Now researchers say another example can be added to the "doing fine" list. According to a recent article in Marine Mammal Science, there are at least 21,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific, 15 times greater than the 1,400 believed to exist mid-century, and possibly more than in the years before whaling. The findings were the result of the Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks (or SPLASH) study, one of the largest international collaborative studies of any whale population ever conducted. Over the course of three years, more than 400 scientists from 10 different countries photographed humpback whales in the North Pacific, cataloging their unique fluke patterns, and used darts to take genetic samples. Then for fully three years afterward, they analyzed, crunched, and refined the data they collected, until reaching their final figure.
The most recent previous estimate of the North Pacific humpback population, based on research conducted from 1990 to 1993, yielded a figure of approximately 8,000. That suggests the population is increasing by a little over 8 percent a year, and although no other estimates have been conducted for the population as a whole, the paper's authors write that that figure is consistent with figures that other researchers have produced for humpbacks in part of that range.