Unlike other whales, these behave like dolphins, leaping right out of the water in one of the most spectacular animal displays on earth, and they're the ones the Japanese are now off to kill again. Not content with harpooning minke whales, fin whales, sei whales, Bryde's whales, sperm whales and slaughtering dolphins quite unnecessarily and in the face of hostile world opinion, the Japs are now after this most beautiful creature for no apparent reason.
Although the humpback whale has been protected for more than 40 years, even before the current international moratorium on commercial whaling dated 1986, the Japanese have now ignored that agreement saying that the breed has sufficiently recovered, giving themselves a quota of 50 humpback whales. It had previously been hunted with such aggression that in 1963 their surviving number was estimated to be less than 1,000 worldwide. Even the Japs agreed to the protection at the time!
These are the very whales that, unlike all other breeds of whale, when the mood takes them, go in for "breaching", hurling themselves entirely clear of the water, dolphin-style, despite the fact that they can be 50ft long and weigh 40 tonnes. It is an awesome sight, and to witness it is the single top whale-watching experience.
But the excitement and pleasure of watching humpbacks is running smack into the Japanese desire to kill them, which has lead to direct clashes at sea between whalers and Greenpeace activists of the sort that electrified the world in the 1970s and 1980s, and eventually led to the 1986 moratorium.
However, Japan ignores the moratorium and has killed whales for years under the guise of "scientific research", a risible fiction believed by no one outside Japan, as in evidence the meat from the kills is sold on the open market. Now it has awarded itself a "quota" of up to 50 humpbacks to be killed in the summer hunt in the Antarctic and Southern Oceans, to accompany the killing of as many as 935 minke whales and up to 50 fin whales, in what Japan's Fisheries Agency says is its largest-ever "scientific" whale hunt.
Killing endangered whales for products that nobody needs should be beneath the dignity of a great nation like Japan, yet they continue to do so despite all protests from all parts of the world. It is still not known if some species will ever recover, even after decades of protection.
Anyway, direct killing of whales is not the only threat, other environmental threats include global warming, pollution, ozone depletion, noise such as sonar weaponry and ship strikes. So, the Japs might want to think again, the blubber of dead whales in some areas is so highly contaminated with organo-chlorines such as PCBs and pesticides that it would be classified as toxic waste! Some revenge!