Getting boaters ready for a new kind of whale?

Getting boaters ready for a new kind of whale?
Humpback whales are making a comeback off British Columbia's west coast. According to the Marine Education and Research Society - MERS - humpback whale numbers have increased by 30% in the last five years.

Where once they were a rarity, whale-watching companies on northern Vancouver Island now see humpbacks frequently. Tourists usually make the trip up island to see orcas but humpbacks steal the show with leaps, breeches and feeding lunges.

Unfortunately, the humpbacks predilection for erratic moves also puts them at risk of boat collision. "Our research - and we have done this in collaboration with DFO - is shocking. Scarring reveals that one in two humpbacks have been entangled at some point in their lives. And that is just the ones who have survived entanglement," exclaims Jackie Hildering, MERS humpback researcher.

As more humpbacks use west-coast waters it will be up to boaters to reduce collisions. "Humpbacks can be astoundingly oblivious of boats let alone of fishing gear. They do not have biosonar in the way that toothed whales like orca do," explains Hildering. "Humpbacks usually dive longer, can surface incredibly unpredictably and can be very acrobatic. They are not usually travelling in one direction like the orca because they are often feeding in one area and travelling randomly."

MERS is educating boaters on new safety procedures and increasing awareness that humpbacks may surface in front of their boat with no warning. "We have a rare second chance with humpback whales coming back to the coast," declares Hildering. With scientists and conservation groups like MERS spreading the safety word, hopefully our do-over succeeds.

Learn more about MERS work with whales and boaters at http://www.mersociety.org

Originally posted in ​Carol Patterson's Reinventure®, a monthly ezine that Inspires Everyday Explorers through wildlife tales and travel tips. For more details visit http://www.carolpatterson.ca


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