A grey whale foraging in the waters off Greater Victoria lends itself to the growing land-based whale watching movement.
Saanich resident Gerald Graham has a longstanding interest in whales and waterways in general.
A watcher of shipping activity and whales in Haro Strait, Graham is a regular visitor to the Phyllis Park lookout atop Arbutus Road. While visiting there with his wife in mid-January, Graham came across a fellow from Gordon Head who told him about a grey whale hanging about in the waters near Glencoe Cove-Kwatsech Park.
He didn’t find it there but was alerted to one off Finnerty Cove a few days later.
He posted nine seconds of it to his YouTube channel and started seeking information.
It visited Haro Strait, visible from his favoured Phyllis Park viewpoint, so many times Graham made a 14-video playlist.
He sees it as a fantastic educational opportunity for people to watch and enjoy from afar – but not interfere. Once he posted the sighting on the Facebook page Field Naturalists of Vancouver Island, teachers started bringing students out to see.
“It’s taken off. It’s become quite the pastime for people here in Gordon Head and Cadboro Bay to go out and see the whale and share where it is,” Graham said.
He shares his information and data with Fisheries and Oceans Canada as well as the U.S.-based Cascadia Research Collective. Neither could identify the animal as one listed among their databases. The American collective named it CRC 2440.
Whale watching from shore is growing in popularity, with a significant uptick during parts of the COVID-19 pandemic – when people couldn’t board boats in groups to go find wildlife at sea.
“They have dozens and dozens of sites that are official land-based whale watching sites,” Graham said.
An online resource, The Whale Trail, includes a map pinpointing more than 100 sites on the coast from central B.C. to southern California to see whales, dolphins or other marine mammals from shore.
Phyllis Park isn’t among them, but the grey whale has been foraging in Haro Strait for seven weeks now and still little is known about its age, sex or overall health. Graham keeps doing his part, posting videos, sharing observations and documenting its appearances.
While the greys aren’t known to bond and travel in pods like the orcas do, Graham hopes CRC 2440 finds its way back to the Pacific and joins its cohort headed for Alaska as part of the annual migration.
“Meanwhile, it’s a cause for celebration.”
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