Hatfield – Experts from the Marine Mammal Institute reported on Tuesday that no less than four humpback whales were sighted in the Columbia River at the border between Oregon and Washington.

Humpbacks have never been seen so far inland along the Columbia River according to biologist Deborah Jacques and experts believe it may have resulted from a food shortage in the whales’ natural habitat.

“The lack of upwelling, which brings nutrients and the cold water at the bottom of the surface, is sort of what fertilizes the ocean and garden if you will, and it makes the whole food chain explode,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher biologist Jen Zamon told Oregon station KGW 8 News that the warmer ocean waters are pushing the fish into the river.

Humpback whale breaching near coast. Credit: Wikipedia

Vince Patton at Oregon Public Broadcasting caught video of humpback whales munching anchovies in Columbia near the Astoria Megler Bridge. 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.

El Niño

Professor Bruce Mate, director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, blames this year’s El Nino conditions on the unexpected inland humpback whale migration. El Niño is a recurring climate storm event that emanated from the Pacific Ocean and has been taking place during the past several months, bringing forward strangely warm waters in the central and eastern areas of the basin according to News OXY

It had caused the waters in the Pacific Ocean to warm up, which makes it near impossible for fish at the bottom of the food chain to thrive.

“It’s a very strong El Niño so the productivity is low and animals are seeking out resources where they can find them” Oregon Live emphasized.  This applies to some fish species like anchovies, which happens to be chief food source for humpback whales.

Source: KOIN