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  • Writer's pictureNik Valcic

2 Humpback Whales sighted in the bay.

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

The photograph of this sighting was captured by Karla de la Peña :

According to Vallarta Opina, the first whales of this season arrived in the bay this last Tuesday in waters near Los Arcos de Mismaloya. This was reported by the Ecology and Conservation of Whales (ECOBAC) association. These two specimens were seen breaching a short distance from Los Arcos, and ECOBAC suggested that these two whales are most likely headed to Central America.

It is a sighting well in advance of the season, which officially begins until December 8. Humpback whales are the species most frequently seen during the Puerto Vallarta Whale watching season. These Humpbacks are members of the North Eastern Pacific Population. This population has been estimated to now be over 18,000 whales and their annual growth rate estimated between 6-7%. The population is still considered vulnerable to extinction and is threatened by entanglement, ship strike, marine environment degradation, sound pollution, pollution and more.

Puerto Vallarta’s Bay of Banderas has seen both growth and depression of the population of Humpback Whales migrating to the bay since this population was first studied. Most recently the number of Whales in the Bay has been growing. From 2005 to 2009 the average number of Humpback whales sighted was 550 per year. Between 2010 and 2014 that number has grown to an average of 680 Humpback Whales sighted in the bay each season!

Humpback Whales are found in all oceans of the world and are a highly migratory species, the longest migration route measuring almost 7000 kilometers! The Humpbacks we see migrate in spring to their summer feeding grounds which are spread between California and British Columbia. In the winter these same Humpbacks return to Puerto Vallarta for mating and calving.

The migration route of this population typically follows coastal features. It can take as few as 40 days for a Humpback to migrate, typically transiting at about 6 to 8 kilometers per hour. In the summer feeding grounds Humpback Whales will focus their days on feeding. They feed mostly on krill and small fish, consuming up to 1400kg in a day!

During the summer the Humpback must eat so much food to create blubber which it will use to migrate and sustain itself during the winter in Puerto Vallarta. The Whales do not feed here in the bay. That is hard on the males, but imagine the demands on a female with a 600kg baby who will grow up to 3cm a day! Don’t forget the mother and baby Humpback will have to migrate north from Puerto Vallarta before Mom can start feeding again.

Puerto Vallarta sits on the Bay of Banderas. The bay has a unique topographical profile, the shallow protected areas of the bay are used by pregnant females for calving and for nursing. Most births occur in early January, the later weeks of the season are dominated by mother and baby pairs.

Baby Humpback whales typically weigh 500-600kg and are 3-4 meters in length. The baby Humpbacks in Puerto Vallarta are born a very light gray color and quickly darken up from exposure to the sun. The pectorals can be all white but will darken on top over the first year. The baby Humpback will feed exclusively from the mothers milk, growing up to 45kg a day!

The humpback whale is renowned for being one of the most energetic of the large whales with its spectacular breaching, lobtailing and flipper-slapping. Its scientific name Megaptera novaeangliae means ‘big winged New Englander’ because of its long flippers that look like wings when it breaches and because it was first described in New England.


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