Humpback Whale

Jason Moore / Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Artificial Intelligence has been used for everything from teaching computers to play chess to helping speed ride-sharing services on thei rway. And now one government agency is using it to track humpback whales in the Pacific.


What’s up with our humpback whales? That’s the question that started to be asked as reports began trickling in across the Pacific that maybe the numbers were smaller than in previous whale watching seasons. We talked to Ed Lyman with the NOAA’s National Marine Whale Sanctuary on Maui about what he was hearing and seeing out in the field.

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The Conversation: Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

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Richard Fisher / Flickr
Richard Fisher / Flickr

Several species of humpback whales have been removed from the endangered species list.

This week, the National Marine Fisheries Service reclassified humpback whale species into 14 different categories.  9 of those were removed from the list or reclassified as threatened and that includes species found in Hawaiian waters.

The agency had previously classified all humpback whales as a single population… saying they were all endangered.

Whale Of A Headstand: Rare Humpback Sighting At Sea

Mar 9, 2016

Scientists are reporting peculiar behavior among this season’s humpback whales. A recent video by NOAA's Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary shows a female humpback standing upside down with her tail sticking out of the water, performing a sort of underwater headstand.

Sanctuary response coordinator Ed Lyman says the rare behavior has a name: tail-sailing. It’s fairly common among right whales in the southern hemisphere, but is rarely observed in humpbacks. So far they’ve seen this in four different whales off Maui and O‘ahu.

Christopher Michel / Flickr
Christopher Michel / Flickr

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary will remain in its current form.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had proposed broadening the sanctuary to include a larger area and the protection of other species.

But after a lengthy process including public hearings and discussions with the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, NOAA has decided to withdraw its proposal.

Allen Tom is the Regional Director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith / Flickr
Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith / Flickr

The US Navy has agreed to limit its use of sonar and explosive training off the coast of Hawai‘i and Southern California that may harm marine life.

A lawsuit filed in 2013 by environmental group Earthjustice challenged the National Marine Fisheries’ five-year permit for testing. 

Christopher Michel / Flickr
Christopher Michel / Flickr

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to increase protection for humpback whales. The plan includes an expansion of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. And that drew some sharp reactions at a recent public hearing on Kaua‘i. We get more on the story from Scott Giarman on Kaua‘i.