Making a SPLASH: Engaging in Cooperative Research
to Better Protect Sanctuary Resources
How do you study large, smart, migratory animals like whales? One way that proved very successful was the SPLASH project launched in 2004: the Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance, and Status of Humpback Whales. SPLASH was the largest international collaborative study of any whale population ever conducted, involving over 50 research groups and 400 researchers in 10 countries. It determined the abundance, trends, movements, human impacts on, and population structure of humpback whales throughout the North Pacific. Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was a key initiator, designer, and supporter of SPLASH, along with other sanctuaries on the West Coast that also participated and contributed to the study.
This was not the first time the sanctuary system had engaged in such extensive marine mammal research. In 1986 Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary funded the first three years of long-term research on endangered humpback and blue whales in the region. Researchers gained valuable data on the whales’ abundance, population structure and trends, distribution, and habitat use, all essential to conservation efforts. The data obtained helped inform the SPLASH project.