Founded in Hawai‘i in 1980 to save whales from extinction through science and advocacy, nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation was instrumental in the successful recovery of humpback whale populations. Our scope has since expanded to include additional marine mammals, such as bottlenose dolphins and other odontocete species (toothed whales and dolphins) found in the Hawaiian Islands, with planned expansions throughout the Hawaiian archipelago.
After visiting Queensland, Australia, in 1984, we saw a unique opportunity to study humpback whales during their southward migration rather than in terminal feeding or breeding grounds. Although our primary field site has been Hervey Bay, a protected resting area in Queensland, we have intermittently collected data from additional sites along the coast of East Australia—a marine eco-region identified as a marine mammal research priority—so we could better understand the timing and dynamics of humpback whale migration.
In 2002, we made the strategic decision to expand our research program into Latin America, specifically Ecuador, which is a marine eco-region identified as a marine mammal research priority where we have the capacity to grow and deepen our impact. While our initial research focused exclusively on humpback whale migration routes and interchange with other locations, today we conduct year-round research surveys to better understand cetacean (whale and dolphin) population statuses in these waters and the threats they face.
We have provided financial and scientific support for more than a decade on blue whale research in Chile. Marine mammal fieldwork takes place around southern Chile’s Chiloe Island and has contributed to the discovery of a new cetacean subspecies, the Chilean blue whale, inhabiting these waters. As a marine eco-region identified as a PWF marine mammal research priority, we made the strategic decision in 2023 to expand outreach efforts in Chile to support various study projects on a number of whale and dolphin species.
Our researchers first visited Ogasawara, Japan, in 1987 to collect whale photo-identification data over three breeding seasons and encourage whale watching as a financially viable alternative to whaling. The area remains a research priority as we advocate for the cessation of whaling and support whale watching as an educational platform for public awareness. In 2021, we entered into a collaborative research project in Japan to study the impact of commercial whale-watch and swim-with-whale tours.
PWF 2023 Research Report
Read a summary of our research activities in 2023, including a recap of recently published work and preliminary results from our latest projects.