Tongass National Forest, National Geographic Magazine: Humpback Whale Tail

Water flows off the tail of a diving humpback whale in southeast Alaska. Humpback whales migrate from southeastern Alaska when they breed to Hawaii where they calve. Researchers photograph the whales tail because they can individually identified by the size and shake of their flukes.

The humpback whale is an endangered migratory baleen whale that occurs in all ocean basins of the world. According to the National Park Service, commercial whalers killed more than 28,000 North Pacific humpbacks in the twentieth century, reducing their population to approximately 1,000 animals by the mid-1960s. By the end of the 1965-hunting season, when the International Whaling Commission instituted a moratorium on commercial hunting of humpbacks, the worldwide population had dwindled from more than 125,000 before exploitation to an estimated 10,000. The humpback whale was classified as an endangered species in 1973 when the U.S. Endangered Species Act was implemented. At present, there is no precise estimate of the worldwide humpback whale population but it is believed that around 1,000 feed in Alaska during the summer.

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