Whales swimming in the Columbia River at the border between Oregon and Washington state have been spotted since last week in an unusual series of sightings that may have resulted from a food shortage in the whales’ natural habitat.
Oregon Public Broadcasting producer Vince Patton, who spotted the whales on Monday just downstream from the Astoria Megler Bridge leading towards Washington, shot some video footage of the sea creatures as they joined a “feeding frenzy of pelicans diving into the water,” according to OregonLive.
“That's where resources are,” said Bruce Mate, the director of the Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, according to OregonLive. “They're not finding a lot off shore in areas where they're accustomed to feeding . . . It might be more common to see humpbacks in the river . . . particularly if the El Niño events become more common or closer together.”
El Niño, a cyclical climate storm phenomenon that originated in the Pacific Ocean, has been occurring during the last several months, featuring unusually warm waters in the central and eastern areas of the basin, according to News OXY.
Some scientists believe that this phenomenon may be a contributing factor in the whales’ abnormal movement into the Columbia River, although some scientists believe other important factors are involved in the whales’ temporary displacement.
Climate.gov recently published an El Niño update
predicting that the phenomenon has a 95-percent chance of continuing through the 2015-2016 winter. The update also stated that the average temperature in some regions is 1.22 degrees Celsius above normal temperatures.
As the humpback whales continue to swim, breach, and feed amongst the waters of the Columbia River, many passersby have stopped their vehicles near the bridge to take a look, grabbing their cameras and smartphones and snapping footage of the mammals.
“It’s really great to be able to see it, but you also wonder what’s going on out in the ocean,” said biologist Deborah Jacques, who specializes in studying pelicans, according to News OXY.
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