Population, Distribution and Abundance of Humpback Whales and Cetaceans in Machalilla National Park

Project Name:  

Population, Distribution and Abundance of Humpback Whales and other Cetaceans in Machalilla National Park

Study System:

West Latin America humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae

Motivation and Goals:

We aim to establish a comprehensive photo-identification catalog for humpback whales located in or near Machalilla National Park.  This catalog can then be compared with other local catalogs throughout the West Latin America region as well as to the Antarctic catalog. 

The research efforts will promote adoption of conservation-minded attitudes as the people of the Machalilla National Park area continue to develop their economy centered on eco-tourism. 


Using whalewatching vessels as platforms of opportunity, members of our research team collect photographs, underwater audio recordings, and real-time behavioral observations of humpback whales.

During surveys, the research team in Ecuador also opportunistically collects data on a variety of odontocete species including spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, pink dolphins, false killer whales, pygmy killer whales, pilot whales, beaked whales, and sperm whales. 

Results to Date:

Due in part to our research efforts in this study area, Ecuador now has three new protected areas for conservation of humpback whales and other cetaceans. Ecuador has also joined the International Whaling Commission since the onset of this research project.

Next Steps:

Based on the current successes of research in Machalilla National Park, we look forward to continuing to develop the photo-identification catalog.  Additionally, we will continue educating captains, guides, and others involved in eco-tourism in the Machalilla National Park area.  

Most Recent Publication: 

2015. Castro, C., Kaufman, G.D., Hamilton, P. Whalewatching growth and socioeconomic development of communities in the Machalilla National Park - Ecuador. Document SC/66a/WW/18 presented to the IWC Scientific Committee, San Diego, USA: 20 May – 4 June. 13 pp.