Discoveries from a decade of humpback whale observation in the Great Bear Sea
With respect to the Gitga'at Nation and their colleagues and partners who for many years have worked with dedication to better understand the world of whales in the Great Bear Sea this latest study shines a bright light on one of Canada's greatest whale sanctuaries. A decade of visual surveys in the Kitimat fjord system on B.C.'s North Coast has revealed that the humpbacks feeding there each summer move in a “wave” pattern. The findings has demonstrated that marine predators can use complex spatial strategies to navigate the ocean, although a clear explanation for these seasonal patterns and unusual movements has yet to be found.
Visual and hydroacoustic surveys and oceanographic sampling were collected and published this week in the marine science journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, in collaboration with researchers from the North Coast Cetacean Society, the Gitga’at First Nation, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Centre.
Few studies has involved such long-term monitoring and the whale wave has thus far gone unnoticed and not been recorded in any other humpback whale populations in similar habitats.
"They are still feeding certainly, but they're also engaged in a lot more social behaviour, a lot more calling, a lot more contact and interaction amongst the whales and, in some cases, even singing,” said Chris Picard to CBC, science director for the Gitga'at First Nation and an author on the study.
The return of humpback whales in the area have allowed the pattern to be observable and the researchers hope the decade of data will provide important information for decision makers.
“We can’t expect these whales to simply pick up and go somewhere else if industrial activities, such as shipping lanes, disrupt continuity of critical habitats like the Douglas Channel fjord system,” said lead author Eric Keen from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the Vancouver Sun.
The studies are also finding that some humpbacks are not leaving on their usual migration to warmer Hawaiian waters in the winter. Understanding this decade-long observation and recorded details are important, especially with the proposed LNG Canada plant in Kitimat still possible in the area, bringing with it increased tanker traffic.
See the full abstract here: http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v567/p211-233/