Five distinct humpback whale populations identified in North Pacific

Five distinct populations of humpback whales ply the North Pacific Ocean each year between winter breeding and summer feeding grounds, according to a new study. The finding adds a layer of complexity to ongoing efforts to conserve the majestic marine mammals.

Humpback whales are found throughout the world’s oceans. In the North Pacific, they number more than 21,000 today, up from less than 1,000 at the end of commercial humpback whaling in 1966. “That is a great thing,” Scott Baker, a marine biologist with Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, told NBC News.