The Bowhead whale was designated Alaska's state marine mammal in 1983. Bowheads are making a slow and precarious recovery after being hunted nearly to extinction. The bowhead whale is classified as endangered and has been protected by the International Whaling Commission since 1937. This large whale with thick blubber is still very important to Eskimo subsistence hunters and coastal villages in Alaska. There are an estimated 8,000 bowhead whales in existence today.
The Bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) consumes mostly zooplankton, but many other organisms and fish are engulfed as the animal cruises along collecting food in its open mouth. The Bowhead whale swims slowly - often solitary and near shore. Bowheads are filter feeders with long, fine baleen plates (comblike structures suspended from the roof of their mouth which measure up to 4 meters in length).
Bowhead whales inhabit the Arctic waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (also called northern right whale and Greenland right whale). They grow up to 20 meters in length, the head making up one third of the body. There are several distinct sub - populations of bowhead whales with different migration routes. Learn more about the right whale on the Massachusetts State Marine Mammal page.