of humpback whales around Gil Island in British Columbia, Canada, have doubled in recent years.

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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.


E. Ashe et al. Abundance and survival of pacific humpback whales in a proposed critical habitat area. PLOS ONE. Vol. 8, September 11, 2013. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075228. [Go to]

Further Reading

J. Barlow. Humpback whale abundance in the North Pacific estimated by photographic capture-recapture with bias correction from simulation studies. Marine Mammal Science. Vol. 27, February 7, 2011, p. 793-818, DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2010.00444.x. [Go to]

S. Milius. Humpback whale alters song if another one sings along. Science News. Vol. 176, November 7, 2009, p.5. [Go to]

R. Ehrenberg. Mother right whales know best, maybe. Science News. Posted online February 10, 2009. [Go to]

S. Milius. Whale Haunt: Nursing, feeding spot found off south Chile. Science News. Vol. 165, January 3, 2004, p. 3. [Go to]

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