1. We can tell Humpback Whales apart by looking at their Tail Flukes and they are Catalogued!

The humpback whale we have been seeing in the last couple of weeks, “Heather” or BCY0160, is a local favorite around the San Juan Islands. She, like all other humpbacks, is readily identified by the markings on the underneath of her broad tail flukes. These makings are all unique to the individual whales, just as our fingerprints are unique to us. The designation BCY0160 is in reference to her position in the British Columbia humpback whale catalogue. Whales who have no white marking on the underneath of the flukes receive the designation BCX, whales with less than half of their flukes bearing white markings receive the designation BCY, and then whales who have white on more than half of the flukes receive the designation BCZ.


2. Humpbacks are a cosmopolitan species.

Humpback whales are found in all of the world’s oceans, but they all look slightly different. Here in the North Pacific our humpbacks tend to be a bit smaller and darker than the humpbacks found in the North Atlantic. Though they are a widespread species, we do not have much evidence of the populations in different ocean basins interbreeding. This means that we have separate populations in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres of both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans as well as in the Indian Ocean


3. Humpbacks are considered to be the 4th or 5th Largest whales in the world!

Humpbacks here in the North Pacific stock tend to be right around 45 feet long on average. Males tend to be a bit smaller than females at 40-45 feet long and females tend to be a bit larger at 45-50 feet long. With humpback whales the rule on their weight is a ton of weight per foot of length, so a 45-foot-long whale would be right around 45 tons or 90,000 pounds! In the North Atlantic there have been humpbacks reported who are right around 60 feet long!


4. Humpback whales are considered to be the most Acrobatic of the large whale species.

Humpback whales are well known for their graceful acrobatics above the water. It is not uncommon to see the whales slapping their tails or pectoral fins on the surface of the water, or even to see the enormous animals jump all the way out of the water!

Humpback whale tail fluke. Photo by Kevin Culmback.