March 12, 2024


They’re big, imposing, and can weigh 33 tons. But as filter feeders, they pose no threat to me, you or Pinocchio … unless you’re a shrimp.

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are gentle giants that tend to avoid confrontation, but sadly they were once nearly hunted nearly to extinction. Now, thanks to protective legislation, they are once again a common sight during their migrations along the West Coast.

Named for their distinct fin that often pops above the surface of the ocean, they are the only member of the genus Megaptera and are found in oceans worldwide. They have one of the longest migrations of any mammal. Each year, humpbacks along the west coast of North America travel from tropical breeding areas near the equator to colder, more nutrient-rich waters off Alaska, totaling thousands of miles traveled. The longest recorded migration was from Costa Rica to Antarctica, a trip of over 5,000 miles one way!

Starting in the 1600s, humpbacks were sought for their oil, meat and baleen. This hunting dramatically increased from the 1800s through the mid-1900s, when protections for the species were finally put in place. By the 1950s, only 5,000 or so humpbacks survived. Fortunately, conservation measures have worked, and humpback populations have rebounded to the point where this species is now considered “least concern.” According to the National Geographic, least concern species are those that sit at the lowest level of conservation. A species of least concern is one that has a widespread and abundant population.

To learn more about these amazing creatures, check out this link, 

Mike Heine