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New Humpback Whale Behavior Documented

Over the past few years, a mysterious new behavior has been observed among humpback whales.
March 17, 2017

New Humpback Whale Behavior Documented


Over the past few years, observers have witnessed a mysterious new behavior among humpback whales. Unlike many other cetaceans, humpbacks are known as solitary creatures who only tend to congregate temporarily during mating season, or to travel in pairs or small groups that break up after a short time. Now, there are a growing number of documented sightings of massive groups of humpbacks, containing as many as 200 individuals.

Some scientists think that the incredible recovery of the humpback whale population could be one of the explanations for this remarkable change. Historically, whaling activity reduced the number of humpback whales to an estimated ten percent of their original population. This led many countries to make whaling illegal. Today, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is just one of their safe havens, and a vital one, as marine scientists believe that more of the North Pacific stock come to Hawaii than the other two known breeding areas, which are western Mexico and the islands of southern Japan. If you join us aboard a Maui whale watch cruise, you'll get to witness the robust population of whales that come to Hawaii firsthand.

The super-groups of humpback whales have been sighted by cruise ships in 2011, 2014, and 2015. There have also been a growing collection of sightings via aircraft and miscellaneous public observations. The collection of breathtaking pictures is expanding along with the sightings.

So, what were the whales doing in these super-groups? They were feeding, generally around the south-western coast of South Africa. Although there is one record of humpbacks feeding around this location about a hundred years ago, this spot is many thousands of miles away from the areas that have become their typical feeding grounds, in the waters of the Antarctic. Some researchers are considering whether part of this behavior is changing based on the available prey. That may explain the unusual location, but would it explain the size of the group?

The truth is, whale behavior was poorly documented back before the whaling began. For all we know, cooperative feeding at such an enormous scale could have been normal when the population was at its natural size. Humpbacks have often been documented feeding cooperatively in small groups, so perhaps the resurgence of their numbers has led to the re-emergence of an old behavioral pattern.

Right now, no one knows for certain what's causing this dramatic change in their behavior, but as their numbers continue to recover, marine researchers expect to observe many other fascinating changes. One thing we can be certain of, however, is that global conservation efforts on behalf of the humpback whale has proved one of the greatest success stories in the history of environmental efforts. Now, we can enjoy the wondrous results on our Maui whale watch excursions. We hope you'll join us soon, before the whales return to their feeding grounds in the summer and fall months. Mahalo!

Blogs for March 2017

Whale Tales 2017 a Success for Hawaii Whale Research

Posted on March 31, 2017
Whale Tales 2017 a Success for Hawaii Whale Research

If you've had a chance to read our recent posts, you'll know that we participated in Whale Tales 2017, which we are pleased to say was a smashing success. The four-day event was educational, stimulating, and a whole lot of… Continue Reading

Humpback Whale Behaviors on Our Maui Whale Watch Tours

Posted on March 24, 2017
Humpback Whale Behaviors on Our Maui Whale Watch Tours


Humpback whale watching season is still going strong here on Maui, and while some individuals have begun their yearly migration back to their summer feeding grounds off the Alaskan coast, many others won't depart until late April or perhaps… Continue Reading

New Humpback Whale Behavior Documented

Posted on March 17, 2017
New Humpback Whale Behavior Documented


Over the past few years, observers have witnessed a mysterious new behavior among humpback whales. Unlike many other cetaceans, humpbacks are known as solitary creatures who only tend to congregate temporarily during mating season, or to travel in pairs or small groups that… Continue Reading

Book Your Maui Whale Watch Corporate Activity

Posted on March 10, 2017
Book Your Maui Whale Watch Corporate Activity


Corporate retreats and conferences bring more and more visitors to Maui each year. After all, who wouldn't want to get together for fun, relaxation, and mental stimulation on a tropical island? Best of all, you get to enjoy an "exotic" location… Continue Reading

7 Fun Facts About the Ocean

Posted on March 03, 2017

Since the dawn of mankind, the ocean has held our fascination. Ancient tribes and civilizations like the Polynesians were master seafarers long before the engine and the GPS. To find their way, navigators relied on the stars, marine life, weather formations, and even the movement of the ocean's… Continue Reading

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