Subject: Humpbacks in South America

Leah R. Gerber (
Thu, 7 Aug 1997 16:26:43 -0700

At 11:02 AM 7/31/97 -0400, PATRICIO TAMARIZ DUE=D1AS wrote:
>Dear Madame,
>I am writing to see if you could point me in the right direction or give=20
>me information(at least preliminary). My company does eco-cultural=20
>tourism in the Central coast of Ecuador, and I wanted to see who could I=20
>contact to receive information on the Humpback Whale that we see here in=20
>Ecuador. We are trying to give tours with the utmost of care, and our=20
>guides are asking for at least general information on migrations, feeding=
>habits, reproductive cycles, etc.
>The region which we are in is Bahia de Caraquez, this area was a whale=20
>hunting site in the 1800s. Now we will hunt them with photographs and=20
>receive nature inspiring awe. We did sightings last summer, what we know=20
>is that they come from Antartica and come to have their young here due to=
>the thin fat layers that the young have so they come to warmer waters, is=
>this right information?
>My thanks in advance and with best regards,
>Patricio Tamariz

Dear Patricio,

Thanks for your interest in humpback whales ecology. The following
information is taken from two articles that you might want to read again to
obtain additional facts:

1.  Johnson, James A. and Wolman Allen A. 1984.  The Humpback Whale,
Megaptera novaeangliae.  Marine Fisheries Review, Volume 46(4)
2.  Swartz, S.L.  The Humpback Whale. Audubon Wildlife Report

The humpback whale can be recognized by its pear-shaped blow, and its
large flippers which are "one-fourth to one-third the total body length"
of the animal.  The humpback has a rich vocabulary and a wide range of
tones.  "Its 'song', a long series of varied phrases repeated in sequence
over intervals of more than a half hour, is varied slightly from year to
year, and may be identified in a group over a number of years.  Different
stocks of whales have regional 'dialects'.  Whales in the Northern and
Southern Hemisphere do not interbreed because their reproductive cycles
are 6 months apart from each other.

Humpbacks are protected from commercial whaling by the International
Whaling Commission (IWC), however, "the wintering grounds of some stocks
lie within the terrritorial waters of nonmember nations.  As a coastal
species they are increasingly subject to nearshore pollution, boat
traffic, mineral and industrial development, and other human activity.

"Humpback whales are found in all seas between the Arctic and Antarctic,
with local changes in distribution according to fairly distinct migration
patterns.  The Northern and Southern Hemisphere populations are regarded
as separate.  In the Southern Hemisphere, humpbacks concentrate every
winter in six distinct breeding grounds:  Along the tropical western
sides of each continent, to a lesser extent along eastern coastlines, and
around island groups.  In spring, the whales move more or less directly
south from the breeding grounds, resulting in six general feeding areas in
the Antarctic.  Summer concentrations occur around South Georgia and the
South Shetland Islands, and south of the west and east coasts of Africa,
Australia, and South America (Dawbin, 1966)."

For more information on feeding behavior and diet, reproduction and
recruitment, natural mortality and current and initial stock sizes, please
refer to the articles mentioned above.  If you cannot find them, please
email me again and I will mail them to you.

Some other groups to contact for information include the Center for Marine
Conservation, the Audubon Society, and the Charles Darwin Foundation on
the Galapagos Islands. =20

Good luck!

Cheers, Leah