SPONSORED — People love the excitement of seeing a 40-ton humpback whale leap out of the water and crash back into the surf. There’s something incredible about hearing, seeing, and feeling the spray from a whale’s blowhole as it emerges from the ocean. In short, it’s magical to witness such powerful mammals in their natural habitats, from California to the Puget Sound.
In fact, Seattle is in the midst of a humpback comeback where each spring, humpback whales migrate through Puget Sound waters traveling from Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America to the cooler waters of Alaska. Once hunted in local waters by commercial whalers, humpbacks continue to resurface in astonishing numbers near Seattle.
“In case you didn’t know, humpback whales are making a mighty comeback in the Salish Sea,” Puget Sound Express says. “We are seeing more humpback whales now than we ever have before in the whale watching field, and we are extremely excited about it!”
Tourists and locals alike can witness these majestic creatures taking an inside passage through local waterways as they migrate north each spring, and back south each fall. But once in the Salish Sea, humpbacks often extend their stay before rejoining the migration.
A complicated history with humans
Although whale hunting existed for thousands of years, it became a major threat to the whale population after the industrial revolution. After the modernization of whaling techniques and the advancement of deep-sea fishing, whales didn’t stand a chance against their human predators.
The competition and drive within the whaling industry tipped the scales toward endangering the species, as commercial whaling decimated humpbacks in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
People began to care about the welfare of these majestic creatures, and they were one of the first species protected under the Endangered Species Conservation Act in 1970. After the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other protections followed.
Ever since, many countries and organizations have worked toward a healthy humpback population.
A conservation success story
The resurgent humpbacks are giving whale watchers, environmentalists, researchers and marine scientists alike reason to rejoice. Increased sightings and numbers give those who are watching an up-close look at an extraordinary conservation success story.
Researchers believe there are more than 21,000 humpbacks in the eastern North Pacific, up from about 1,600 when whale hunting was banned in 1966. Worldwide, the numbers of humpback whales is up to as many as 85,000, according to theEndangered Species Coalition.
Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington, estimates that about 1,600 humpback whales feed off the west coast of North America, including as many as 500 off the coast of Washington and British Columbia.
The conservation of humpbacks is an ongoing effort. To learn more and to see these acrobatic leviathans in the wild just outside of Seattle, you can book a tour with a responsible whale watching company, such as Puget Sound Express, which contributes to education and conservation efforts to keep humpbacks safe and flourishing in the Puget Sound.