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Types of Whales
The Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a medium sized rorqual whale, with adults reaching fifty feet in length.
Its wide body and extra long flippers differentiate it from other rorqual species.
Its near shore habitat makes it a popular whale watching and research mammal. People enjoy watching it breach and splash water with its long flippers. Researchers continue to study its large array of vocalizations that range from songs to grunts to clicks.
The factors contributing to the current popularity, especially their tendency to reside close to shore, also made them early and easy targets of colonial whalers from New England. The American push to expand the Western frontier, ending at the California Coast, and later Alaska Coast, brought near shore whaling with it.
Commercial whaling activities played out along most shores where humpbacks gathered, leading to severe population declines. When the global whaling moratorium went into effect, humpbacks were listed as an endangered species.
The IUCN recently down listed the humpback from the vulnerable to least concern category. The International Whaling Commission lists the following population levels.
- Western North Atlantic 1992-1993 11,600 or 10,100 - 13,200 at 95% confidence level
- Southern Hemisphere south of 60S in summer 1997-1998 42,000 or 34,000 - 52,000 at 95% confidence level
- North Pacific 2007 at least 10,000
Marine Sanctuaries also help humpback populations. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary reported in 2005 a winter humpback population of approximately five thousand individuals, and an population increase of seven percent per year. The next population report is due in 2010.
© 2009. Patricia A. Michaels