Breeding ground research

The Center for Coastal Studies performs collaborative research at three oceanic breeding grounds: the West Indies (North Atlantic), the Hawai’ian Islands (North Pacific) and American Samoa (South Pacific). For detailed information on our research findings, check our scientific publications. For more general information about humpback whales, look here.

West Indies

CCS began studying humpback whales on their North Atlantic wintering grounds in the late 1970s. Study areas have included several areas off the Dominican Republic (Silver and Navidad Banks, as well as Samana Bay), Puerto Rico, Virgin Bank and the northern Leeward Islands. Our work in these areas has focused primarily on the composition of the wintering population, distribution and habitat use, migration and aspects of the mating system. Photo-identification data have played a particularly important role in determining the feeding ground origin of individuals, as well as the movements of individuals among breeding areas.

A few publications that have resulted from this research are as follows:

Baraff, L. S., P. J. Clapham, D. K. Mattila and R. S. Bowman. 1991. Feeding behavior of a humpback whale in low-latitude waters. Marine Mammal Science 7: 197-202.

Clapham, P. J. and D. K. Mattila. 1988. Observations of migratory transits of two humpback whales. Marine Mammal Science 4: 59-62.

Clapham, P. J. and D. K. Mattila. 1993. Reactions of humpback whales to skin biopsy sampling on a west indies breeding ground. Marine Mammal Science 9: 382-391.

Clapham, P. J., D. K. Mattila and P. J. Palsbøll. 1993. High-latitude-area composition of humpback whale competitive groups in Samana Bay: further evidence for panmixis in the North Atlantic population. Canadian Journal of Zoology 71: 1065-1066.

Clapham, P. J., P. J. Palsbøll, D. K. Mattila and O. Vasquez. 1992. Composition and dynamics of humpback whale competitive groups in the West Indies. Behaviour 122(3-4): 182-194.

Mattila, D. K. and P. J. Clapham. 1989. Humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, and other cetaceans on Virgin Bank and in the northern Leeward Islands, 1985 and 1986. Canadian Journal of Zoology 67: 2201-2211.

Mattila, D. K., P. J. Clapham, S. K. Katona and G. S. Stone. 1989. Population composition of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, on Silver Bank, 1984. Canadian Journal of Zoology 67: 281-285.

Mattila, D. K., P. J. Clapham, O. Vasquez and R. S. Bowman. 1994. Occurrence, population composition and habitat use of humpback whales in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic. Canadian Journal of Zoology 72: 1898-1907.

Our largest West Indies field effort was part of the international Years of the North Atlantic Humpback Whale project (YoNAH) in 1992 and 1993. The details of that study and its results are described here.

American Samoa

American Samoa is a South Pacific humpback whale breeding area in Oceania. Humpback whale stocks in Oceania were depleted by commercial whaling and their recovery status remains uncertain. CCS has performed collaborative research at the main island of Tutuila annually since 2003. The goal of this work is to define the local population, to clarify its relationship to other parts of Oceania and to identify its Antarctic migratory destinations. Additionally, our work has contributed to the understanding of local dolphin populations.

ASfluke_PCCSThis research is done in partnership with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Other collaborators and supporters include the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the US National Park Service, the US National Marine Fisheries Service, the Government of Samoa, the Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalog and the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium.