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Four humpback whales spotted near Astoria in search of food

Warmer waters pushing food to the surface contribute to a rare sighting of humpback whales near the Columbia River in Astoria

According to the Daily Times Gazette, four humpback whales have been spotted in the Columbia River near Astoria. These gentle giants  have come to the shores of Oregon in search of food, providing an added beauty and serenity to this commercial neighborhood.

“When there’s not a lot of rain and there’s not a lot of river flow pushing the ocean water out, the tides bring a lot of ocean water in and with that ocean water come these small fish,” said Bruce Mate when offering up an explanation for this rare occurrence.

The director of the Marine Mammal Institute at OHSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, Mate continued that the weather was responsible for an influx in anchovies in the waters close to Astoria. Anchovies are a favorite treat for whales, and when one came in others quickly followed.

“It’s really great to be able to see it, but you also wonder what’s going on out in the ocean,” said Tiffany Boothe of the Seaside Aquarium, who snapped a few beautiful pictures of the mammals when they came up for air.

It leaves more than just Boothe wondering what could be happening in the ocean. Researchers point to the climate phenomenon known as El Niño. The National Ocean Service defines El Niño as a warming of ocean waters, particularly at the surface.

“It’s a very strong El Niño so the productivity is low and animals are seeking out resources where they can find them,” said Mate.

According to GWS News, the warmer temperatures towards the surface means that fish at the bottom of the water cannot survive, and have followed the warmer temperatures to the top. The whales have been seen in the area since mid-August.

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