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Conservation: Aquarium Research

Southern California Whale Research Project

Since June 2010 the Aquarium of the Pacific has partnered with the Cascadia Research Collective and Harbor Breeze Cruises in a research project designed to collect data that will improve understanding of the movements of blue whales in our survey area, which extends from Newport Beach to the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The amazing blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus, is the largest animal to ever live on earth, and they can be spotted off our local coast every summer. Frequent sightings of blue whales occur from June to October.

Blue whales are currently an endangered species, with only 10,000 animals estimated worldwide. There are nine populations around the world, with the strongest population or 2,300 whales residing off of California in the summer. Before the whaling industry, the estimated total number of blue whales exceeded 300,000! Although hunting blue whales is currently prohibited worldwide, they still face many dangers. Current threats to local blue whales include ship strike by large ships coming to the nearby Long Beach and Los Angeles ports, as well as harassment by humans, and pollution.

Whale project

Whale Project

Data collected during public whale watching cruises includes the recorded sighting locations of the whales observed and information about their behavior. Photos are taken at the time of sightings to aid in the identification of individual whales. The project connects people, science, virtual technology, and whales. As part of this project the public can use an online app to compare whales from different days, months, or years and filter out information based on behavioral data such as fluking.

This web app is meant to be used as a tool to examine this data and answer scientific questions about the behaviors and locations of the blue whales. By using this app, you can compare whales from different days, months, or years. You can also filter out information based off behavioral data, such as fluking or lunge feeding. There are numerous individual whales that have been spotted multiple times since our project began and the data is filterable to follow these individuals. Other tools allow you to overlay the shipping lanes of the large ships headed into the ports and see which whales are most often in danger.

An example of using the filter boxes might be to compare whales from July 2010 to July 2011. In the filter boxes, set up a filter search for July 1- July 31, 2010. Then set up another filter box for July 1- July 31, 2011. This will bring up all of the sightings during the month of July for each year allowing you to make comparisons and come up with your own conclusions.

This data is made available for the public to explore thanks to generous donations from Boeing Crystal Vision.