North Pacific right whales, Eubalaena japonica, are found in temperate and sub-arctic waters in the Pacific Ocean between 20 and 60 degrees latitude. They range from Japan and Russia in the west to Alaska and the west coast of North America in the east. They migrate to higher latitudes in the summer and to lower latitudes and coastal areas in winter. In summer, north Pacific right whales are found in the Sea of Okhotsk, Bering Sea, around the Aleutian Island chain, and in the Gulf of Alaska. In winter they are found (or were once found) in the Sea of Japan, Taiwan straits, and Ogasawara Bunto in the western Pacific and south to coastal Baja California in the eastern Pacific. They have also been seen occasionally in the Hawaiian Islands. Populations in the eastern and western Pacific are considered discrete populations. North Pacific right whales were formerly abundant throughout this range, but they are now rare and primarily observed in the Okhotsk Sea, southeastern Bering Sea, and occasionally along coastal Japan. North Pacific right whales primarily occur in coastal or shelf waters, though they have also been sighted in deep waters.
Biogeographic Regions: pacific ocean (Native )
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- Gaines, C., M. Hare, S. Beck, H. Rosenbaum. 2005. Nuclear markers confirm taxonomic status and relationships among highly endangered and closely related right whale species. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 272: 533-542.
- Reilly, S., J. Bannister, P. Best, M. Brown, R. Brownell Jr., D. Butterworth. 2010. "Eubalaena japonica" (On-line). IUCN Redlist. Accessed October 11, 2010 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/41711/0.