Most North Pacific humpback whales begin their annual migrations from the Gulf of Alaska in early fall.
What results in an exodus to three primary locations in the southern latitudes of the North Pacific. One group will travel to the coast of Baja in Mexico. Another will migrate to a group of islands south east of Japan. But the largest population (over 60%) will find themselves in the Hawaiian Islands, a distance of nearly 3,500 miles from their feeding grounds in Alaska. This migration takes the humpback approximately 4 to 8 weeks to complete.
The majority of the humpbacks that travel to Hawaii end up in the waters off Maui. It is a "trickle migration with the juveniles usually arriving first, followed by the adult males, adult females, then the pregnant females."
The long summer days in Alaska provide plenty of hours of sunshine for photosynthesis. Which is why Alaskan waters are so green. Small schooling fish and krill (a small shrimp like crustacean) depend on this plant life as their food source. An adult humpback can eat over 2,000 pounds of krill in a single day. Because of Hawaii's location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the water is relatively nutrient free (which is why our waters are so clear and blue) and too warm to support enough of the humpback's food to sustain them year round. They must migrate back to colder water to feed and rebuild their blubber supply.
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