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Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaengliae)

	Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale: (Photo: Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary)

Humpback whales occur in all the world's oceans and were severely depleted by commercial whaling during the early 1900s. In the North Pacific alone, more than 28,000 whales were killed during that period. One analysis suggests that 15,000 humpback whales inhabited the North Pacific Ocean before commercial whaling began. By the mid-1960s their numbers may have been reduced to as few as 1,000 whales. These populations are thought to exist in the North Pacific with breeding grounds located in Hawaii, coastal waters off Mexico, Central America, and the Ryukyu and Bonin Islands south of Japan. The combined abundance of these populations likely numbers between 4,000 and 5,000 today. In the North Atlantic, a single population numbering in excess of 10,000 whales migrates between calving grounds in the northern and western Caribbean and feeding grounds off New England, Canada, Greenland, and Northwest Europe. Following a similar measure adopted for the North Atlantic humpback whales in 1955, the International Whaling Commission prohibited the taking of humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean in 1966, and the ban has remained in place since then.

Range and Habitat:

Found worldwide in all oceans

Status under Law:

Endangered (ESA)

Conservation issues:

Entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, whale watching, watercraft disturbance in breeding grounds, effects of anthropogenic sound

Physical characteristics:

At Birth At Maturity
Length 4-4.6 m
16-17 m
Weight 680 kg
(1,500 lb)
Up to 40,000 kg
(90,000 lb)


at least 50 years

Annual Report:

For more information, see the Humpback Whale section from the 2002 Annual Report

Download a copy: PDF (143 KB)

Commission Letters:

To view Commission letters concerning Humpback Whales choose a date below

July 29, 2003

Additional Links:

National Marine Fisheries Service Stock Assessment Reports

Alaska Department of Fish & Game - Humpback Whale

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Homepage

National Marine Sanctuaries - Humpback Whale

National Marine Mammal Laboratory - Detailed Information About Humpback Whales


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