Spotted in Salish Sea: First humpback mother, calf sighting of 2024

The first humpback mother and its calf sighting of the year happened this month in the Salish Sea. 

 The Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) announced on Wednesday, the calf, likely just three- to four-months old, and its mother, BCX1460 "Black Pearl," were first spotted near San Juan Island on April 18 during a tour. 

"It’s always fun to see which mom and calf will make it back first," said PWWA executive director Erin Gless. "Black Pearl tends to spend her summers near north Vancouver Island. This year we were lucky enough to spot her in the Salish Sea."

According to PWWA, the pair had been spotted several times since their initial sighting.  

Black Pearl and her 2024 calf. (Clint William, Eagle Wing Tours, PWWA)

"For decades after whaling stopped, there were virtually no sightings in inland Washington waters," Gless said, "but that all changed when Big Mama made her first appearance in 1997. She’s been returning to the Salish Sea ever since, and now hundreds of humpback whales visit each year."

PWWA also reported BCY0324, known as "Big Mama," is among others sighted by whale watchers in the past week. 

Humpback calves aren’t born in Washington waters. They give birth near Hawai‘i, Mexico and Central America and then must travel thousands of miles with their babies to cooler feeding grounds, such as the Salish Sea.

PWWA said Black Pearl is known to migrate to the Hawaiian Islands in winter, and has been photographed several times off the coast of Maui. She has given birth to at least three previous calves.


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