North Pacific Right Whale

Eubalaena japonica

Up to 70 years
The North Pacific Ocean
North Pacific right whales live in deep open water
North Pacific right whales may be large, but their food is small; they prey on plankton.

In this article

    In this article

      North Pacific right whales are hard animals to miss—they can grow up to 49 feet in length. Their heads are massive and can reach up to a third of their body length. North Pacific right whales have a series of spiked growths on their heads called callosities, the largest of which, called the bonnet, is on the tip of their noses. Sometimes these callosities have a pink, orange or yellow hue caused by whale lice. North Pacific right whales have a set of baleen plates that they use to feed—they gulp up hundreds of gallons of seawater and filter out the plankton with their baleens.

      Because there are so few North Pacific right whales in the wild, scientists know little about their migration habits or habitat preferences. They do know about their breeding habits though: North Pacific right whales breed in the winter and spring, and females carry their calves for a full 12 months before giving birth.

      It is estimated there are fewer than 350 North Pacific right whales remaining in the wild.

      They are called right whales because they used to be considered the “right” whales to hunt. North Pacific right whales are easier to capture than other species because they are easy to approach, they float when dead (so they are easy to catch) and have a lot of oil in their blubber, which was lucrative for whale hunters. Because of increased hunting pressure, North Pacific right whales almost became extinct in the 1900s. Now, along with the North Atlantic right whales, they are among the most endangered whales.

      Unlike the North Atlantic right whale, there isn’t much evidence that the North Pacific right whale is majorly impacted by ship strikes or entanglements in fishing gear. This could be because North Pacific right whales are found in remote regions. There isn’t enough research to know for sure.

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