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Humpback Whales in Baa Atoll, Maldives

In Diving,Dreams,Gates Housings,Maldives,Nauticam,Photography,SCUBA,Underwater,Whales on August 23, 2011 by atollscuba

By Guy Stevens

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the water. Males produce a complex song, which lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated for hours at a time. The purpose of the song is not yet clear, although it appears to have a role in mating.

Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres (16,000 mi) each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. The species’ diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net feeding technique.

Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Due to over-hunting, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Stocks have since partially recovered; however, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution also remain concerns. There are at least 80,000 humpback whales worldwide. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, humpbacks are now sought by whale-watchers, particularly off parts of AustraliaNew Zealand, South America, Canada, and the United States.

The population of Humpbacks in the Indian ocean is poorly studied and of the few animals which are sighted in the Maldives each year, researchers have no idea where they have travelled from. The humpbacks are most likely using the Maldivian atolls as a resting area, sheltered inside the safety of the atoll’s lagoon the whales are taking advantage of the calm waters to rest before beginning the next leg of    their epic journey. As mother whales and small calves are also sighted, it is possible the females are using the atolls as a birthing ground.

Like other marine animals, humpbacks can be individually identified by the unique patterns on the underside of their fluke (tail).  Scientists in the Indian ocean studying the humpbacks have created a database to see if they can find out where these wandering giants journey.  The current theory is that the Humpbacks that occur in the Maldives have ventured across the Indian ocean from the Arabian Sea.  The sighting of this humpback whale has been sent to whale researchers in the hope that they will find a match from another location in the world helping to unlock the mysteries of these amazing animals lives.