The tail of a Pacific right whale above the water.

Photo Credit: Jared Towers / Times Colonist

Super Rare Whale Spotted Off Northern Vancouver Island

Huge whales can weigh up to 90,000 kilograms

Massive North Pacific Right Whale is only the fourth of its kind seen in the last 70 years

North Pacific right whales were hunted until they were almost extinct in the 1800s. Even today, only about 50 of them still exist. But last week, Jared Towers from Alert Bay got to see one up close.

Towers and his colleague, James Pilkington, had spent two weeks on a boat off the north coast of Haida Gwaii. They are both marine mammal scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They knew from old hunting records that right whales used to feed there. They made a bet that the whales still did, and on the last day that bet paid off.

“It’s hard to describe that feeling,” Towers said in a Facebook post. “After two weeks, hundreds of miles under the keel and only one day left, we came upon this massive creature.”

Towers and Pilkington spent hours filming and taking pictures of the whale as it ate. Photo from Times Colonist.

The whales were hunted for their blubber and oil. They can weigh up to 90,000 kilograms and they swim really slowly, so they were a big prize for whalers.

The last one hunted near Canada was brought into Coal Harbour in 1951. Since then, only four of them have been seen.

Towers and Pilkington were able to collect some skin samples from the whale. The pictures and samples will help them figure out if the whale has been seen before, and whether the whale is female and has been pregnant before.

From what they could see, the whale looks healthy and doesn’t have any scars from boat strikes.

“To have one here in Canadian waters is unbelievable,” Paul Cottrell of the DFO’s Marine Mammal Unit told the Times Colonist. “We want to make sure there is as much protection as possible, because they are so incredibly rare.”