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Published on April 24, 2024
Salish Sea Celebrates Arrival of First Humpback Calf of 2024 Season Near San Juan IslandSource: Pacific Whale Watch Association

The Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) was abuzz with excitement as the first humpback calf of the 2024 whale watching season made a splash in the Salish Sea on April 18. The young whale is believed to be three to four months old and is the offspring of humpback whale BCX1460, affectionately known by enthusiasts as Black Pearl. This mother-and-calf duo has been the subject of fascination, spotted several times frolicking in the waters near San Juan Island since their initial sighting. "It's always fun to see which mom and calf will make it back first," Erin Gless, PWWA's Executive Director, shared in a statement obtained by KING5.

Humpback calves are typically born in warmer waters near destinations like Hawai'i, Mexico, and Central America, after which they embark on a thousands-of-kilometers journey with their mothers to the cooler, food-rich environments of the Pacific Northwest. PWWA explains that Black Pearl is a seasoned traveler, known for her migration to the Hawaiian Islands during winter⁠—where she's been seen off the coast of Maui multiple times. "She has given birth to at least three previous calves including the most recent, a male born in 2022 nicknamed 'Kraken,'" the PWWA said today, as reported by CityNews Vancouver.

But Black Pearl and her new, unnamed calf are not the only marine marvels gracing the Salish Sea of late. The area has become a bustling hub for humpback sightings, as nearly 400 of these majestic creatures were documented this year alone, with 34 mothers proudly introducing their first-year calves to the Pacific Northwest's chilly waters.

The resurgence of these magnificent animals is a testament to the resilience of nature, particularly when you consider the grim history of their near-extinction. After industrialized whaling decimated their population, removing them from the Salish Sea by the early 1900s, it was reported that only about 1,000 humpbacks remained following the closure of B.C.’s last whaling station in 1967. However, thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers have been on the rise, marked by what's being called a "humpback comeback," according to enthusiasts who spoke to WL Tribune. The return of Black Pearl, and the arrival of her calf, is yet another reminder of the Salish Sea’s continued transformation into a sanctuary where these once nearly-lost giants can thrive once more.