SPLASH Research Techniques
SPLASH used consistent sampling efforts in feeding and wintering areas of humpbacks within the North Pacific. Researchers used various field techniques, including photo-identification and biopsy tissue sampling.
The patterns of humpback whales' flukes (tail) are unique to each individual, like human fingerprints. The process of photographing the underside of humpback whale flukes, known as photo-identification, leads to valuable information about humpback whale population sizes, migration, sexual maturity, and behavior patterns.
Researchers have successfully collected small biopsy samples from thousands of humpback whales worldwide. Collected tissues provide invaluable information on the health and genetic diversity of humpback whales. SPLASH provided a large and comprehensive collection of tissue samples collected under a standard protocol.
Threats to humpback whales include entanglement in human-made ropes and nets, vessel strikes, degraded water quality, and underwater noise. The SPLASH study provided useful data to evaluate a number of these human impacts in a more comprehensive manner than has been possible before, including the first systematic review of a population of large whales across their entire ocean-basin habitat.