Two humpback whale flukes show the wide variation in markings
The dorsal fin and pigmentation pattern on the side of blue whales provide a fingerprint for identification.
Cascadia Research conducts long-term research on humpback and blue whales both along the West Coast of the United States as well as off Central America. We began this photo-identification research in 1986 and have continued annual surveys each year since. This photo-ID effort serves as the basis for the abundance estimates and trends for both these species off the US West Coast. Cascadia also relies on contributions from a number of opportunistic sources (including citizen science) as well as collaborators to provide sighting information and photo-IDs. Through 2018 the humpback catalog includes more than 5500 unique individuals with just over 49,000 encounters, while as of 2018 Cascadia’s blue whale catalog includes over 2500 individuals with over 16,000 encounters. In 2018 Cascadia Research under a contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) took park in the California Current Ecosystem Survey (CalCurCea). For this project Cascadia followed a NOAA ship conducting line transects and surveyed areas of known whale concentrations. Cascadia was also the principal organization conducting and coordinating the SPLASH humpback whale research effort from 2004-2006. Cascadia was conducting the matching but also coordinated all efforts for US West Coast and Central America.
PURPOSES OF THE RESEARCH
The objectives of our research include:
- Determine the abundance of humpback and blue whales off California
- Determine trends in these populations
- Identify critical feeding habitats that need protection
- Monitor potential human-caused threats to large whale populations off California including ship strikes and sonar impacts
See additional information in these reports and publications by topic:
Humpback and blue whales off California, Oregon, and Washington
- Blue whale off Los Angeles yields surprising insights (July 2019)
- Publication on Biologically Important Areas for humpback and blue whales off the US West Coast in Aquatic Mammals, 2015
- Articles feature Cascadia’s research on whale feeding in Science News and Science magazine (January 2012)
- Update of ship strike research off S California (24 October 2011)
- LA Times story on Cascadia and blue whales (7 October 2011)
- Articles on Cascadia’s ship strike research in SF Chronicle, Amer. Cet. Soc. Spyhopper,LA Times (9 Sept 2011)
- Publication on blue whale distribution and movements in Marine Mammal Science, April 2009
- Annual report of photo-ID on humpback and blue whales off the US West Coast. Report to SWFSC, Dec. 2009
- Abundance estimates of humpback and blue whales off the US West Coast based on mark-recapture of photo-identified individuals through 2008. Report # PSRG-2009-07 to Pacific Scientific Review Group, San Diego, CA 3-5 November 2009.
- Visual and acoustic detections of blue whales in the Southern California Bight. PDF of publication in Marine Mammal Science 2007
- Blue whale abundance in the eastern North Pacific. Report to SWFSC for 2004-06
- Abundance of blue and humpback whales in the eastern North Pacific estimated by capture-recapture and line-transect methods. Reprint. 2004 Marine Mammal Science 20(1):63-85
- Distribution and abundance of humpback whales and other marine mammals off the northern Washington coast. Reprint 2004 Fishery Bulletin 102(4):563-580 includes erratum
- Migratory destinations of humpback whales that feed off California, Oregon and Washington.Reprint: 2000 Marine Ecology Progress Series 192:295-304.
- Killer whale attacks on humpback whales. Reprint from Endangered Species Research 4:247-256
- Movements and population structure of humpback whales in the North Pacific. Reprint: 2001 Marine Mammal Science 17:769-794.
- Abundance and population structure of humpback whales in the North Pacific basin . Technical report
- Reproductive rates of humpback whales off California. Reprint: 2000 Marine Mammal Science16:220-239.
- Interchange and isolation of humpback whales off California and other North Pacific feeding grounds. Reprint: 1996 Marine Mammal Science 12:215-226.
- Humpback and blue whale research off California, Oregon, and Washington in 2002
- Humpback and blue whale research off California, Oregon, and Washington in 2001
- Humpback and blue whale research off California, Oregon, and Washington in 2000
- Humpback and blue whale research off California, Oregon, and Washington in 1999
- Humpback and blue whale photographic identification: Report of research in 1998
Underwater behavior of blue, fin, and humpback whales whales using suction-cup tags , fin, and humpback whales whales using suction-cup tags
- New publication on blue and fin whale comparative feeding (26 June 2014)
- New publication on baleen whale feeding (13 October 2011)
- Blue Whale Behavioral Response Study & Field Testing of the New Bioacoustic Probe. 2009 Annual Report to ONR on Award Number N000140811221.
- Underwater behavior of blue whales from Crittercams, Summary and link to publication 2008
- Underwater foraging behavior of humpback whales, J of Exper. Biology PDF 2008
- Vocal behavior of blue whales from tags, January 2007
- Kinematics of foraging dives of fin whales, 2006
- Annual Report to ONR on tag deployments on blue whales, 2002
- Final Report to ONR on Crittercam deployments on blue whales, 2001
- Progress Report to ONR on Crittercam deployments on blue whales, 2001
Humpback whale research in Central America
- Report on Costa Rica Research expedition in 2010 (with Oceanic Society and Exploritas)
- Report on Costa Rica Research expedition in 2009 (Week 1, Week 2)
- Publication on humpback whale migrations in the Southern Hemisphere, Biological Letters
- Patterns of cetacean sighting distribution in the Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone of Costa Rica.Reprint from Rev. Biol Trop. (int. J. Trop. Biol.) 53: 249-263
- Cruise report for 1999 blue whale survey to Costa Rica Dome
- Report on Costa Rica humpback whale and other marine mammal research, 1996-2003
- Report on Costa Rica humpback whale and other marine mammal research, 1996-2002
- Report on Costa Rica humpback whale and other marine mammal research, 1996-2001
- Report on Costa Rica humpback whale and other marine mammal research, 1996-2000
- Report on Costa Rica humpback whale and other marine mammal research, 1996-99
To learn more about these research efforts please see the following: