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Fish Tales Blog

Whale research report from Langara Island

Posted on: Jun 30th, 2011
Author: 
John Ford, Pacific Biological Station

Our recent whale survey at Langara Island included sightings of the humpback and killer whales that are so common to Langara's waters, but the highlight was an unprecedented numbers of fin whales.  

This baleen whale is second only to the blue whale as the biggest animal on the planet, and are typically 15-20 feet longer than the humpback whale. They are also probably the fastest of all the whales, earning the nickname "greyhounds of the sea".

We've seen fin whales in the Langara area in the past but never so many. We won't know how many individuals we observed until we've analyzed our photos, but we are guessing there were at least 50 in the area.

Although most of these whales were a few miles offshore, quite a few were close in towards Andrews Point and off the Lighthouse, providing many Langara guests with the rare opportunity to witness these giant whales.

Fin whales at Langara Island

We are not sure why there are so many fin whales around Langara this year, but it is likely due to abundant krill for good feeding. Fin whales were severely depleted by commercial whaling off the BC coast and are still listed as Threatened in Canada, but this is a good sign that they may be making a comeback.

John Ford and Graeme Ellis, two lead marine mammal researchers at the Pacific Biological Station, have been visiting Langara Island every June and September since 1990 to study BC's cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).

Their ongoing research here has confirmed that Langara Island is one of the consistently best ‘hot spots’ for observing and studying whales on the BC coast.

The focus of their studies has been killer whales and humpback whales, but over the years they’ve observed numerous other species, from the commonly seen Pacific white-sided dolphin, Dall’s porpoise and harbour porpoise, to the enormous fin whale and rare sei whale. A sighting near Langara Island in 2008 was the first sei whale seen in BC waters since whaling ended here in the late 1960s.

For John and Graeme, their 20+ years of research at Langara has contributed greatly to what is known of BC’s cetaceans and their habitat.

What do you think?

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