Humpback Whale Research

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The Humpback Whale Studies Program is the longest continuous research program at CCS. It is also one of the most detailed and long-term studies of a baleen whale population. The overarching goal of our work is to advance understanding of humpback whale biology, population status and human impacts. We maintain scientific collaborations with researchers and their institutions worldwide. The program also provides information and data to state, federal and international managers of this species.

The cornerstone of our research is the Gulf of Maine humpback whale population, which has been under continuous study since the 1970s. CCS is the only institution to routinely monitor this population across its feeding range in both U.S. and Canadian waters. Our Gulf of Maine Humpback Whale Catalog is a synthesis of more than three decades of research on unique individuals. It combines detailed data on life history, behavior, spatial distribution, human impacts and laboratory studies such as molecular genetics. The catalog is the foundation of our Gulf of Maine research and is meticulously curated and updated to maintain its unique scientific value. New techniques for determining pregnancy, health, age and relatedness in large whales are also being developed and ground-truthed with these data.

Outside of the Gulf of Maine, the Center has undertaken extensive research in the West Indies, where humpback whales from all North Atlantic feeding grounds mate and calve. CCS scientists also played important roles in the international YONAH project that studied humpback whales across their known North Atlantic range. Together with a recent follow-up project (MONAH), YONAH has contributed to the understanding of the recovery status of this species in the North Atlantic.

The Center undertakes collaborative research on humpback whale populations in the North and South Pacific. In the North Pacific, we are presently completing an ocean-scale analysis of humpback whale entanglement rates as part of the SPLASH project. In the South Pacific, CCS studies humpback whales at American Samoa, the only U.S. population of humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere. Through collaboration, this work is providing new insight into the structure and status of humpback whale populations in Oceania.

Learn more about our research through our scientific publications. More general humpback whale information can be found here.

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