Naturalists spot first Salish Sea humpback whale calf of the year

SALISH SEA, Wash. — Just in time for Mother’s Day, the first humpback whale calf of the 2022 season was spotted in the Salish Sea in Boundary Pass near the U.S./Canadian border Monday.

The calf belongs to a famous Salish Sea humpback mother known as “Big Mama,” according to the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

“Big Mama was one of the first humpback whales to repopulate the Salish Sea after the whaling era and has been feeding here regularly since 1997. We always look forward to her return, but even more so when she brings a calf with her,” said PWWA’s executive director, Erin Gless.

Big Mama and her calf crossed the Pacific to the Salish Sea from breeding grounds in Hawaii. Threats on the 3,000-mile journey include fishing gear, commercial fishing boats and killer whales, a news release from PWWA said.

The calf is at least Big Mama’s seventh and was seen breaching, cartwheeling and splashing.

More humpbacks will return to the Salish Sea from their breeding grounds in Hawaii, Mexico and Central America in the coming weeks.

Humpback whales typically remain in the Salish Sea region during the spring, summer and fall while they feed on krill and small fish. Last year, a record 21 humpback whale calves were spotted throughout the Salish Sea.