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

Oak Bay neighbourhoods rocked by blasting activity

Oak Bay seeks new rock blasting bylaw regarding ‘continuous’ noise

VIDEO: Seal pup and mom play and ‘kiss’ in Oak Bay Marina

BRNKL seal cam captures harbour seal growing up in busy harbour

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

Police investigating alleged assault on Oak Bay Avenue

Staff at Oak Bay Home Hardware say one person was taken to hospital

Greater Victoria hardly making a dent in greenhouse gas emissions target

One-per-cent drop from 2007 to 2018 a far cry from the 33-per-cent goal for 2020

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

Most Read