Saturday, August 2, 2008

Close encounters of the Giant Kind!

The weather here in St. Andrews has been hard to predict lately! Amazing flat calm conditions with crystal clear skies and spectacular sightings lead way to cool and damp weather but still magnificent whale and wildlife sightings!! Island Quest has had up close and personal viewings with the amazing finback on every departure.. including a mother and calf that has returned to the Bay of Fundy.

For Fin whales mating occurs in temperate, low-latitude seas during the winter, and the gestation period is eleven months to one year. A newborn weans from its mother at 6 or 7 months of age when it is 11 or 12 meters (36 to 39 ft) in length, and the calf follows the mother to the winter feeding ground. Females reproduce every 2 to 3 years, with as many as 6 fetuses being reported, but single births are far more common. Females reach sexual maturity at between 3 and 12 years of age.

The photo to the left just shows how absolutely enormous a fin whale can be! Breathtaking!

The Fin Whale is one of the fastest cetaceans and can sustain speeds of 37 kilometers per hour (23mph or 20kts), and bursts in excess of 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph or 22 kts) have been recorded, earning the Fin Whale the nickname "the greyhound of the deep". Fin Whales are more gregarious than other rorquals, and often live in groups of 6–10 individuals but most commonly in the Bay of Fundy are seen individually or under circumstances when there is a lot of feed (schooling fish/herring) in the area multiple fins can be seen lung feeding or even bubble netting. Both activities absolutely stunning to see.
The fin whale's speed, plus the fact that they prefer the vastness of the open sea, gave them almost complete protection from the early whalers. With modern whaling methods, however, finback whales became easy victims. As blue whales became depleted, the whaling industry turned to the smaller, still abundant fin whales as a replacement. As many as 30,000 fin whales were slaughtered each year from 1935 to 1965. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed them under full protection in 1966 beginning with the North Pacific population. Precise estimates are unavailable today, but it is thought that present populations are about 40,000 in the northern hemisphere and 15,000-20,000 in the southern hemisphere, a small percentage of the original population levels.

I hope you enjoyed this little history lesson on the fin whale as much as I have, I find everything about nature to be enthralling! Check back next time for more sightings and science from your local marine biologist at Island Quest, St. Andrews Best! Take Care!