Monitoring Humpback Whales in the North Pacific

The goal of this study is to maintain long-term continuous monitoring of humpback whales while identifying threats or stressors to the population to provide science-based  recommendations on mitigation strategies and contribute to adaptive management.

The Hawaii Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of humpback whales undertake one of the longest migrations of any animal, traveling between cooler, productive foraging grounds in the waters around Russia, Alaska, and western Canada to the warmer, tropical breeding grounds in  Hawai’i. Recent observations in Hawai’i and Southeast Alaska have revealed declines in sighting rates of humpback whales, with a 50-75% decrease reported between 2013 and 2018. Despite  the widespread popularity of humpback whales, this species continues to face several threats relating to human activities and ecosystem health, which is magnified by their preferred use of coastal habitats.

To effectively address these issues requires continuous long-term monitoring to determine the potential population changes and better predict and monitor the impacts of various stressors. By monitoring trends in their abundance, distribution, health and population status we can  better inform management practices. Data are collected during systematic research surveys and aboard platforms of opportunity in the leeward waters of Maui Nui. We collect a variety of  data to gain a broad understanding of individual and population-level metrics, including photo identification, biological samples, and UAS morphometrics.

  • Project Partners

    Lars Bejder, Marine Mammal Research Program, University of Hawaii at Manoa Adam Pack, Marine Mammal Laboratory, University of Hawaii at Hilo

    Ted Cheeseman, Southern Cross University and

    Catie Foley, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • Recent Publications

    2018: Currie, J.J., Stack, S.H., McCordic, J.A., and Roberts, J. Utilizing occupancy models and  platforms-of-opportunity to assess area use of mother-calf humpback whales. Open Journal of  Marine Science 2018 (8): 276-292.

    *For a full list of our research publications, click here:


Hawaii Visitor Update

Aloha, We Are Open!  Our PacWhale Eco-Adventures are open for booking as we welcome visitors back to Maui.  Quarantine restrictions were lifted on Oct. 15th for those following the state’s pre-arrival COVID-19 testing requirements.