Tuesday, June 21, 2016

6-21-16 A Humpback Question

...I'll get to the humpback question in a minute...but first...

Friday, June 18th
...some L Pod whales came in today but they only stayed a very short while...

...the stage was already set: a couple clues - marine birds were scarce, eagles were picking birds off the surface of the water and not fish, J Pod was not here and had not been here  for several days...

...I didn't have much hope the whales would stay; there just didn't seem to be enough food in here... 

They came in fast (another clue - nothing to eat along the way) and were spread out...when they got close to San Juan Island they spread out even more.
There was some foraging - zooming this way and that.  Maybe they were getting something to eat.

What they did next was the biggest clue.  The up island leaders didn't make it past Andrews Bay (north of Lime Kiln) before turning and coming back down.  They all went down island and kept on going until some were off Lopez Island when we left them on Peregrine in the early evening.  Others were in the same general vicinity but all were still spread far and wide.

The next morning they were already far west in the Strait of Juan de Fuca heading back out to sea

...now the humpback question:
...for a couple years now I have been asking, "What impact might the humpback whales be having on this already fragile ecosystem?"
...sure it's great to see them, but their numbers have increased every year...

...humpbacks eat up to 1 and 1/2 tons of fish a day.
...they are not picky about which fish they eat.
...they want large quantities they can take at a time.

...I have heard there is a coalition of people who are asking the question, Why aren't the salmon fry making it out to the open ocean?  (or something like that)     

...100 years ago there were humpback whales, orcas, and salmon in abundance in these waters, I am told...back then there was a balance.
...that balance has long been gone.

...the assumption is that the humpbacks are eating krill, herring, and small fish...no one has mentioned the possibility that they are eating young salmon...but I just learned, thanks to Randall, whom I just met, about what some humpback whales are doing up in Alaska.
I looked it up...you might find these two articles very interesting.

"Hungry Whales Compromise Salmon Hatchery"

another article: 

with a great video: an easy meal for humpback whales 

...humpbacks are great to watch, but now with the increase last year in the numbers of humpbacks showing up in these inland waters and this year with large numbers already showing up, even earlier than in the past, is a sign they are here for food and not just passing through...
...could this be part of the reason the young 
 salmon are not making it to the ocean?
...and therefore there are fewer to return?

...another concerning piece is if humpbacks are eating salmon fry from the Alaskan hatcheries how great of a decline is there in the ocean for the Northern Residents as well as the Southern Residents?
...food for thought... 

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