Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale

Two humpback whales just below the surface

Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #14682-38079

Humpback Whale

Each winter, thousands of humpback whales make the long journey to Hawai‘i from their feeding grounds that are primarily in Alaska. In the warm, shallow waters of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, they mate, give birth, and nurse their young. Known as koholā in Hawaiian, the humpback whale is the state marine mammal of Hawai‘i.

A world map highlighting most of the world's ocean

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Megaptera novaeangliae

DIET: Krill and small fish

LENGTH: Up to 60 feet

WEIGHT: Up to 80,000 lbs.

LIFE SPAN: 80-90 years

THREATS: Entanglement, ship strikes, human encroachment, and climate change

STATUS: North Pacific population delisted as endangered in 2016. Protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

FUN FACT: The genus name for humpback whales, Megaptera, means “big winged.” It refers to their long pectoral fins, which can be up to a third of their body length.