Species Profile

Humpback Whale Western North Atlantic population

Scientific Name: Megaptera novaeangliae
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2003
COSEWIC Status: Not at Risk
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: Although heavily reduced by whaling, this well-studied population seems to have regrown to at least a substantial proportion of its pre-whaling size. The population does face threats (including entanglement in fishing gear, habitat degradation on breeding grounds, possible resumption of commercial whaling), but neither the North Atlantic population, nor any of its feeding sub-populations, is at risk from current activity levels, or levels that may reasonably be foreseen in the next few years.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: The "Western North Atlantic and North Pacific populations" were given a single designation of Threatened in April 1982. Split into two populations in April 1985 (Western North Atlantic population and North Pacific population). Western North Atlantic population designated Special Concern in April 1985. Status re-examined and designated Not at Risk in May 2003.
SARA Status: Schedule 3, Special Concern - (SARA Schedule 1 provisions do not apply)
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd):

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale Photo 1

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Description

The Humpback Whale is distinguished by long jagged fins, which can measure up to a third of the whale's body length. The whale has a black back and white belly. A small dorsal fin is located near the centre of the back. Deep grooves in the Humpback's throat permit it to open its mouth wide to swallow large amounts of prey at one time. Small bumps are found on the head and neck. Adults measure between 14 and 19 m, and weigh between 34 000 and 45 000 kg. The tail of a male adult measures about 80 cm in width.

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Distribution and Population

In the Atlantic, Humpback Whales occur from the West Indies to Greenland. In eastern Canada, in the summer, they are common off the east and south coasts of Newfoundland, off southeastern Labrador, on the edges of the Grand Banks, and in the Gulf of St Lawrence. The Northwest Atlantic population is estimated at about 4000 Humpbacks. The North Pacific population is estimated as being composed of approximately 2000 whales. Humpback Whales form distinct populations and live close to coastlines. During the fall, they migrate southward to winter and breed in tropical waters; during the spring, they return to northern feeding grounds for the summer.

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Habitat

Humpback Whales generally follow the coastlines and take advantage of seasonal currents during their migrations. During the breeding season, they prefer water temperatures between 24 and 28 °C; and areas offering protection against prevailing winds, that have flat oceans beds at a depth of 15 to 60 m. Summer movements of the whales are linked to prey availability.

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Biology

Humpback Whales reach sexual maturity at 9 years of age. A female gives birth to one calf, between January and April. The gestation period is of approximately one year. Normally, females give birth every two years.

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Before protection of Humpback Whales was instituted in 1960, overexploitation had greatly reduced their numbers. Ongoing exploitation of the Humpbacks' prey is also having negative impacts on the species; the depletion of the capelin stocks is of particular concern. Since large trawlers became a part of commercial fishing operations in the 1970s, Humpbacks have been dying in fishing nets. Oil pollution is also a threat to this species.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

6 record(s) found.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Humpback Whale (2004-04-21)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing licence(#QUE-LEP-002C-2019 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2019-07-15)

    MICS conducts analysis on population dynamics, distribution and habitat use (e.g. identifying important habitat) and is also monitoring changes of these parameters over time. Further work includes the study of reproduction, genetic relatedness within and between populations, as well as toxicological assessments of these species. MICS also conducts social and behavioural studies on these species. The activities authorized by this licence consist of: 1. Making close and repeated approaches to Blue Whales, Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Minke Whales, North Atlantic Right Whales and Sperm Whales with a vehicle within a distance of less than 100 metres. 2. Taking photography of marine mammals. 3. Collecting biopsy samples using a crossbow and biopsy darts of Blue Whales, Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Minke Whales, and North Atlantic Right Whales, accordingly to the protocol approved by the Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee. 4. Tagging or marking and attaching suction cup on individuals of Blue Whales, Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Minke Whales, and North Atlantic Right Whales. 5. Using a UAV to obtain aerial pictures to identify individuals through photo-identification.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#QUE-LEP-003B-2020 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2020-06-23)

    The Marine Mammal Research and Education Group (GREMM), as part of the interventions carried out on behalf of the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network (QMERN), may be called upon to participate in sampling operations for marine mammals and marine turtles in distress or dead. The GREMM is authorized to undertake the following activities: 1. Make repeated approaches to cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales within a distance of less than 100 m; 2. Document and photograph cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales; 3. Fly over cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales using a UAV to obtain aerial images to document the behaviour of individuals; 4. Tag cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, Blue whales and fin whales; 5. Take (at the express request of veterinarians associated with the RQUMM and for diagnostic purposes) biopsies of cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales using a 22-gauge PaxArm rifle armed with a dart equipped with a sterile stainless steel dart, in accordance with the protocol approved by the Institutional Animal Protection Committee; 6. Collect biological samples from marine mammal and turtle carcasses; 7. Transport biological samples from marine mammals and turtles within Canada. 8. Perform first aid and blast sampling on live stranded cetaceans; 9. Interact with or move a marine mammal, including whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals for the purpose of assisting the marine mammal in situations of entanglement, stranding or entrapment, or injury or for the purpose of a necropsy or health assessment; 10. Release live stranded small cetaceans back into the water; 11. Capture and relocate pinnipeds that are detrimental to public safety.
  • Explanation for issuing other simliar documents(#QUE-LEP-005B-2019 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2019-08-06)

    Conduct research to better understand and address the cumulative effects of shipping noise on North Atlantic right whales (NARW), northern bottlenose whales and other cetaceans in the waters of Eastern Canada. This includes work to better establish baselines for noise in eastern Canada (as well as the health and wellbeing of the animals), examine potential overlap with NARW occurrence, and increase understanding of noise impacts on NARW. The licence holder is authorized to do the following activities: 1. Making close and repeated approaches to species herein mentioned with a vehicle within a distance of less than 100 metres. 2. Taking photography of marine mammals. 3. Collecting biopsy samples using a crossbow and biopsy darts of species herein mentioned. 4. Collecting faecal samples. 5. Tagging or marking and attaching suction cup on species herein mentioned. 6. Using a drone to obtain aerial pictures to identify individuals through photo-identification and to collect blow samples.
  • Explanation for issuing other simliar documents(#QUE-LEP-006-2020 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2020-06-23)

    The Quebec Centre for Wildlife Health (CQSAS), as part of the interventions carried out on behalf of the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network (QMERN), may be called upon to participate in sampling operations for marine mammals and marine turtles in distress or dead. The CQSAS is authorized to undertake the following activities: 1. Take biological samples from carcasses of marine mammals and turtles listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under SARA; 2. Transport biological samples of marine mammals and turtles within Canadian borders; 3. Perform first aid and blast sampling on live stranded cetaceans; 4. Release live stranded small cetaceans into the water; 5. Capture and relocation of pinnipeds that are detrimental to public security. 6. Necropsize marine mammal carcasses within the territorial limits of the Province of Québec. 7. Transporting and towing marine mammal carcasses within the territorial limits of the Province of Quebec; 8. Euthanize marine mammals not listed in Schedule I of the Species at Risk Act whose state of health indicates that the animal is doomed to certain and imminent death or whose behaviour represents a danger or threatens public safety.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#PAC MML SARA 09), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2005-06-14)

    The objective of the work is photo-identification to estimate abundance, habitat usage, and social structure. Researchers will approach whales to photograph individuals for identification and to sample their prey. These activities will contribute to our knowledge of these species at risk and support recovery objectives for these species.
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