Marpi, CK reef are breeding grounds of humpback whales

Humpback whales come to Saipan to mate and give birth
Posted on Jan 28 2020


A study from 2015 to 2018 of humpback whales in the CNMI have tracked 43 humpback whales, plus 14 more mother-calf pairs, in the shallow waters of Saipan, and in the Marpi and Chalan Kanoa reef.

That means that the Mariana archipelago is an important area for humpback whales, according to whale researcher Marie Hill of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“What our research is showing is that humpback whales are breeding here in the Mariana archipelago,” Hill said.

In the western North Pacific, humpback whales are considered endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Based on the study’s findings, humpback whales are on the islands between December and April to mate and give birth. On top of this, the whales are also play an important role in maintaining the area’s ecological balance.

“They are connected to feeding areas up in the North Pacific off of the Commander Islands of Russia. Humpback whales have an important ecological role in that they move food, energy from high latitude areas to low latitude areas,” Hill said.

Hill explained that the whales, after feeding in the North Pacific, bring energy to the Marianas, not only by excreting, but also in cases when they die. “Whale fall can actually contribute a lot to the ecology of a particular area,” Hill added.

Given the Marianas’ role in providing for a breeding area for these endangered species, Hill said the community can help by knowing about and understanding that the whales are here.

“It’s important that people know. That knowledge in itself is really important…getting the word out that there are whales and dolphins here and that this is an important place for them,” she added.

As for the islands’ youth, Hill said it is important to let them know about the humpback whales’ presence on the islands so that the youth can work toward conserving not only individual species, but the environment where these animals live.

“The youth are the most important, they’re the future. They’re the ones that can really make a difference. Starting now. There are many youth that educate their parents too, so it’s important, absolutely, to educate the young people,” Hill said.

With humpback whales present in the Marianas, the PIFSC research concludes that there is a need to survey the Mariana archipelago more broadly to determine the “spatial extent” of the breeding ground, as well as the number of whales using the “full” area.

The Mariana Archipelago Humpback Whales research paper will be coming out soon. For those interested to receive a copy, email Hill at

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at

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