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Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whale (balaenoptera physalus) Three fin whales Gulf of California.

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Orca (ID171) breaches off the coast of Scotland © Steve Truluck.

Watching whales and dolphins in the wild can be life changing

Whales and dolphins are too intelligent, too large and too mobile to ever thrive in...

North Pacific home to five distinct humpback whale populations

Earlier this year, the Hawai’i Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition, Inc. submitted a petition to the federal government seeking to identify the North Pacific population of humpback whales as one distinct population segment (DPS) and then have this DPS removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). WDC North America subsequently submitted comments (attached as PDF below) to the government outlining the case for why these whales should remain protected under the ESA.  WDC emphasized that the North Pacific humpback whales appear to be composed of more than just one population, and therefore would not qualify as a DPS. Now a recent study has been published that supports these claims, and proposes that there are actually five distinct populations of humpback whales in the North Pacific.

Researchers collected tissue samples from humpback whales across the North Pacific, and were able to identify five distinct groups based on DNA analysis. They concluded that these whales have high site fidelity, meaning that they return to the same feeding and breeding grounds each year, usually based on where their mothers first brought them as calves. Although a few whales might go to a different feeding or breeding ground each year, there is not enough genetic mixing involved to result in a single population of North Pacific humpback whales.

WDC is hopeful that this new research, along with our comments,  will result in a denial of the petition to delist the North Pacific humpback whale from the ESA, as these populations are still facing many threats to their recovery including entanglements in fishing gear, vessel strikes, habitat degradation and climate change, and cannot afford to lose the protections that they receive as an officially recognized endangered species.

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.