Researchers from Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have made a new discovery regarding humpback whale wintering grounds.
Previously, the primary breeding grounds for the North Pacific has always thought be the main Hawaiian Islands; however, this study has shown that these grounds extend all the way throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago and into the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monumet.
The researchers from HIMB and NOAA deployed instruments called Ecological Acoustic Recorders (EARs) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the Main Hawaiian Islands to record the occurrence of humpback whale song, as an indicator of winter breeding activity. The songs were found to be prevalent throughout the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and demonstrated trends similar to those observed around the main islands.
The humpback whale song is produced by males during the winter breeding season. All males sing roughly the same song in any given year, but the song changes from year to year. No one knows exactly why the whales sing, but it is believed to be a display to other males.
“These findings are exciting because they force us to re-evaluate what we know about humpback whale migration and the importance of the NWHI to the population,” explains Dr. Marc Lammers, the lead scientist of the project and researcher at HIMB.
Copyright © 2011 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC