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Humpback: NOAA Recently Spotted Hawaii's First Humpback of Season

Oct 12, 2015 03:59 PM EDT

The first humpback whale of the season migrating to Hawaii was recently sighted by the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai off the island of Ni'ihau, which means the whales are getting started early in the area. A few days later, another sighting of an adult humpback was reported off southwest Kaua'i, reported the website MauiNow.com.

Hawaii's humpback season is generally November through May. Such whales are part of one of three whale migration patterns of that whale species in the northern Pacific Ocean, as NOAA noted on their website.

The three patterns are: Whales from California, Oregon and Washington that spend the winter in coastal Central America and Mexico, then migrate to areas including and between California's coast and southern British Columbia in summer and fall; stock from central North Pacific that spends the winter in the Hawaiian Islands, then migrates to Southeast Alaska, British Columbia and Prince William Sound toward Kodiak, Alaska; and stock from the western North Pacific that spends the winter near Japan and likely moves later to areas west of the Kodiak Archipelago (in the Bering Sea and near the Aleutian Islands) in summer and fall. Some of these populations mix, but are considered separate groups.

In the Hawaiian Island waters, more than 10,000 humpback whales are estimated to spend the winter each year. "Humpback whales remind us that this is one contiguous archipelago," said Randall Kosaki Ph.D., NOAA's deputy superintendent of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and chief scientist of the expedition, as MauiNow.com reported.

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-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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