Multiple whale species ply the waters off of Alaska’s coast. They include the largest animal that has ever lived – the blue whale, and the longest-lived mammal on earth – the bowhead whale. Belugas and bowheads inhabit the Arctic and subarctic, while humpback, fin, blue, minke, and gray whales stick to more southern waters. These marine mammals often treat sightseers to tantalizing glimpses of their underwater lives when they briefly surface. Beyond dazzling visitors, however, whales play a major role in shaping the marine environment, as well as the lives of coastal peoples. Once abundant, whale populations have declined dramatically due to overharvesting, oil spills, ship collisions, pollution, climate change, and man-made noise.