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North Pacific Right Whale (Eubalaena japonica)

Commercial Whaling

Right whales were a favorite target of whalers in the 1800s and 1900s. They are very slow swimmers and float after being killed. They were harvested for their blubber, baleen, and oil. Commercial hunting of right whales has been illegal since 1949.


If you see a right whale consider yourself very fortunate as sightings of this endangered species are extremely rare. North Pacific right whales are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA Fisheries) and any information about sightings should be promptly reported to NOAA Fisheries. Whale viewing is a popular activity in Alaska and can have serious impacts on whale populations if not conducted properly. Most viewing occurs where whales congregate at concentrated food sources that are critical to their survival. During this activity it is imperative to stay at a minimum of 100 yards away from whales to avoid the dangers of ship and prop strikes. Pursuit of whales is prohibited by law. Managing human behavior around viewing activities is important to the continued health of whale populations.