The SPLASH-2 collaboration seeks to update information on humpback whales in the North Pacific focused on abundance and population structure. This will follow up the successful original SPLASH-1 project conducted from 2004 to 2006 but which is now almost 15 years out of date. SPLASH-2 will enlist researchers already conducting photographic identification work in regions throughout the North Pacific. Our focus will be on new analyses and on producing an integrated model of overall population structure and abundance of humpback whales that would not be possible without a broader collaboration. Rather than detract from ongoing efforts, SPLASH-2 would encourage collaborations among researchers including supporting analyses and publications lead by regional contributors that can focus in more detail on area-specific research.

Contributors would still completely own their data and have full unrestricted use of their data and photographs but would allow their photographs and data to be used toward the primary SPLASH-2 publications (see below). These would be contributed through Happywhale and, if already there, would not have to be resubmitted (though we may require some additional supporting data). Data for SPLASH-2 is planned to include through 2025 and publications/reports related to SPLASH-2 have until 2030 to be submitted for publication, though these dates can be modified by mutual agreement.

Several reports and scientific publications would come out of the broader SPLASH-2 effort on the following basin-wide topics:

  1. A publication or NOAA Technical Memorandum summarizing the overall sample sizes and results from the larger SPLASH-2 study. This would include implications for the population structure of North Pacific humpback whales and interchange among sub-populations across the North Pacific.
  2. Publication in a peer-reviewed journal summarizing new estimates of abundance of North Pacific humpback whales since SPLASH-1. This would focus on an overall basin-wide analysis for the period since SPLASH-1 and would rely on the overall dataset in #1 above.
  3. A publication in a peer-reviewed journal on trends in humpback whale abundance, mortality, and birth rates among regions across the North Pacific. This could focus on index counts or specific comparisons that could be made across different time periods.

Authorship on the above reports/publications would be granted based on several criteria:

  1. Significant contribution to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data
  2. Drafting and revising the manuscript especially as it relates to intellectual content
  3. Final approval and agreement to be accountable for and understand the content of the manuscript

SPLASH-2 will provide recognition to providers of data and identification photographs that recognizes the key contribution they represent to making the project possible. All photographs and data used in SPLASH-2 would be clearly identified by organization and individual who gathered the data. A primary report/publication on the data available for SPLASH-2 will be prepared for publication as a NOAA Technical Memorandum or journal publication if possible, including sample sizes from each region and rates of matching/interchange among regions and years. That report/publication would list all organizations and individuals contributing at least 1% of the SPLASH annual unique identifications (and others where contributions are from areas with more limited samples critical to the overall analysis). Authorship on that would include at least one individual from each organization agreeing to participate in SPLASH-2. These individuals would be listed on the cover page or if formatting requires listing a consortium on the cover (instead of any individual), then would be listed as part of the consortium. Additionally, SPLASH-2 would maintain a website for at least 5 years that prominently lists all these contributing organizations and individuals that have agreed to participate in this important endeavor.

Subsequent publications involving more technical analyses and interpretation of data would cite the original publication for a description of the dataset. On those technical publications co-authorship will be offered to at least one representative of each major contributing organization (“major contributing organizations” are those contributing more than 5% of total SPLASH-2 unique annual IDs or more than 1/3rd of the unique annual IDs from a given country being used in the analysis). We recognize that for some larger regions critical to SPLASH-2 where there are a number of people with equal contribution, additional co-authors should be included as long as they meet basic authorship guidelines above and also being mindful of trying to achieve an authorship participation that does not restrict ability to publish the results.

A SPLASH-2 Steering Committee would oversee the implementation of SPLASH-2 goals including agreements, analysis and reporting. The goal of the SPLASH-2 Steering Committee would be to honor this agreement and also ensure the achievement of both the SPLASH-2 objectives and the interests of the participants. The SPLASH-2 Steering Committee would also serve to review and arbitrate issues related to authorship on SPLASH-2 publications and reports.

To avoid duplication of efforts, the SPLASH-2 steering committee will maintain a list of proposed analyses and publications that will use the collaborative SPLASH-2 dataset. Prior to work starting on any analysis or publication that use SPLASH-2 dataset from multiple regions, the details will be reviewed by the SPLASH-2 Steering Committee (including proposed title, analysis, dataset to be used, and authorship). SPLASH-2 contributors have the right to remove their data from the analysis if they are not satisfied that the terms of this agreement have been met and could do so prior to the start of quantitative analysis or upon review of proposals for publication/report. SPLASH-2 contributors who participated in the Primary Publication do not have to participate in all subsequent papers (withdraw their data from use). Within-region analyses and publications are encouraged and would not require approval of the SPLASH-2 steering committee. This arrangement will remain in place until such time as the SPLASH-2 steering committee is no longer active. At this point, a data request process will be developed.

We recognize that there are two other projects being conducted that are related to SPLASH-2 (the IWC Comprehensive Assessment and the work that Ted Cheeseman will be doing for his PhD), and there have been other MOUs that cover some of this other work. Those projects and SPLASH-2 have elements in common with each other, although we envision the SPLASH-2 collaboration will likely be longer term than the IWC work. Our goal will be to complement and support those other efforts and avoid duplication. The principal organizers and contributors to those efforts support SPLASH-2, are also part of the SPLASH-2 Steering Committee, and are working to coordinate efforts.


Each party, by signing below, agrees to the terms and conditions of this Memorandum of Understanding.

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This MOU has been signed by:

MERS Marine Education and Research Society

Humpback Whales of the Salish Sea


Happywhale and Southern Cross Univeristy

Independent Researcher, BarlowAGAD.com


Cascadia Research Collective