Humpback whale population growing near Homer
Kachemak Bay, Alaska’s first state park, is known for it’s towering mountains, sandy beaches and rich marine habitat, which are all visible from the Homer Spit.
Karl Stoltzfus has lived there for nearly 50 years and has been offering wildlife excursions for more than two decades. He says they traditionally look for humpbacks at the end of summer.
“They used to come in Kachemak Bay in August and September, October, that’s when we’d normally see them,” Stoltzfus said.
Now, more and more are being spotted.
“Over the years the humpback whales have been increasing in number,” Stoltzfus acknowledged.
And not just during the summer, he says. It appears the humpbacks are sticking around even after the tourist attractions quiet down on the spit. Stoltzfus says he’s always seen some humpbacks in the winter, but the numbers are growing.
It’s a trend biologists say is true there and statewide.
“The population is also very high now compared to historical levels, at least post-whaling,” said Craig Matkin, a marine mammal biologist. “As they get to be in higher number, it’s more beneficial for animals that aren’t going to breed or calf to stay up there and feed.”
Biologists and oceanographers are excited to see more humpbacks near Homer and say it’s a success story of the Endangered Species Act. Out of the 14 populations of humpback whales listed as endangered, nine have been removed from the list.
“To have the success of the Endangered Species Act, of course, is to have them taken off the list, and I think this collaborative effort, cooperative effort with other agencies, with the public and with industries has led to the successes of, you know, recovering of the humpback specifically,” said Barbara Mahoney, a biologist with National Marine Fisheries.
So if you find yourself on the shores of Kachemak Bay and think you see a whale in the middle of winter, it’s probably not your imagination — it’s probably a humpback.