Splashy the humpback calf, first spotted on June 13, near Whaletown. (Photo by, Zoe Molder, Straitwatch / Cetus Research and Conservation)

Humpback calf named in honour of whale-loving B.C. girl who died of rare genetic disease

Splashy, often spotted near Cortes Island, was nicknamed after Miranda Friz’s beloved humpback stuffed toy

A humpback calf has a new name in honour of a B.C. girl’s love of whales and their preservation

“Splashy” was formally nicknamed and catalogued on July 20 by the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) as a tribute to 15-year-old Port Moody girl, Miranda Lena Munro Friz, and her heartwarming efforts to conserve humpbacks even from beyond the grave.

Splashy was born this year and often spotted around Cortes Island, near Campbell River.

Friz died in April from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva — a rare genetic disease that causes human connective tissue to turn into bone.

After her death, Friz’s parents wanted to donate the money in her personal savings account to charity. MERS received 50 per cent because Friz loved whales, especially humpbacks, and her parents were convinced that contributing towards research and care of these giant mammals was an idea their daughter would love, said her mom, Karen Munro..

“Miranda was a very intelligent girl and since a young age she was interested in whales, she read all the books she could and knew all about whale evolution and patterns of whale migration,” said Munro.

MERS biologist and marine educator Jackie Hildering said they wanted to name the calf “in honour of the young girl’s legacy and her fighter spirit.”

Friz had a beloved crocheted humpback stuffed toy named Splashy which she held onto even as a teenager, said her mother, who was touched upon hearing that MERS had named a humpback calf after it.

Humpbacks are often catalogued based on the distinctive features seen on their tails or dorsal fins. They are nicknamed based on these features for the “practical purpose” of identification and also for deeper purposes of conservation.

“An engaging name adds significant value to whale watching and allows people to connect with their giant neighbours as individuals, who they most likely see year after year,” said Hildering, adding this process helps humans better care and protect whales.

In Splashy’s case, Hildering said that there are some jagged ridges on the back, after the dorsal fin, that look like splashes.

The calf is the fourth baby born to Nick the humpback who was nicknamed and catalogued by MERS based on the distinctive notch on her dorsal fin. Splashy was first documented (spotted) by Straitwatch Quadra team (Cetus Research & Conservation Society) and Nancy Ponting on June 13.

People who document the whale are often given the honour of choosing a nickname for it. But when they heard about Friz and her stuffed toy, they too wanted the calf to be nicknamed Splashy,” said Hildering.

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