The return of humpback whales to the Salish Sea has been a joy to watch.
In just a few decades, they’ve done a complete turnaround.
“Thirty years ago, we didn’t have humpbacks in the Salish Sea,” Erin Gless of the Pacific Whale Watch Association told Times Colonist.
But that was before “Big Mama” took matters into her own hands.
She was first spotted near Race Rocks in 1997. She was among the first to realize what an abundant feeding ground our waters are.
Since then, she has returned yearly and brought seven calves to the Salish Sea.
Big Mama recently returned from Hawaii, and her arrival marks the unofficial start of humpback season, signalling the return of these majestic creatures to local waters.
She now has six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, one of whom was born this year to fan favourite Pop Tart.
Pop Tart is one of Big Mamas’ daughters, who earned her nickname because of her habit of breaching entirely out of the water, reminiscent of a famous breakfast pastry popping out of a toaster.
The name has stuck, making Poptart one of the most recognizable humpback whales in the region.
Poptart’s arrival with her calf is extra special, for researchers have got to see her come full circle.
“Now Poptart has brought her first calf back, and that’s pretty special because a lot of us remember when Poptart was born,” said Gless.
Since Big Mama’s first appearance, over 500 different humpback whales have been seen in the Salish Sea
Humpback whales exhibit strong “site fidelity.” Once they go somewhere, they tell others about it, and it gets included in their migratory paths, and they will continuously come back to the same spot as they migrate.
So what Big Mama started is only expected to continue in the coming years.
Other new moms so far this spring are Graze (BCY0523) and Strike (BCX1675)
More babies are anticipated in the coming weeks, adding to the crew swimming out in Salish Waters.