Marine Education and Research Society photo Humpback whale, inhabitant of Northeastern Vancouver Island’s waters, splays his mouth open in what researchers recently found to be “trap-feeding.”

Marine Detective reveals new humpback feeding strategy

Researchers first to record “trap-feeding” method around the North Island waters

Jackie Hildering is “The Marine Detective”, an award-winning marine biologist who recently co-published a research paper which studied local humpback whales.

Hildering, alongside Christie McMillan and Jared Towers, were able to determine feeding patterns of whale species inhabiting the Broughton Archipelago. The three researchers are part of the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS).

“Since 2011, humpback whales off northeastern Vancouver Island, British Columbia have been documented using a foraging innovation that we have called trap-feeding,” the research paper stated. “This feeding strategy differs from typical lunge-feeding in that it is initiated from a stationary or near stationary position, and characterized by whales holding their mouths open at or just below the surface for an extended period of time.”

Trap-feeding is a learned behaviour among humpbacks where the species sets a trap for juvenile herring, often gathered in small schools, stated the society. “The fish then accumulate in and around the mouth of the humpback to escape predation by diving birds.”

Normally, humpback whales may employ what is called lunge feeding. The whales will scare schools of fish, gathering them into tighter groups. If the fish are near the surface of the water, the humpback whale will then jump out of the water, mouth open, to catch juvenile herring.

The North Island researchers found two humpback whales that trap-feed off Northeastern Vancouver Island back in 2011. Now, there are as many as 16 humpback whales confirmed to have used trap-feeding.

MERS stated that “this is the first published research on this novel feeding strategy, documented … around northeastern Vancouver Island.” The research reportedly spans over seven years, finally capped off with the marine biologists’ research published in Marine Mammal Science.

“I want to share what I learn so that it may lead to greater knowledge, appreciation, and positive action for the Ocean to which we are all connected and upon which our survival depends,” Hildering’s biography stated.

Hildering co-founded the Marine Education and Research Society, worked for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), ‘Namgis First Nation’s Kuterra company, and the SOS Marine Conservation Foundation. Towers researches transient and resident killer whales through DFO’s monitoring programs. McMillan also conducts research on killer whales, along with humpbacks and fin whales through DFO.

MERS is a registered charity organization that is dedicated to the conservation of marine ecosystems. According to BC Whales, “humpback whales were commercially hunted from the late 1800s to 1965. During this time period an estimated 28,000 humpback whales were caught in the North Pacific.”

Clarifications were made on other feeding strategies.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lost dog reunited with family three months after going missing along Juan de Fuca trail

‘The poor thing was skin and bones,’ says one of the Sooke rescuers

Victoria family donates 878 falafel wraps to support Beirut blast victims

Wrap and Roll pulls in $20,500 during weekend fundraiser

Reimagined campaign continues to make Vancouver Island wishes come true

#UnWinedOutside allows participants to support Make-A-Wish Foundation, local businesses

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

Police investigating string of break-ins at closed Saanich care home

Electronics, tools reported stolen from Mount Tolmie Hospital

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Five B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Nanaimo woman will buy ‘supersonic’ hair dryer after $500,000 lotto win

Debra Allen won $500,000 in July 28 Lotto Max draw

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

Cougar euthanized after attacking little dog in Qualicum area

Owner freed pet by whacking big cat, but dog didn’t survive the attack

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

Most Read