Reports of whale sightings are coming in on a daily basis. In fact, both Humpback and Gray whales are being spotted near the mouth of the Ucluelet Harbour and close by in Barkley Sound. They are feeding on small bait fish like pilchards, krill and herring. These bait fish are plentiful in Barkley Sound and are responsible for drawing in predators like salmon (which we appreciate) and whales.
Both Humpback and Gray whales are migratory creatures. Every spring over 20,000 Gray whales migrate from their breeding and calving grounds in Baja, Mexico to the rich feeding grounds in the Bering Sea near Alaska. Fortunately for us, there is a spawn of baitfish that runs through Barkley Sound at this time, attracting many of the whales to stick around Ucluelet for the season.
Humpback migration patterns are much the same. They breed in warmer waters and make tremendous journeys to cooler waters in the spring, summer and fall to feed. Like the Gray whales we have the pleasure of watching, there is a decent population of Humpback whales in and near Barkley Sound. These are the whales that can put on amazing shows, jumping completely out of the water in a full breach and coming down to the surface with a powerful splash!
Gray whales love to show off their tails! When you are on board a Whale Watching adventure cruise with the Canadian Princess Resort, scan the horizon for a sudden blowhole spray. Once you find the whale, pull out your camera and get ready to take some amazing tail shots. Gray whales dive into the water to feed, gathering fish in their mouths and then come back to the surface for air. Each time they dive they bring their tail up and out of the water. Sometimes it seems like they are holding it there in position, posing for the photograph!
While some of these whales are just passing through our region, there are many that come back to Barkley Sound and the waters near Ucluelet year after year. We call these resident whales. They still migrate to Mexico to breed and nurse their young, but instead of going all the way to Alaska and beyond, they have made a summer home in our local waters. We can identify these individual whales through a photo-ID process. Pictures are taken of the whale’s bodies and tails, and then matched with other photos identifying key features like scarring, tail shape, dorsal features, and other markings. There are a few individual whales we are able to spot every summer!
Seeing these enormous marine mammals thriving in their natural habitat is a wonderful experience. Catch a Humpback whale breach, or a Gray whale wave its tail, and you will take home memories that will last a lifetime. They are so magnificent you can’t help but be moved by experiencing their grandeur.
We hope to come on a Whale Watching trip with us on your next visit to Ucluelet.