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Episode 1402: Humpback Health

Humpback whales undertake some of the longest seasonal migrations in the animal kingdom. In the North Pacific, the distinct population that breeds in the Hawaiian Islands and feeds in Alaska and British Columbia, travels approximately 2500 – 3000 miles to get from one location to the other. While humpbacks can be found in Alaska year-round, their numbers drop significantly between November and April, when the majority of animals migrate south for varying lengths of time. 

The whales do not eat while they are on their Hawaiian breeding grounds, but instead are surviving off the energy stored in their blubber. Now scientists in Hawaiʻi and Alaska have teamed up to better understand how this prolonged period of fasting is impacting the animals’ body condition and overall health. How much energy are the animals spending on migrating, breeding, and nursing? And how does prey availability in their Alaskan feeding grounds impact their health and behavior?


Meet the experts featured in this episode.

Image Credits

Changing Seas would like to thank the following individuals and institutions who kindly allowed their footage, images and other media to be used in this production:

Kevin Boswell 

Florida International University 


Mark Karls

Mandy Lindeberg

John Moran 

Joe Orsi 

Johanna Vollenweider 

NOAA Fisheries


Ed Lyman 

Jason Moore

Jeff Pantukhoff

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale

National Marine Sanctuary

NOAA Permit Numbers:






NOAA MMHSRP Permit Numbers:





The Dolphin Institute


Pacific Whale Foundation

 NMFS MMPA Permit Nr. 21321 


Courtney Pegus 


UH Health and Stranding Lab

NMFS MMPA/ESA Permit Nr. 18786 


Martin van Aswegen 

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

MMPA/ESA Permit Nr. 21476 

NMFS Permit Nr. 21321 


All other footage of humpback whales & whale research taken under the authority of 

NMFS MMPA/ESA Permit Numbers: 





Web Extras

Happy Whale – Identifying Whales for Fun and Science

Funding for this episode of Changing Seas was provided by:

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