Humpback Whales and The California-Costa Rica Connection

Just 30 years ago, the humpback whales off central California, hunted from whaling stations based in San Francisco Bay, were nearly wiped out. Then, in the 1980s, sightings began increasing, suggesting recovery. Still, little was known about how many whales there were feeding off California, where they were coming from, and where they migrated to each winter. Humpback whales in the North Pacific had generally been thought to spend their winter months, in warm waters near the tropics, in three primary regions: the waters near Mexico, Hawaii, and Japan. Their movements are part of an annual cycle typical of most baleen whales which spend their summers feeding in high latitude colder waters, and migrate in the winter to low-latitude warmer waters where they mate and give birth. In the North Pacific, humpback whales feed primarily in coastal waters southern California to Alaska, along the Aleutian Island chain, and south to waters off northern Japan.


Calambokidis, J. 1997. Humpback Whales and the California – Costa Rica Connection. Journal of the Oceanic Society Fall 1997: 4-10.

Download PDF