Distribution of minke whales around the San Juan Islands
In the 1980's minke whales were found in three main areas around the San Juan Islands. However, by the 1990's 2 of these areas were abandoned, and whales were only found in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Area C), despite continued search efforts in areas A and B. This coincided with a general decline of herring in the area, possibly associated with disturbance of adjacent herring spawning grounds. A qualitative change in the number of sea birds was also noted at this time.
In more recent years (2005-2011), we found whales foraging in all 3 areas again, and bird numbers were also higher. But, minke whales are still predominantly found on the banks in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (e.g. Salmon Bank, Area C). To read more about this please go to Current Research.
In 1980 16 whales where identified but the results of following these whales and photographing them led to some interesting and unexpected discoveries The distribution of these individuals were very interesting, and unexpected. Each whale favoured one of the areas, or " exclusive adjoining ranges." Each area was shared by up to at least seven minke whales, with only two instances of crossover between the areas in 70 sightings. Feeding was observed in all three areas, and the whales within each area appeared most of the time to be acting independently of one another. No calves were seen, and no overt acts of territorial defence were observed. This is the first known report in baleen whales of small-scale non-overlapping ranges.