In 1986 the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) initiated a long-term, large-scale research program to monitor trends in the abundance of dolphin populations in the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP).
This project was part of a larger international project (SPLASH) designed to estimate the abundance and determine the population structure for humpback whales throughout the North Pacific involving the governments of Canada and Mexico as well as multiple agencies within the government of the U.S. The primary study methods were photo-identification and biopsy sampling. Passive acoustics were used to aid in finding aggregations of whales. In addition, biological and oceanographic data were collected to better characterize the whale’s environment, and survey data were collected for all other cetacean and pinniped species observed. Biopsy samples were also taken from other cetacean species, primarily in areas where they have been poorly sampled in the past. The Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale Sanctuary (HIHWS) collaborated on this cruise by sending two skilled photographers on each leg of survey effort. The U.S. Navy collaborated on this cruise by funding the acoustic and oceanographic sampling.
This is a collaborative research effort by an international team of scientists, including researchers from Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) and research colleagues from Mexico, to improve methods to detect and estimate abundance of the critically endangered vaquita, or Gulf of California harbor porpoise.
The California Current Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey (CalCurCEAS) is a marine mammal assessment survey of the U.S. West Coast waters. Similar research in this geographic area was conducted under the name of ORCAWALE (for Oregon, California, and Washington Line-transect Experiment) in previous years.
The Stenella Abundance Research Project (STAR) is a multi-year cetacean and ecosystem assessment study designed to assess the status of dolphin stocks which have been taken as incidental catch by the yellowfin tuna purse-seine fishery in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
In 1997, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) conducted a survey designed to estimate the abundance of vaquita, the Gulf of California harbor porpoise (Phocoena sinus). This was a joint project between the fisheries agencies of the United States and Mexico.
The 1997 Sperm Whale Abundance and Population Structures (SWAPS) line-transect survey was designed to census sperm whales near the end of their breeding season in the North Pacific Ocean from the west coast of the continental U.S. out to an area near the Hawaiian Islands. This survey was conducted by the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) aboard the NOAA ship McArthur for a total of approximately 12,000 kilometers surveyed from early March to early June 1997.