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Cetacean Conservation and Genomics Laboratory (CCGL)

The CCGL is committed to a greater understanding of the molecular ecology and systematics of whales, dolphins and porpoises around the world. Our work on large whales is pursuing three inter-related themes:

  • reconstructing the past,
  • assessing the present, and
  • conserving the future.

To improve our understating of the impact of hunting on the abundance of whales and the ecological role of whales before human exploitation, we are working to improve population dynamic models by including genetic information on long-term effective population sizes before exploitation and minimum population size during exploitation.

To assess the current status of great whale populations, the CCGL is involved in three large-scale, collaborative studies: the Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks (SPLASH) project in the North Pacific; the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium's assessment of the population structure and migratory interchange of humpback whales in the South Pacific; and a worldwide study of genetic diversity and population structure of sperm whales through collaboration with the Ocean Alliance.

To conserve the future of whales and dolphins, we have continued surveys of ‘whale-meat' markets in Japan and the Republic of (South) Korea. The work is part of a long-term study of trade in protected whales and dolphins using a portable PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) laboratory to identify the species origins of the products.

The CCGL contributes to policy on the conservation of cetaceans through participation in the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Cetacean Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

News and Events

Maui's dolphin survey winds up

Associate Director Scott Baker was in New Zealand in February to continue a multi-year population survey of the critically endangered Māui dolphin.

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Movement to protect marine mammals

Scott Baker, Associate Director of the MMI, was one of the invited members of an expert panel to designate Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) in the South Pacific. The meeting was hosted by The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) an intergovernmental organization based in Apia, Samoa. The IMMAs are intended to help with the spatial management and conservation of whales and dolphins in this vast region.

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Study finds local fidelity key to ocean-wide recovery of humpback whales

Humpback whales can migrate thousands of miles to reach feeding grounds each year, but a new study concludes that their fidelity to certain local habitats – as passed on through the generations – and the protection of these habitats are key to understanding the ultimate recovery of this endangered species. The study documents the local recruitment of whales in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait in Alaska over a 30-year period. The researchers found that contemporary whales that utilize these rich feeding grounds overwhelmingly are descendants of whales that previously used the area. Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Endangered Species Research.

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