Research Archive: SPLASH Project

a whale tail breaching the water's surface
Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA permit #14682

SPLASH (Structures of Population, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpback Whales) was an international cooperative research project that was developed to understand the abundance, population structure, and potential human impacts on humpback whales across the entire North Pacific Ocean. The project was conducted between 2004 and 2006 and still represents the largest and most complete examination of humpback whale migrations in the world. It revealed a far more complex pattern of movements than had been previously documented.

image of splash information sheet
View the SPLASH information sheets

The project used consistent research techniques, such as photo-identification and biopsy tissue sampling, in both feeding and wintering areas throughout the North Pacific.

The regions studied included: Asian wintering areas, the Hawaiian Islands , Mexico (offshore, Baja and mainland), Central America, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Western Gulf of Alaska, Southeast Alaska including the East Gulf, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea, and Western North Pacific waters off Russia.

The SPLASH project involved over fifty research groups and over 300 researchers. The steering committee for SPLASH included representatives from the following government organizations: Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA; National Marine Mammal Laboratory and Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA; National Marine Sanctuary Program, NOAA; National Park Service, Department of Interior; Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans; and Instituto Nacional de Ecologia, Mexico; and several academic and non-government organizations.

SPLASH project supporters included: NOAA Fisheries, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Marine Mammal Commission, National Park Service Glacier Bay, Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Life Foundation, Marisla Foundation, and World Wildlife Fund.

The findings of the SPLASH project are summarized in this final report:

Calambokidis, J., E. A. Falcone, T. J. Quinn, A. M. Burdin, P. J. Clapham, J. K. B. Ford, C. M. Gabriele, R. LeDuc, D. Mattila, L. Rojas-Bracho, J. M. Straley, B. L. Taylor, J. Urban-R, D. Weller, B. H.Witteveen, K. Wynne, M. Yamaguchi, A. Bendlin, D. Camacho, K. Flynn, A. Havron, J. Huggins and N. Maloney. 2008. SPLASH: Structure of populations, levels of abundance and status of humpback whales in the North Pacific. Final report for Contract AB133F-03-RP-00078. 57 pp.