Researchers will spend two months on the Oscar Dyson finding and photographing whales for identification of individuals. Where possible, they are also taking small snips of skin for genetic studies of population structure.
Scientists are trying to piece together the number of humpback whales in the North Pacific overall, and if the numbers are increasing or decreasing. They would like to know if there are different populations, and to what extent the whales intermingle and move between different feeding areas in Alaska.
NOAA's SPLASH researchers are collaborating with six different research groups in Alaska, including researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the National Park Service, and the North Gulf Oceanic Society in Homer. Around the Pacific, the SPLASH program involves hundreds of researchers from the United States, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Humpback whale populations were depleted due to commercial exploitation and remain listed as endangered today. The most complete recent estimate of North Pacific humpback whale abundance was conducted using mark-recaptures of individual whales photo-identified between 1990 and 1993.
Researchers are operating under Marine Mammal Research Permit #782-1719.
Websites with further information about the SPLASH project can be found at:
http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/special_offerings/sp_off/splash/splash.html http://www.cascadiaresearch.org/SPLASH/splash.htm NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, please visit our website at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov