US Navy

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Marine Species Monitoring

Pilot survey for humpback whales at Farallon de Medinilla

Introduction & Objectives

Humpback whales have been visually observed near Saipan as well as acoustically detected along the Mariana Island chain during winter months.  The population identity of these humpback whales was unresolved until recently.  A pilot study to survey FDM was conducted to determine if and how humpback whales utilize the shallow areas around the island.  The goal of the visual surveys is to collect individually-identifying information from humpback whales present near and around Farallon de Medinilla (FDM).

Technical Approach

A small vessel was utilized to conduct non-systematic surveys around FDM and nearby shallow banks.  Photographs and standard survey data (e.g. location, time, behavioral state) were taken of all marine mammal encounters. 

Progress & Results

A four-day survey was completed 29 January to 1 February 2020 before bad weather ended the survey.  Humpback whales were sighted each day at FDM or nearby areas, including within-day and between-day resights.  Photographed individuals included animals in the Mariana Islands humpback whale catalog and new individuals.