Ten Must-Know Facts on the Humpback Whale

  1. With a global humpback population at a minimum of 60,000, a study estimates that there are 18,000-20,000 humpback individuals in the North Pacific, with a growth rate of 4-7 percent per year, where 3,000-5,000 return on their yearly migration to feed in southeast Alaskan waters each summer.
  2. The fastest documented humpback migration from Alaska to Hawaii (2,800 miles) was 36 days.
  3. Humpback whales can grow between 25-40 tons (50,000-80,000 pounds), up to 60 feet long where females are larger than males, and newborns are about 15 feet long, weighing in at approximately 1 ton (2,000 pounds).
  4. Those that feed in southeast Alaskan waters build up fat stores (blubber) to live off during the winter. They breed and calve in Hawaii with a small proportion migrating to Mexico.
  5. Whale behavior during the winter is vastly different than in the summer. During the summer, humpbacks are mostly found alone or in pairs (when not bubble-net feeding in groups), with little aggressive behavior observed.
  6. As the acrobats of the whale world, humpbacks frequently perform aerial displays, such as the: blow, head rise/spy hop, tail slap, pec slap, head lunge, peduncle slap, fluke up dive, or breach.
  7. They live to about 50 years old.
  8. Female humpback whales in southeast Alaska have their first calf at eight years old, at the earliest. Most have their first calf at age 11, and some are not sighted with their first calf until age 14.
  9. The International Whaling Commission banned non-subsistence hunts of North Pacific humpback whales in 1965. Humpback whales were further protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973. Furthermore, Juneau Whale Watch became one of the first members of Whale Sense, respecting required and safe distances from the creatures, as well as whale behavior on every single whale-watching trip.
  10. Perhaps most significantly, humpback whales (and whales in general) assume a crucial role in the health of the environment and our understanding of marine mammals, alongside playing an important function in helping to grow economies that rely on whale watching through responsible tourism.

Related blog posts

25 Crazy Factoids about the Humpback Whale

The Humpback Whale Explained

What Wildlife Will I See in Juneau, Alaska?

Resources used

Alaskahumpbacks.org, Fisheries.noaa.gov, Oregonstate.edu.

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