Majestic Right Whale Spotted Frolicking in the Ocean

This rare sighting brought a smile to the faces of marine biologists.


The tail of a right whale in the ocean

(Jim Madigan /

The amazement of scientists from the Cetacean Research Program at Fisheries and Oceans Canada when they spotted a rare North Pacific right whale feeding in the ocean off the coast of British Columbia, Canada recently, was hard to put into words! 

Yet their delight at seeing this giant specimen is understandable. It is one of the most elusive whales on the planet, and this is just the fourth time that a North Pacific right whale has been spotted in Canadian waters in seven decades, reported Global News, along with several other media sites.

The Government of Canada website confirms that verified sightings of this mammal in Canadian waters have been few and far between, estimating that just around 250 mature North Pacific right whales exist over its entire range.

As the Times Colonist revealed, the mid-June 2021 sighting by two marine mammal scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Jared Towers and James Pilkington, also came on the final day of their two-week expedition out on the water off Haida Gwaii. This is  an archipelago in British Columbia some 34-78 miles off the northern Pacific coast of Canada. 

While observing humpbacks and orcas, the pair were checking the waters based on a hunch and old whaling data that showed many of the whales hunted in the last century were found in the same area, off the north coast of Haida Gwaii. 

“It’s hard to describe that feeling,” Towers told the publication. “After two weeks, hundreds of miles under the keel and only one day left, we came upon this massive creature… It’s nice to know our efforts were validated because we took a chance on a right whale being there.” 

“We were really, really hoping we will find another one, but we both kind of knew that we probably wouldn’t,” Pilkington told the Globe and Mail. “The odds were very much stacked against us.” But then they spotted its fairly distinctive V shape: “It’s a combination of excitement, adrenalin, and just being completely humbled that it is right there in front of you,” he shared.

The team were able to capture the giant whale on video for several hours as it fed close to shore.

North Pacific right whales live in coastal waters. Unlike other whales, these whales are skimmers and swim through areas capturing small fish, krill and zooplankton by straining huge quantities of ocean water through their comb-like baleen plates. They weigh up to 90 tons, and live for at least 70 years.

As the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US Department of Commerce (NOAA) details, North Pacific right whales have been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1970. These slow-swimming giants were extensively hunted in the 19th and 20th centuries for their blubber and oil.

But though hunted to the brink of extinction over a century ago, this sighting and other recent sightings of the North Pacific right whale off British Columbia’s coast give hope that one of the rarest of all large whale species may be starting to recover. 

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