Report of the Intersessional Working Group on the Comprehensive Assessment of North Pacific Humpback Whales
P. Clapham, S. Baker, J. Calambokidis, T. Cheeseman, G. Donovan, Y. Ivashchenko, H. Kato, T. Kitakado, K. Matsuoka, D. Palka, A. Punt, J. Urban, P.R. Wade, H. Yoshida and A. Zerbini
During SC67a, an intersessional Working Group was formed to advance work on the Comprehensive Assessment of North Pacific Humpback Whales. At SC67b in 2018, some progress was reported with regard to clarification of stock structure in both feeding and breeding areas, and four potential modeling scenarios based upon a simplified stock structure were proposed; this led to a new intersessional work plan. During the 2018-2019 intersessional period, substantial work was made on an automated photo-id matching algorithm that underlay the website happywhale.com. In addition Ted Cheeseman has developed a collaboration with many of the major contributors of humpback whale photos in the North Pacific. Together with the new algorithm, this now provides an opportunity to conduct a large-scale updated matching exercise across much of this ocean basin. The results of such an exercise are expected to further refine our understanding of population structure and interchange rates in the North Pacific, including for areas that were under-represented during the SPLASH project (e.g. Russia). In light of this development, the Working Group agreed that it makes sense to further delay the work led by Baker and Wade until the updated matching is completed and the population structure of North Pacific humpback whales has been clarified. The Working Group then agreed on a list of work for the next year to insure progress with this Comprehensive Assessment.