Hawaiian humpback whales are warm-blooded mammals that breathe out air. Their name comes from their hump located on the back. They are covered with tubercles on their heads and lower jaw. These tubercles are hair follicles. The tales have wavy edges. These tales can be up to a third of their body length. Their fins have their own unique pattern similar to a human thumbprint. The females every two to three years and their pregnancy lasts for eleven and a half months. All humpback whales sing, although the reason is unknown. There is a possibility that males sing to attract females. They do not have vocal chords but instead produce sound by pushing air out of their nasal cavity. It is estimated that in the North Pacific there were as many as 15,000 humpback whales before 1900. In 2007 there were 10,000 known to be in existence. Now the number is estimated to be around 2,000.
They have been hunted for their oil meat and whalebone. A serious threat for this species is drift net fishing. Driftnets are huge nets made of nylon that drift across the open ocean floor for a period of eight hours or more. Their target species are tuna and squid but whales also get caught in the process.
Coastal gill nets are used by both artisanal and non-commercial fishermen. They are smaller than the drift nets and can be anchored down to the bottom. The humpback whales that are at most risk to these nets are the ones close the Hawaiian shores.
Humpback whales are protected by two federal laws: The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and The Endangered Species Act of 1973. In the Hawaiian Islands it is against the law to fly over humpback whales within one thousand feet. No one is allowed to approach a humpback whale within one hundred yards or closer than three hundred of a mother and calf. Any form of harassment to a humpback whale is illegal. Federal law can prosecute violators. The International Whaling Commission strives to protect whales outside of the United States. The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) protect whales and other endangered species from having their parts traded. It is an international treaty the 120 nations have signed.