Seeing whales from shore is an experience that many people would love to experience. I was asked recently why they come so close to the beach.
Whales come close to shore for many reasons. Pollution, protection from predators, and migration patterns are some senses.
Have you ever wondered why whales come so close to the shore? If you have, this article will clear up these and more questions you may have.
Why Do Whales Come Close To The Shore?
Whales come very close to the beach for many reasons. Humpback and gray whales usually come close to the shore, giving people a spectacular view and a chance to learn some of their behaviors.
Although many people worry that they are going to the beach themselves, swimming this close to shore is a healthy, regular activity that everyone would love to see. Once you have seen one of these massive animals, you will realize how incredible they are.
In most cases, Humpback whales come close to the shore as they migrate to their annual breeding areas. When most whales head south, they are generally closer to the beach.
Gray whales also move close to the shore as they migrate, giving you a close look at these magnificent animals. It is a known behavior of gray whales to come close to the beach when migrating North after giving birth.
By staying close to the shore, the mothers can point out specific points on the journey to ensure that the young know where to go later in life.
In Hawaii, Humpback whales migrate between November and April, also known locally as the whale season. The best place to see them is from the Big Island because this is the place where they come closest to the shore. However, you can also watch them close to the beach on Kauai and Maui.
Please find out how whales evolved in this article I wrote
Females will move close to the shore with their young because the shallow waters keep away some larger predators, such as killer whales and sharks.
The shallow waters and the waves these bring also build up the young calves’ muscles, which helps them fend off these predators later in life.
Whales, just like any other animal, have their natural enemies. They must find natural defense mechanisms to avoid attacks and protect their calves. Scientists believe that whales move to the shore where orcas and sharks cannot reach, giving the whales a higher survival rate.
Humpback whales love playing in the water close to the shore, just as humans do. By being close to the beach, they are free to indulge in behaviors of play that are not seen in deeper waters with the risk of predators.
Besides their large sizes, humpback whales can do some incredible acrobatics. They are likely to show this by jumping out of the water, also known as breaching, and slapping their tails on the water’s surface, which they use to communicate.
Traditionally, coming to the shore also increased their risk of human hunting. Thanks to International regulations, this activity is almost non-existent in North America.
When they are near the shore, you may experience their beautiful and haunting songs as they swim past.
Scientists and Marine Biologists believe that whales come close to the shore because of the massive pollution in the ocean. With time, we have witnessed an increase in human activity in the oceans, affecting whales in deep waters.
There are many chemicals and plastics in the oceans, causing harm to whales. Marine biologists believe this is one reason some marine animals are born deformed and others are mentally impaired.
Healthy whales move close to the shore, where the water is more transparent with less pollution. The water near the beach is more oxygenated than in the ocean’s deep waters. Whales prefer to stay where there is more oxygen in the water.
Interference With Echolocation
Human activities in the oceans, such as human-made sonar and other devices for the exploration of oil and other natural gases, have dramatically impacted brain wave activity.
This equipment may be making whales disoriented or even sick. This is one reason whales opt for shallow waters, even though they can potentially beach themselves.
Injuries From Ships
Today, more ships are sailing the oceans, increasing the chance of injuring whales and other marine animals. Ships and boats now dominate the sea where the whales once did.
This increases the chance of a whale colliding with them, becoming injured, or even disoriented. Many whales that are found beached have propeller marks or other noticeable injuries on them.
To communicate, whales use a method of slapping their tails on the water called lob tailing. They also rely on echolocation for communication and decisions about where to swim.
Because of many man-made activities under the sea and the incorporation of human-made sonar, whales become confused. This is a large part of why whales swim out of deep waters and closer to shore, as there is less sonar equipment set up.
Following The Pack
Whales usually migrate in groups, which means they can end up near the shore as they follow each other. Whales are social creatures and will usually move in groups.
Others are likely to follow when one of these whales moves closer to the shore. Sometimes, a group of whales may follow a disoriented or sick whale to the coast, with many getting beached at once.
What time of the day will whales swim closer to the shore?
Although humpbacks can come close to the shore at any time of the day, certain conditions attract them close to the beach.
Some people claim they come to the shore late afternoon when most human activities have stopped, and the water is calm. They are also likely to go to the beach at this time because the sea is generally more peaceful, and the wind speed has reduced significantly.
Can you swim with the whales on the shore?
Swimming with whales is illegal in many states and very dangerous. Whales weigh many tonnes, and a tail flick could easily break a bone or send a swimmer unconscious.
Whales can attack when you move close to their calves. Even when whales are close to the shore, swimming with them is never a good idea unless in a controlled, designated area.
How Close Do Whales Come To The Shore?
Whales come as close to the shore as they feel they can while being safe. They want to swim in a place that they think is secure and safe for their large, cold-blooded bodies, away from predators.
People have spotted humpback whales as close as 50 feet offshore in some areas. Spotting whales from shore is a magical experience. Stop by your local coast today and see if you can spot some.
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Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.